TIP-TOPics for Students
University of South Florida
April is upon us which means, even as you read this, you are probably on a
plane (or in a car) to New Orleans to attend the 2000 SIOP Conference. This
conference should be even better than the last because there will inevitably be
more attendees and infinitely more ways to "go out on the town," err,
I mean broaden your intellectual and professional horizons. The conference is a
perfect time and place to meet other students with whom you can commiserate. All
joking aside, I do hope you take opportunities to meet students from other
programs. Instead of only going to dinner with people from your program, take
some risks and invite several people from several different programs to go out
to have coffee, dinner, or drinks. Personally, I am looking forward to meeting
some of you with whom I have corresponded, and trading stories with those of you
I have not. Reminiscent of last year's fish bowls and in the spirit of fun, look
for announcements concerning the when and where of a "Grad Student Night
Out" posted around the conference. However you do it, don't be shy; go
forth and make yourself known to the (I-O) world.
Also, take the chance to speak with those "names" you have seen on
your articles and in your texts. They are people too, and probably would be
delighted to discuss the merits of their latest research endeavors or share some
wisdom about the state of practice. You'll never know until you try, and life
without risk is just routine (to be trite). In fact, I have heard from trusted
sources that all of us will have the opportunity to meet and speak with several
members of SIOP's Executive Committee during the conference.
Even more exciting is the fact that this event has been set up specifically
to foster a conversation between Student Affiliates and full members concerning
the role of students in the future of SIOP. Calling all Student
Affiliateshere is your chance to be more involved at the "grass
roots" level with the inner workings of our society. The Executive
Committee is interested in hearing your ideas, suggestions, and comments about
how to more formally integrate and involve student affiliates in supporting and
advancing the Society. Again, don't be shy (or apathetic); come to this
discussion and show the members that we, the students, are committed to the
profession and are eager to help achieve the goals of SIOP. Could it be that we
are on our way to the vision shared of a SIOP Student Network shared in the
January 2000 TIP-TOPics column (see Making the Right Connections)?
With all of that said, let me introduce the segments for this issue. In Meeting
of the Minds-Scientist and Practitioner, questions are raised surrounding
the customers of research and practice, including: Who are the customers? Are we
reaching all the audiences we would like to? And do science and practice have
different customers? While I make no claims to having any answers or even
meaningful insight, perhaps this segment may be a springboard for discussion in
your courses, research meetings, or late-night musings. In the next segment, a
group of students from Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI),
share the strategies they have used to assist in the professional development of
their graduates. Perhaps you will be inspired to help implement one or more of
these ideas in your department. Lastly, in TIPs for Balancing Life and
Graduate School, I encourage all of you to be wild and crazy, throw caution
to the wind and put some spontaneity back into your life. Road trip, anyone?
Hey, if you have better ideas, feel free to send `em in (my resources are drying
up and I'll have to start recycling soon!! HELP!). Be certain to grab me during
the conference and tell me what you think about TIP-TOPics (but remember
what your mother told you, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say
anything at all) or just share some good ol' grad school experiences.
Meeting of the Minds-Scientist and Practitioner:
Who are the "Customers" of I-O Psychology?
This segment marks another exploration into the complexities of the S-P
model. In a field committed to following a dual model, the evolution of both the
science and practice are dependent on its "apprentices." Consequently,
it is imperative for students (us) to dissect, analyze, question, strengthen,
and develop the principles upon which it rests. That is a fancy way of saying,
"Hey folks, part of training involves thinking about how our field
operates, including the strengths and weaknesses, and figuring out ways (now) to
address those issues that are likely to `hassle' us in our professional
In contrast to the first segment on this topic, the opinions and comments of
full-fledged (and degreed) professionals in both academia and practice are not
offered within. Consequently, the following disclaimer is offered. The rantings,
ramblings, reflections, and propositions expressed in this piece are purely my
own and therefore do not necessarily have much credibility. They are offered
solely to stimulate conversations and possibly insights on the matter. And, of
course, following in that vein, I do not offer any definitive answers on the
subject. That, my fellow students, is the task at hand for each of us
individually and collectively.
