I had the pleasure of interviewing Caitlyn O’Loughlin, a first year full time organizational psychology student.
J: There are many different directions someone interested in psychology can take. The public may better know options such as clinical, counseling or forensic psychology. Can you educate us a little about organizational psychology?
C: Organizational Psychology involves looking at organizations, how they function as a system, and how the people within them function. An organizational psychologist applies psychological theories and practices to intervene within the system to help it function more effectively and efficiently.
J: What is your background, and what drew you to study organizational psychology?
C: I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a major in psychology and minor in sociology. After graduating, I took a position as the lab manager at the Infancy Studies Laboratory in the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers University. There I did a variety of different things. I ran a number of infant information processing experiments, collected data on infant and child auditory processing and utilized ERP’s. I gave various language and developmental assessments to children from 4 months to 10 years. As a manager, I was also responsible for new employee training and directing the daily activities of the lab and its members. While working in the lab, I became more interested in the management aspect of the position, specifically group dynamics and teamwork and how they related to the organization. That’s when I looked into organizational psychology.
J: What attracted you to the MSPP program?
C: I had heard about MSPP before since I went to UMASS and was familiar with schools in the area. However, while I was in undergrad, I was more focused on a future career in clinical psychology. My friend was applying to the counseling program here, so I looked into MSPP a little bit more and found that they offered the organizational program. I liked the idea of the blended curriculum and structure of the program and the opportunity for field placement. I was also very excited about the prospect of relocating to Boston for this program.
J: Where is your field placement?
C: It’s with the Office of the President at MSPP. I just started a project under the Communications Committee’s initiative and am very excited about it. Since my experience leading up to entering MSPP has been primarily with the mental health aspect of psychology, my field placement offers a comprehensive look at what organizational development consultants do. It’s exactly what I was looking for in a field placement.
J: What are some of the topics you have studied this semester? What has been most interesting or the best learning experience for you?
C: Well, we’ve studied quite a range so far. We’ve started with organizational behaviors within individuals and the team. We looked at human motivational theories and group formation and the common roles that individuals play in groups, as well as some of the factors that can create or inhibit team effectiveness. Our second class was the Organizational Systems and Change Theory course. There, we looked at why OD consultants are brought into an organization. Mainly they enter because they are consulting to integration, differentiation and anxiety issues in the organization. We learned about the consulting process, OD values and ethics, and right now we’re looking at emotional intelligence, psychometrics, and the use of self as practitioner in OD consulting.
J: Can you tell me a little bit about your class? How many students? What are their backgrounds?
C: Sure. There are 21 students in our class with varying years of experience in the field. Some are just out of undergrad and others are well-established in their careers and their family life. The majority of the class is working full time while also attending the program. They come from Connecticut, New Hampshire, and various areas in Massachusetts, like Cape Cod. The students have varying backgrounds in mental health fields, human resources, finance, pharmaceuticals, and the military. A few of them are already part of an organizational department team or are organizational consultants who are looking to fine-tune their knowledge and skills in the field.
J: Can you tell me about the blended learning format? How does it impact your learning?
C: It’s a very unique program because of the blended learning format. The majority of our assignments and our communication between cohort members is through e-mail, discussion boards, and live online lectures. It’s very interesting to not have set class hours. It helps when you’re trying to schedule your courses around workload, family obligations and life in general. It can also be challenging because you have to keep up with everyone who is participating. You need to be active in the discussions but you’re discussing topics at various hours during the day and throughout the week.
J: It almost sounds like an online program.
C: Right, but once a month we meet Saturday and Sunday from 8:00-5:30 and have an intensive learning weekend with final exams and various activities where we apply all the material. The professor is there to lecture in person. It’s really intensive and it’s great to solidify all the information we’ve been learning over the past month. It’s also nice to see my classmates in person and learn from each other. It really is an interactive experience. Everybody comes from different backgrounds, so we learn a lot of valuable lessons just from discussing the course material with one another.
J: Is there anything else you would like the readers to be aware of?
C: It’s a great program and I’m fortunate to be a part of it.
J: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I’ve learned a lot and I am sure that those reading this blog have too.
C: You’re welcome!