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New psychology chair studied primates to learn more about humans

October 02, 2008
The new chair of Lander University's Psychology Department knows a lot about human development and much of her knowledge came from observing the behavior of monkeys.
Dr. Marie Nix specializes in developmental psychology, the study of how humans develop over the course of their lifetime. She received an anthropology degree with a focus on primate behavior from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She has a master's degree and doctorate from the University of Georgia where her studies focused on mother-child attachment.
After receiving her undergraduate degree, Nix worked for three years as manager of the Yemassee Primate Center in Hampton County. "My job was making monkeys happy, providing a stable and positive environment," she said. She was also responsible for teaching monkeys parenting and other behavioral skills.
Her work with primates taught her much about human development. For example she said, "In the first two years of their lives, human babies and chimpanzees share almost identical developmental traits." She explained that chimps are part of the great ape family and genetically very close to humans.
Nix is a native of Pickens and graduate of Pickens High School. She began her teaching career as a substitute teacher in Athens, Ga. Later, while in graduate school at the University of Georgia, she taught sophomore and senior psychology students the philosophy of science, and research methods in psychology. She was also an instructor and research assistant in the Department of Early Childhood Education. "I fell under the spell of teaching," she said.
After working for a year as a coordinator with a child health program in California, Nix and her husband, Chris Marino, relocated to South Carolina. She accepted her position at Lander after serving for seven years as the assistant director of the academic advising center in Clemson University's College of Business and Behavioral Sciences. Her husband is the director of Institutional Research and Evaluation at
Tri-County Technical College in Pendleton.
"In my position at Lander, I am returning to my academic roots, combining classroom teaching and administrative responsibilities," said Nix. At Lander, she spends 60 percent of her time teaching introduction to psychology and adolescent behavior. She believes, as a department chair at a smaller institution, she can have a greater impact on responding to the needs of students, faculty and the university.
Among the honors Nix has received during her career was an invitation to be a speaker and panelist at the Oxford Roundtable on Child Psychology at the University of Oxford in England. She participated in the prestigious gathering at Oxford's Harris Manchester College in July of 2006. She has also received awards for excellence in teaching.
Nix is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Society for Research in Child Development and the National Academic Advising Association.