To the crux of the matter, the issue for this segment is: Who are the
customers of I-O psychology? Improved customer service, customer-centered focus,
and all the other synonyms by which this concept masquerades, seem to be the
latest trends in business. And, why should I-O psychology be left out of this
latest revolution? In other words, shouldn't we also be concerned with
identifying our customers and providing the best customer service? But wait, the
true reason businesses are so concerned with their customers is probably not a
sudden urge to be humanistic or altruistic but rather because in this era of
unlimited choice, customers are life. Customers/consumers provide the resources
by which companies become viable, grow, expand, and endure. Without them,
companies, businesses, markets, and industries simply cease to exist.
Consequently, knowing who your customers are and providing "services"
to meet their needs is vital to any and all organizations, including our own.
Back to the question: Who are the customers of I-O psychology? At first
glance, that question may seem easy to answer. However, if you ponder the issue
for a while longer, you may find more questions than answers. More specifically,
are there different consumers of the science versus the practice of I-O
psychology? If yes, then how can we "serve" both at the same time,
assuming they have differing needs and challenges? Within practice, are the
customers those who control the purse strings? Or are the true customers those
who we hope benefit from our work? Within academia, are the consumers of
scientific knowledge other academics who have the same educational background as
us, or are they others within fields such as management, human resources, OB or
even John Q. Public?
This issue is not a new oneindeed the motivation for my musings originated
with an article in the July 1999 TIP, Dateline 2020: A Look Back at
I-O at the Turn of the Millennium in which Marc Berwald postulated that in
the year 2020 practitioners and academics would be working together with their
"customers" to solve the daily problems of organizations and that a
new "journal" would emerge in which information could be disseminated
to those who actually could (and should) use it. In an earlier correspondence
for the October 1999 TIP-TOPics, Drs. Joyce and Robert Hogan suggested
that academics and practitioners differ in the audiences to which they play.
Specifically, the problems which they each address and the products they produce
come from and flow to different sources. And, of course, this issue has come up,
albeit in subtle ways, in various courses including ethics, which ask, "Who
exactly does the data belong to?"
More specifically, in practice, it is easy to assume that the customers are
the management/executive types who hire us and pay our fees. This limited
perspective may be one reason that I-O psychologists have been criticized (both
from within and without our field) for taking a "management"
perspective, rather than concentrating on fulfilling the "true" needs
of employees and society at large. Perhaps, our "customers" should
also include those employees whose circumstances we purport to enhance. Is it
possible to satisfy the needs and desires of both management customers and
employee customers? Assuming those needs are at odds, how can we fulfill our
moral and professional obligations to both groups? Although, I simply raise the
questions and have no means or intention of providing answers in this space, I
urge you to go beyond the boundaries of conventional thinking on this topic and
view the problem from a multitude of perspectives. The answer is likely to
involve considerations of the values which you bring to the profession as well
as your perception of the goals of our field, not to mention the opinions of
countless others who have wrestled with these questions before us.
In addition, we could view our customers as all organizations and employees
within them whether we are hired for service or not. For example, despite the
vast job market for I-O types, too many executives, managers, and employees do
not understand, know about, or have ever heard of I-O psychology. Of those who
do, I am willing to bet that a great number of them do not understand the
difference between a management consultant who has an MBA degree and an I-O
psychologist with a PhD (or master's), for example. Although both may provide
"good service," there is a difference of which our customers should be
aware. I contend that part of our job is to educate the business world about the
services and benefits that I-O types can provide and which others in related
fields may not. In this regard, those who hire us, at least, may be able to make
more informed decisions.
Several discussions in a course I took revolved around the topic of
customers, particularly as it pertained to academic settings. Although this did
not necessarily reflect the opinion of the instructor, he explained that given
the nature of the reward system (number of publications) in academia, the
customers of our research are often viewed as other I-O psychologists. In fact,
there seems to be some disagreement as to whether I-O research is even intended
for practitioners or merely only for other academics.
