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Education and Training in I-O Psychology

Neil Hauenstein
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


As chair of the Awards Subcommittee for the inaugural SIOP Distinguished Teaching Contributions Award, I had the privilege to review the teaching portfolios of many gifted academicians. Speaking for myself, identifying the outstanding teacher was perhaps the most difficult professional decision process I have ever undertaken. Part of the difficulty was that we were comparing academicians who taught at 4-year institutions, masters-level training programs, and doctoral training programstalk about criterion issues! Even with the criterion challenge, our difficulties were increased manyfold by the fact that SIOP has the good fortune of having so many gifted teachers. That being said, one namePaul Muchinskysurfaced on everybodys short list for the inaugural teaching award. 

In a moment of inspiration, it struck me that the winner of the teaching award should be invited to contribute to this column; after all, our goal is to facilitate discussion of issues on education and training. What better way to achieve this goal than by having our best teachers provide insights about their careers? My hope is that Ive started a tradition and that every year in the TIP that follows the SIOP conference there is an Education and Training column written by the winner of the teaching award. 

Finally, Id be remiss if I did not thank the fellow members of the Teaching Award Subcommittee. Robert Brill, Peter Bachiochi, Eric Heggestad, Morrie Mullins, Dawn Riddle, Deidra Schleicher, and Rosemary Hays-Thomas all gave up many hours of their summer for this worthy cause. 

Thoughts on Being the Inaugural Recipient of the SIOP Distinguished Teaching Contributions Award

Paul M. Muchinsky

As a result of being the inaugural recipient of SIOPs Distinguished Teaching Contributions Award, Neil Hauenstein asked me to write a personal account about my career as a teacher of I-O psychology. I was flattered to be asked, as unaccustomed as I am to seeing my thoughts in print in TIP.

I cant say that being a teacher at any level of education was a childhood ambition. My ancestors on my fathers side of my family were teachers in Russia, so if the genome project identifies a teaching gene, perhaps I have it. I recall no teachers from grades K12 that were role models or heroes to me. In 1965 I enrolled at Gettysburg College as a chemistry major. My cumulative grade point at the end of my freshman year was 3.3I had a 1.9 in the fall semester and a 1.4 in the spring. I quickly realized the world of aldehydes and ketones was not for me. I took an introductory psychology class taught by an I-O psychologist who received his PhD from Purdue. His name was Sam Mudd. I was at a point in my life where I was highly susceptible to positive influence, and Sam provided it. I learned about the existence of industrial psychology (the O had yet to manifest itself formally) and concluded it was a good fit with my interests. It didnt involve working with rats, pigeons, children, or emotionally unstable people. It was about psychology applied to work, which I selected to become the title of my textbook. I was told job prospects were poor with just a bachelors degree in psychology, so I readily bought into the notion I had to go to graduate school. I wanted to go to Purdue for my PhD, just as my role model had. However, after my abysmal start in chemistry, my overall academic credentials were not good enough to gain admission there. I went to Kansas State for my masters, where I met more people who would have a positive influence on my career. I then applied to Purdue and was accepted into their doctoral program. I didnt know it at the time, but a lengthy list of individuals who made significant contributions to our field came out of Purdue. I am very proud to be part of that tradition. If you believe in kismet or fate (as I have come to believe), at the time I was at Purdue the doctoral dissertations were filed alphabetically in the library of the Department of Psychology. My dissertation wound up being filed back-to-back with that of my role model, Sam Mudd.

My maternal grandmother was still living when I went off to graduate school. My grandmother had a very difficult childhood, had little education, never got farther west than Pennsylvania in her life, and was geographically challenged. When I told her I was heading to Kansas for my masters degree, she asked for the general location of the state. I said, The Midwest. Then I went to the state of Indiana for my PhD degree. My grandmother again asked for the general location of that state. I again said, The Mid-west. She then said, So its by Kansas? I said, No, lets say Indiana is in the Mideast. [People in Indiana describe their state as being in the Mid-east, but to native-born New Englanders as are my family, everything between Ohio and Colorado is the Midwest.] My grandmother was content with my Mideast answer, but soon she fractured it to become the Middle-east. My grandmothers elderly friends asked her if she had heard from me lately. She told them, Yes, Paul is going to graduate school in the Middle-east. Its some place that starts with the letter I. They replied, Do you mean like Israel, Iran, Iraq? My grandmother replied, Im not sure, but its something like that. Between trips to the Kasbah, I learned the mysteries of Herzbergs two-factor theory and suppressor variables.

