What led you to choose to major in psychology, specifically the industrial and organizational masters program?
My senior year in high school, I signed up for my first psychology course and I really enjoyed learning about how and why the human mind operates. When I began college, I declared my major to be psychology and stuck with it! I explored so many facets of psychology: behavioral, child, abnormal, experimental, evolutionary, cognitive… I enjoyed each of them, but none ever stuck out enough to draw me into pursuing it professionally. It wasn’t until I entered the professional world that I discovered industrial-organizational psychology. I had been working for the State of Texas in a training position, but I felt as though I’d hit a ceiling. I wanted to further my understanding of how humans learn, and more generally, the way people perceive and operate within different work contexts. Pursuing I/O psychology was, and continues to be, a great opportunity to harness my personal passion of helping others learn and improve themselves while simultaneously leveraging my experience and skill set.
What have you enjoyed so far about studying your program in psychology?
Realizing the impact! I can collect data, crunch numbers, and literally track how our efforts have positively impacted an organization. It’s great because you can see that it’s not just the organization that realizes these effects, but the employees and other stakeholders, too. That’s something that has been really rewarding.
I also think the process of getting to know your client and understand their needs is half of the fun. In class, you learn about different skills and best practices that you need to best serve your clients, but it’s an entirely different experience actually applying what you learn outside the classroom.
What kind of research do you do?
During my first year, I spent time researching turnover and withdrawal behaviors. Specifically, we explored the curvilinear relationship between specific personality traits and attrition in Enlisted Soldiers. We also wrote a paper that examined how job attitudes differentially predicted different types of turnover (i.e., internally-driven turnover that is motivated by the individual versus externally-driven turnover that is the result of circumstances outside the individual’s control).
What extracurricular or other exciting activities are you involved in?
I’m the student coordinator for Mason’s Volunteer Program Assessment (VPA). We provide pro bono consulting services for various nonprofit organizations, such as animal shelters and police departments. It’s a very cool project! We’ve helped hundreds of organizations since it’s been started. A new initiative we’ve started this year is to reach out to local communities. In years past, we’ve served various organizations across the country, which has been great for marketing, but has resulted some negligence of our own backyard. We want to ensure we’re serving the community, and so we’re making a stronger effort to offer these consulting services to our neighbors.
I also serve as one of our student representatives for Mason’s Masters I/O Program. I work with two of my peers to schedule and meet with prospective students interested in learning more about our program. I think it’s a great opportunity to meet people and celebrate what Mason and the DMV area has to offer.
Recently, I participated in a study abroad class in Rome led by one of our professors. Dr. Jose Cortina. I also intern at FMP Consulting, an awesome, women-owned consulting firm in Arlington.
What are your career goals after graduation?
I currently aspire to be an external human capital consultant. I’m very happy with the current organization I’m interning with (FMP Consulting) and the experience has really helped me determine what type of work I want to pursue in my career. It includes assisting a variety of clients (federal and private sectors, and non-profits) with various human capital initiatives, such as workforce planning, training, engagement, competency modeling, and change management.
What advice do you have for prospective students to your program?
Get involved. That means with both Mason-provided activities AND with resources the D.C. area offers. This location is one of the most prominent I/O hubs, and there are a ton of opportunities that are present, but you have to be motivated to participate. For example, PTCMW holds an annual graduate student consulting challenge, and it’s a great opportunity to network and gain applied experience in a “safe” environment. VPA is another great opportunity to gain applied experience, while also giving back to others who otherwise wouldn’t have access to the services we offer. On-campus or off-campus research is a great way to become acquainted with the literature and best practices, and our faculty do a great job of guiding students. I also highly recommend students get an internship somewhere. Mason supplies a well-connected listserv for students that showcases extremely valuable job offers and internships. Whether your interests align more with an academic or applied pursuit, there is a myriad of opportunities and knowledge to be gained by joining interest groups, attending events, volunteering, and interning.