By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart

Meet Dr. Courtney O’Hagen – Associate Professor/Chairperson of Psychology & Human Services

Photo Credit: Matt Ebbers

What drives you professionally and personally? “My answer is actually the same for both. I’m driven by connecting with people. I think that my desire to connect with people is what ultimately drew me to teaching. I meet with students, form connections and relationships, and share my nerdy interests. I’m so thankful that I get to devote my professional life to explaining human behavior, encouraging my students to get excited about something, and building relationships based on trust so that they know that they have someone in their corner.  

Personally, I’m still driven by connection. There are so many people that I wish that I could be friends with! I want to be a good role model for my daughter and show her how to be kind, connect with others, and explore what makes each of us unique. I try to point those things out to her when I can. Grace is a lot of what drives me. 

Before I became a mom, I only had my career to push me. Now, I have such a different perspective.” 

What can we do to encourage and support fellow women as they pursue their education and careers? “This is such a complicated question. In my opinion, and based on things that I have studied in psychology, a lot of why women are competitive and tend to tear each other down has to do with society’s relatively negative views on women and women’s roles. 

I think the best way to encourage and support fellow women is to push for a shift in our cultural attitudes toward valuing what women offer. We offer so much intelligence, perspective, wisdom, and nurture, which is sometimes perceived as weak by men and, sadly, sometimes by other women. 

As an extension, our society doesn’t put enough resources into children, who are the direct result of women. Women are primarily the caretakers and comprise a large proportion of the workforce. I don’t understand how we as a society don’t have more universal childcare support for younger children. Education is often the first thing that gets cut when the money is tight, but it’s not advantageous to our society to not put resources into children and women. 

Things are slowly getting better, which is encouraging. When I first came to SUNY Broome, I benefited from campus initiatives like the Women’s Institute and the Women’s Reading Group. I learned so much!”

Who is a public figure (either historical or present day) that has inspired you? What were/are her contributions and achievements? “I have two! The first one is Kristen Bell. I love her because she uses her position of fame to advocate for mental health, women’s rights, addiction recovery, women’s health, and postpartum depression and anxiety. She is also a Global Advocate for the United Nations Women’s Peace & Humanitarian Fund (WPHF). I relate to her grounded efforts to make positive changes in support of causes that she is passionate about.  

The second woman that I want to mention is Taylor Swift! I admire her so much for her dedication to her craft. I read that in order for her to prepare for her Eras tour, she trained by running on a treadmill for three hours while singing her entire set. She is kind, philanthropic, and caring. Taylor wrote songs about how women feel, and she made those associated emotions OK to discuss. I love that she doesn’t hesitate to stand up for herself, both personally and professionally. 

For me, she embodies so much of what it means to be a woman today. Even though she isn’t contributing to the world “academically,” she contributes to the beauty and richness of our society through her words. Pop stars are often considered to be frivolous and unnecessary, but her true talent is her ability to connect people through shared emotions and experiences.”

What does it mean to you to be celebrated as a remarkable woman? “I don’t feel very remarkable, haha! But it is so special to be included with so many women that I admire. Being part of the #RemarkableWomenofSUNYBroome hopefully reflects that I am making a difference, which is really what I set out to do. It wasn’t always easy. Seven years’ worth of completing my Ph.D. required persistence. I realized, however, that I was never meant to be in research. I was meant to make an impact by connecting with my students in the classroom. I am so thankful that I get to harness my strengths to do such meaningful work.”

Name another remarkable woman of SUNY Broome who inspires you. “Rose Pero. I don’t have the words to describe how much I love her. Rose is so kind and generous with her time and with her expertise. She warms my heart and makes me laugh every day. She is always looking out for me, she reminds me when I forget things, and she keeps me focused on our mission.”

Celebrating Women's History Month


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