While at Purdue I was heavily involved in being a student, and I dont recall ruminating about what I would do when I graduated. I liked school, learning, and the academic environment, so becoming a professor was just a natural extension of what I had done all my life. I thought I was simply trading one side of the rostrum for the other. I wish I could tell you I had an epiphany that led me to become a professor, but I didnt. It was more of a gentle flow than a big bang. I was 25 when I received my PhD.

Right after graduation in 1973 I joined the faculty of Iowa State University. I felt totally overwhelmed at the thought of standing before a class. Suddenly I was expected to have answers to all sorts of questions, or at least that was the expectation I had of myself. My very first class happened to be consumer psychology, a popular class that had an enrollment of about 250 students. I remember descending the steps of a tiered classroom, getting to the rostrum, and seeing this sea of humanity looking back at me. I was so petrified I grabbed the sides of the rostrum for dear life. I didnt dare leave the security of my station to write on the blackboard, for fear the students would see my pant legs wiggling caused by my shaking knees. I was the only I-O psychologist in the department. I was able to get a few articles accepted for publication in my first year. The senior faculty in the department were responsible for conducting the end-of-the-year annual performance review. Since I was the only I-O on the faculty, I feared my initial antipathy about rats and pigeons in psychology would seek vengeance upon me. When it was time for my first performance-review meeting, my department chair (who was an experimental psychologist) looked up at me and said, We dont know what youre doing, but we know you are doing a lot of it. I didnt know what to say in response, and 30+ years later I still cant come up with a clever line I might have said. I was tenured at 28 and was promoted to the rank of professor at 31. Times were different back them, and time in rank was not a salient issue in academia as it is today.

I remained at Iowa State for 20 years. I had 25 PhD advisees during that time period, about 190 MS students, and an untold number of undergraduate students. Working mostly with doctoral students was a heady experience. I had the privilege of working with the brightest and the best, people who were very committed to the educational process. Most of my doctoral students have remained in the field over the years, but some have moved on to other pursuits. I dont feel I helped make them what they are as much as I didnt get in their way. They were all bright and ambitious, and if they hadnt become I-O psychologists, they would have been successful in something else. As the years have gone by I have come to have greater appreciation for what role my doctoral students played in my life, as well as vice versa.

In 1993 I joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I was lucky enough to be the recipient of a lifetime endowed chair. My official title is The Joseph M. Bryan Distinguished Professor of Business. We dont have a PhD program here, and our only graduate degree is the MBA. I teach exclusively at the undergraduate level. Many of my students are the first in their family to graduate from college. My faculty role has shifted greatly from supervising cutting-edge doctoral research to inspiring 20-year olds. I try to convince them they can make something special of their lives, and I try to be an agent or catalyst to facilitate that outcome. I derive as much gratification today from teaching undergraduate students as I did 3 decades ago in working with doctoral students. They are just opposite ends of the same spectrum, and I have had the pleasure to experience both in my career. Ive also learned that teaching permits the violation of one of the fundamental laws of physics. Every year I get a year older, but every year my students are the same age. Im not quite sure how that works, but I do enjoy having the chance to work with young adults at a point in their lives where they are susceptible to the same positive influence I was almost 40 years ago.

The recipient of SIOPs Distinguished Teaching Contributions Award gets to give a talk at the following years conference. I am honored to have the chance to do so in Los Angeles in 2005, and I am greatly looking forward to the occasion. I think it is wonderful that SIOP decided to recognize the importance of teaching in our profession. I think teachers can influence the lives of students in many ways. Sometimes at the SIOP conference a person, upon seeing my name badge, will approach me and say, Dr. Muchinsky, we have never met, but after reading your textbook as an undergraduate student, I decided to become an I-O psychologist. Im sure all occupations have their own sources of gratification, but hearing such statements makes me feel about 10 feet tall. It is an honor to be a teacher of I-O psychology.


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