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After being derailed by a series of unfortunate events — working for a band (Skywind never quite hit the big time) and as a sponsored snowboarder (sidelined by a knee injury) — Alexander McKay, Ph.D., decided to go to school. He ended up at California State University San Bernardino, where he earned a master’s degree in experimental psychology and, more importantly, meet James Kaufman, Ph.D., a renowned psychologist known for his study of creativity.

“As soon as I met him, and I realized that [creativity] was something you could do, I became immediately fascinated by it and jumped on board and started doing it,” McKay said.

It was the right choice for McKay, the 2019 recipient of the American Psychological Association’s Frank X. Barron Award. The award, named for the notable creativity researcher, honors superior contributions to a psychology of aesthetics, creativity and the arts.

After McKay earned his Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from The Pennsylvania State University in 2018, he joined the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business, where he teaches Creativity & Ideation. McKay’s research focuses on what makes someone innovative and what makes people evaluate someone or something as innovative.

He spoke with VCU News about his current research and what you should know about creativity.


Read the Q&A

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