Michael Morgan, Ph.D., reflects on 20 years at WSU Vancouver

Michael Morgan, professor of psychology, has worked for Washington State University Vancouver for 20 years. His first day was August 15, 1993: four years after WSU Pullman officially established the school in 1989. Morgan earned his Ph.D. in physiological psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1989. He went on to work on a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco in the department of neurology between 1989 and 1993 before coming to work for WSU Vancouver.

Morgan chose to major in psychology during his sophomore year in college while taking the required classes of biological psychology. “This class changed my life because I realized I could study behavior using a biological approach. I thus started taking science classes and volunteering in a neuroscience lab. I also outlined a 10-year plan to become a professor of neuroscience and that plan worked pretty well,” Morgan said. As his plan concluded and he was awarded his doctorate, he needed to answer a question that all educators must: where to teach. He found himself joining the WSU Vancouver faculty. Morgan found that initially it was different than teaching at other colleges.

“There was no campus when I came to WSU Vancouver,” Morgan said, “We had temporary space on the Clark College campus including a closet that I used as a laboratory. There were probably about 200 students on campus when I started.” In 1996, the first three buildings officially opened at the Salmon Creek location that included “a well-equipped lab for [his] research.”

Within the last 20 years, the campus has changed drastically. “The number of buildings, students, and employees has increased dramatically. I used to know every WSU Vancouver employee and every student majoring in Psychology. That is impossible now…The two monumental changes in campus atmosphere are the shift from a two year (juniors and seniors only) to a four-year campus and the addition of graduate students.” The shift from a two-year program to a four-year program took place in 2006, when, for the first time since opening, WSU Vancouver admitted freshmen and sophomores. Morgan remembers that, “WSU Pullman would not let the Vancouver Psychology faculty train graduate students for the first 10 years [he] was here. Graduate students can now come directly to the Vancouver campus to earn a doctorate degree.”

Like many of the programs on campus, the psychology program has received several grants allowing for research and adding more students. Over the last 20 years, Morgan has received approximately $3,000,000 in research funds from the National Institutes of Health since 1998. “These funds have allowed me to conduct research on an international level. These funds also have allowed me to train graduate students, involve more undergraduates in research in my lab, and hire students as research assistants. Thus, the main advantage to the psychology program is that more students can get involved in laboratory research.”

For students interested in psychology, Morgan had this to say: “psychology is very diverse. Most people think about a career in Clinical Psychology, but much of psychology is focused on research. Whatever a student’s interests, I would encourage [students] to take advantage of the practicum and/or research experience.” Students can also earn credit for “work at a psychology clinic or in a research lab. [Students] will learn more about what type of career to pursue from these experiences than from any class.”

Michael Morgan’s office is located in VCLS 208G, and he can be reached at mmmorgan@vancouver.wsu.edu or (360) 546-9726.

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