Associate Professor of Psychology Autumn Hostetter left high school equally interested in the double entendre and the double helix. She loved literature’s exploration of the human condition, and she also loved the precision of science and the scientific method.
It didn’t take long for these seemingly separate strands to intertwine. The epiphany occurred in her freshman-year, first-semester introductory Gen Psych class. “That course revealed for me psychology as the intersection of science and literature,” says Hostetter. “It is a way to study the human condition using the reason of science.”
It wouldn’t be accurate to say she never looked back. After all, she did earn a minor in creative writing along with her major in psychology (at Berry College [Mount Berry, Georgia], a small liberal arts school of some 2,000 students who enjoy the world’s largest contiguous campus [some 27,000 acres—K, by comparison, has 1,450 students on some 66 acres] and who’ve been known to quip the school has a 5-to-1 deer-to-student ratio). As commencement approached, Autumn considered an M.F.A. (as next step to a dual career of writer/writing teacher) or a Ph.D. (as a pathway to becoming a professor of psychology).
Psychology—the double helix of science and literature—carried the day. Autumn completed her Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and began her teaching career at K shortly after. “I always wanted to teach at a small liberal arts college,” she says. Not surprising, perhaps; nor is her academic and research interests: the psychology of language and communication.
What’s the best song ever recorded?
“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens.
What’s your favorite childhood fairy tale or story?
“The Ugly Duckling.” The idea that what you are now doesn’t determine what you will be in the future has always appealed to me.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
“There are people here who will be very excited to see you.”
What’s your favorite word?
Crock-ah-doddle. My two-year-old son Oliver’s pronunciation of “crocodile.” I like his better.
What’s your least favorite word?
What turns you on?
What turns you off?
What sound do you love?
What sound do you hate?
What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Being a writer, or something perhaps in advertising, which combines writing and psychology.
What profession would you not like to participate in?
Being on an assembly line, anything monotonous where you don’t use your mind.
What’s been a GREAT MOMENT in your liberal arts learning?
Probably that first college psychology class, discovering that the subject carried the DNA of both literature and science. The professor, by the way, was a truly gifted teacher, one of the happiest, most optimistic persons I’ve ever encountered.
Who’s the person (living or dead) with whom you’d most like to spend a lunch hour?
Amelia Earhart, mostly to learn what happened.
What memory from childhood still surprises you?
When I was 10 my family took a two-week road trip west, driving from Georgia [Autumn grew up in Augusta] to Los Angeles, stopping at landmarks like the Grand Canyon. But mostly, I sat in the back seat reading Babysitter’s Club books that I’d already read.
What is your favorite curse word?
[The word] “badwords” [exclaimed with no pause between the parts]
What is your favorite hobby?
Baking. I love to make desserts.
What is your favorite comedy movie?
Earth Girls Are Easy, a film from the late 1980s starring Geena Davis, Jeff Goldblum, and Jim Carey. My grandfather makes a cameo appearance in one scene!
What local, regional, national, or world event affected you most?
Probably the September 11 terrorist attacks.
If a cow laughed, would milk come out of her nose?
The question’s udderly ridiculous.