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Alumni - Ryan Pickering

Ryan PickeringRyan Pickering
Research Assistant, Sustainability Solutions Initiative
Ph.D. Student, Department of Psychology

What progress are you making towards sustainability solutions?

My contribution to sustainability solutions is related to wind surveys. I am learning about group differences in environmental behaviors and attitudes in order to better help focus and frame messages so they are more likely to motivate those groups to live more sustainably and to support sustainability in Maine. Specifically, my research in social psychology and in sustainability lies in status and power. This has involved research on group differences based on socioeconomic status, as well as a new study about the perception of dominance over nature itself (environmental dominance orientation) which is rooted in social psychology theory (social dominance orientation). I look forward to continuing research in both areas.

What is one research paper that you believe best reflects the work you have done with SSI?

I have not had the opportunity to publish to date, but a paper in preparation focuses on the positive impact of outdoor recreational activities on perceived stress, particularly for individuals low in socioeconomic status.

Why is this paper important?

This paper highlights not only the importance of considering socioeconomic status as an important factor for social group differences, but also highlights the importance of appreciating nature, which may encourage active involvement in protecting nature as a valuable resource.

What is one of your favorite conferences you have presented at, and why?

My favorite conference by far was the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues conference that I attended in 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. This conference was incredibly informative for me in developing hypotheses and methodology for studying sustainability within a social psychology context and was incredibly inspirational in that regard. It was also a smaller conference, so I was able to make some important connections not only to peers doing similar research, but also to well-known sustainability psychologists.

When do you expect to graduate, and what do you see as the next step in your academic or professional career?

I will graduate this May and have accepted a position at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. Allegheny has an incredibly exciting sustainability initiative, and even has a full-time sustainability coordinator. However, psychology has not yet been incorporated into this interdisciplinary initiative. I am so excited to get involved and to continue to teach and learn about the important psychological factors related to sustainability. I also hope to bring with me some important skills I have learned about conducting interdisciplinary research, and perhaps even facilitate a more effective sustainability program through improving interdisciplinary communication.

How has your SSI training impacted the trajectory of your graduate studies and your plans for the future?

SSI was very important for me in learning interdisciplinary communication skills. It also set me apart from other applicants on the job market by having a separate area of interest that was interesting and exciting for students and faculty alike. My training in SSI also taught me important skills in conducting large-scale survey research, as well as important lessons about the stakeholder-researcher relationship that I will carry with me into my research program at Allegheny. It was also incredibly inspiring and refreshing to be able to think creatively about problems and solutions within a more interdisciplinary setting where I was able to broaden my understanding of a new and different topic. Environmental sustainability had always been of personal importance, and it was fulfilling to be able to think about sustainability solutions in a way that may actually make a difference. I hope to inspire my future students to consider the importance of psychology within environmental sustainability and I look forward to teaching classes, advising projects, and having discussions with those students in the future.

Looking back, describe the best experience you have had with the SSI team.

In 2012, a number of SSI students led a roundtable discussion at the APA conference in Orlando, Florida, about our experiences working within an interdisciplinary setting as graduate students. It was so special and important to me to learn about their experiences as interdisciplinary Ph.D. students. I think they also learned from me what it is like to conduct interdisciplinary research when coming from a specific discipline. It was also great to get to know them personally and to share the journeys and experiences that led us to become passionate about sustainability solutions.


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