Making workplaces even stronger: that’s the goal behind Meredith’s master’s in industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology program. The first graduates of the program completed their studies in May 2020.
The program’s goal of strengthening workplaces holds even greater importance now than it did when the program was initially launched, considering the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent study conducted by Stanford University, 42 percent of the U.S. labor force is now working from home full-time.
Joe Mazzola, director of Meredith’s I/O psychology program, says that I/O psychologists are uniquely qualified to help businesses deal with this new reality.
“Having extensively studied topics like leadership, teamwork, and organizational change will allow I/O psychology graduates to help structure remote co-workers in a way that maximizes motivation, performance, and job satisfaction,” he said.
“Further, as the home and work line is blurred for many people right now, our graduates have the opportunity to facilitate more work-life balance and help employees avoid burnout and emotional exhaustion that the current stresses could easily cause.”
Jennifer Perry, ’06, ’20 (M.A. Psychology), is a prime example of I/O psychology graduates helping their organizations facilitate the healthy work-life balance Mazzola references. “A huge positive to this time has been proving to our organization that employees can still be productive while working from home,” she said.
Perry works with a company called SolarWinds, serving as a learning and development coordinator for global sales enablement. The role started as a three-month contracted internship, but she was asked to stay on with the organization for another four months through the pandemic.
“My hope is that this unprecedented time will allow employers to see that flexible working schedules can actually increase productivity, decrease absenteeism, and increase job satisfaction,” said Perry.
Program Sees Early Success, Strong Outcomes
Though the program is still in its early years, Mazzola said it’s already seen great success. In the two short years since its launch, he’s most proud of the collaborative and collegial culture that the first graduating cohort helped to build.
“Our students work together to solve problems and ensure the success of their classmates, and genuinely enjoy the company of each other,” he said.
Mazzola also said that the first cohort was very successful in networking with new connections, finding internships and applied projects, and taking on the workload that comes with graduate school.
The cohort had the opportunity to participate in a unique study abroad experience in Italy at the end of their first year. “The study abroad experience really brought them together and taught them about organizational culture and how to apply I/O concepts around the world,” said Mazzola.
Annie Morin, ’18, ’20 (M.A. Psychology), who went on the trip, said the opportunity to meet business owners across different industries in Italy was invaluable to her growth as an I/O psychologist. “Getting such insight into another culture helps me as an I/O practitioner to understand what people value and seek in their jobs,” she said.
Morin was recently promoted to be a Human Resources Supervisor for Community Care of North Carolina, managing employees who are helping with contact tracing efforts for COVID-19. “As this organization grows and flourishes, it is a wonderful time to bring an I/O psychologist to the helm to make sure what we are doing follows all employment laws and keeps employees wanting to work,” she said. “I am certain my training at Meredith gave me the skills to lead well.”
Navigating the Challenges and Building on Success
Along with the early success, there were also many challenges that came along with building a new program.
“We often had to make changes on the fly when a class or experience didn’t work like we had planned,” said Mazzola. “But part of being a new program is the ability to stay flexible and take feedback to improve the experience, and overall, it made our program and our graduates even better.”
Since its launch, Mazzola said the program has grown in size, strength, and character. “As our growth continues, I hope we are able to expand the faculty and support mechanisms for the students to further maximize recruitment, student success, and program visibility.”
Now that the program has an alumni base, Mazzola sees a strong network being built among I/O psychology students through lectures, workshops, and job placements. “I believe we will soon be placing I/O and HR professionals all over the Triangle area, and eventually all over the country and world.”
Learn more about the I/O Psychology program at meredith.edu/iopsychology.