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Meet Department Chair Tom Greene

Kayla Sullivan recently interviewed Tom Greene, the current psychology department chair and Sarah Johnson Redlich '82 Professor in the Sciences. Here is what she learned.

Dr. Greene wears many hats on the St. Lawrence campus, but he can generally be found somewhere in the psychology department where he is the environmental psychology professor, industrial and organizational psychology professor, and psychology department chair. I had a chance to meet up with Dr. Greene for an interview and ask him some basic questions as well as fun and insightful ones to better grasp his character.

We first chatted about how he grew up in Wyoming. He loves the snow capped mountain peaks, and the forests surrounding it. For a long time he was known as “Tom Cooper” or “Wild Child”, because of his radio DJ career. Dr. Greene also reminded me that he took his undergraduate degree at the University of Wyoming with a bachelor degree focusing on social (“normal people”) psychology. Later, Dr. Greene studied with Paul Bell at Colorado State, investigating color’s effect on stress level, as parts of social psychology were evolving into environmental psychology! The field of environmental psychology was so new that when he graduated there were only four job opportunities in the country. One of the four locations was Canton, NY, which is why Dr. Greene has been teaching for nearly 30 years at St. Lawrence University- and he still likes the winter.

I asked Dr. Greene if he took one course in the psychology department here at SLU which one it would be. He pondered for a moment but soon realized he might hurt some of his colleague’s feelings. So, first he said, “I love all of the courses and professors here, you know, but if I had to choose one course it would be sensation and perception”. His answer, he says, is based off of his previous study with Paul Bell based on color and how it can affect one’s mood.

Dr. Greene and his wife frequently enjoy going to concerts like Wilco and Derek’s Trucks Band. If he were to choose any other profession excluding a radio DJ it would be a park ranger. This venture coincides with Dr. Greene’s previous outdoor recreational studies. Part of environmental psychology’s focus pertains to the environment as a recreational space, or a space of refuge. In addition, environmental psychology discusses various spaces as a sense of “place”. Dr. Greene has a sense of place for a rocky mountain top in Wyoming called “Vedauwoo”.

I asked Dr. Greene to name one piece of advice to the graduating seniors and he said profoundly, “If someone opens a door for you, walk through it.” Earlier in our interview Dr. Greene told me it was by chance that Paul Bell approached him to do a study. But he took the opportunity and it has led him into a rewarding career of teaching. Even my environmental psychology class from the fall still talks about how much fun we had and how each element of his class pertains to our everyday lives. His goal in his class was to help us see the world through a different perspective.

To close this interview I posed the questions, “If you could have dinner with anyone in history who would you choose?” This question puzzled him, so instead, I back-tracked one step and asked him, ‘What will you eat?”. “Watermelon”. After a few minutes of racking his brain, he came up with a solid answer, Neil Young. As he elaborated he explained that Neil Young is man who has seen it all, done it all, and is still relevant to today’s generation.

Our interview went by very quickly because it was like talking to an old friend. So, if you don’t know Dr. Greene, get to know him. You won’t regret it.