New Faculty Q & A: Jay Schwartz

Assistant Professor of Psychological Science Jay Schwartz smiles for a photograph. He is wearing a white printed shirt and is standing in the woods.

This is the first in a series featuring new WOU faculty members. We spoke with Jay Schwartz, assistant professor of psychological science. We asked him about his road to WOU, information about the classes he’s teaching this term, and what he likes to do when he’s not working. Check out his answers below.

Why did you choose WOU? 
Teaching is by far the most fulfilling part of my job, so I wanted to come to a university with an emphasis on excellent teaching and smaller class sizes. Plus, I grew up in the PNW and am happy to be back.

Why did you choose your field of study?
I’ve always been an animal lover, and I’m generally interested in sounds (I was a music minor in college) – my research into animal vocal communication combines those two interests.

Where is your office located? 
TODD 321

What classes are you teaching this fall?
PSY 201 General Psychology; PSY 467 Quantitative Methods

How many years have you been teaching? 
Three years as a full instructor, but my first teaching assistant position was almost 10 years ago!

What university/universities did you attend?
Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN (B.A.), Ohio State University (M.A.), and Emory University in Atlanta, GA (Ph.D.)

Can you explain your dissertation?
I examined how rhesus monkeys’ emotions affect what their calls sound like, and found that more-intense emotions lead to higher-pitched calls. The same is true of humans and many other animals, highlighting our shared evolutionary ancestry! I also tested humans’ perception, and found that people can accurately understand the emotions communicated by monkey calls – even people who have no prior experience with monkeys.

Top three hobbies?
Board games, hiking, and singing.

What is a book that you recommend everyone read?
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animal Are by Frans de Waal.

Do you have any pets?
I have 2 black cats, named Dunk and Egg.

On a Saturday morning, you can find me___?
Exploring nature in my great new home state of OR!

Any advice for incoming freshmen?
Your professors want you to succeed – if you’re struggling or something’s not making sense, don’t hesitate to reach out during office hours. It’s not an imposition, it’s our job!

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