Also, there is no formal reward for publishing in trade journals to explain
research findings in a format and language which managers and employees can
understand. The consequences of this seem to be minimal articles appearing in
journals or sources which managers, employees ,or professionals in related
fields are likely to read. The question is: Is our research only meant to be
shared with other academics? Or should the customers of our research include
practitioners, managers, employees, the media, and so forth. Perhaps we should
consider sharing our knowledge with those who are likely to use and benefit from
it (practitioners and managers/employees, maybe even John Q. Public) which means
communicating in ways that we are not accustomed to and may not be formally
rewarded for. From a "customers are life" perspective, it is important
to the advancement of our field to inform others of the incredible value we can
offer. Personally, I am proud of the work which has been done by scientists and
practitioners in this field and would be delighted for everyone in the world to
know that they cannot function effectively, efficiently, or satisfactorily
without us. And as a side bonus, I would appreciate not having to explain to
everyone I meet (not in the field) just what is I-O psychology.
As we read in an earlier Meeting of the Minds, it certainly is
possible (and beneficial) to balance the roles of scientist and practitioner.
Several of the panelists even implied that all I-O psychologists should attempt
to integrate both sets of roles and responsibilities into one job, whether in
academia or practice. The obvious question is: Are the customers of scientists
and practitioners truly different? Or should each of us be considering how we
can better serve ALL of the consumers of I-O research, tools, and knowledge?
Similar to any other business, we should strategically position ourselves for
future success. Translation: Research, discover and implement new and innovative
ways to better serve our existing customers (i.e. disseminate the fruits of
research labor to the masses) and reach others who could become our customers.
Before we can do that, however, we must first identify who our customers are as
both scientists and practitioners and who they should be.
Spotlight on Student Development Programs at IUPUI
The MS program in I-O within the psychology department at IUPUI has
instituted several student developmental and support activities that have been
well received by graduate students and faculty alike. We would like to share a
few of these ideas with the I-O community and encourage discussion of such
activities in other programs. These activities are aimed at refining graduate
students' personal and professional development, assisting in timely completion
of the master's thesis (although these may be modified as needed to apply to
doctoral programs as well), and helping to effectively socialize new students
into the graduate school lifestyle. The activities are a semiannual feedback
meeting for each student with all faculty, a summer research program, and a
mentorship program. The following paragraphs combine a brief description of each
activity with student reactions. Each description is then followed by comments
1 Contributors to this segment include graduate
students (in alphabetical order): Marc Fogel, LaRita Jarvis, Emily Leonard,
Jennifer Philips, and Mindy Phillips. The faculty contributors include John
Hazer (program head), Jane Williams, and Dennis Devine.
Self-Appraisal Faculty Feedback (SAFF)
The purpose of SAFF (pronounced "safe") is to provide a structured
opportunity for students to reflect on their experiences in the I-O program as
well as plan and set goals with regard to future activities. These meetings
occur after each semester, are developmental as opposed to evaluative, and are
designed to stimulate self-learning, insight, and joint problem-solving with
faculty. Essentially, the overall goal of the SAFF process is to ensure that a
student's remaining time in the program contributes maximally to his or her
professional and career development.
The SAFF process begins as the student obtains the appropriate set of
"thought" questions in advance of the SAFF session. The thought
questions are provided by the faculty and are tailored to focus on the issues
most relevant to the student's stage in the program. The thought questions
concentrate on the various aspects of the program such as research skills and
involvement, oral and written communication, I-O content knowledge, thesis topic
and timelines for completing thesis, career development, organizational
citizenship, and overall thoughts about the program. Students review the
questions in advance of the meeting with specific emphasis on (a) identifying
issues for faculty input and (b) identifying personal goals and objectives for
the upcoming semester. Next, the student schedules a meeting with the faculty on
one of the days set aside for the SAFF sessions. Lastly, the student meets with
all members of the faculty in a SAFF session to discuss his/her reactions to
these thought questions, ask additional questions, problem-solve, and plan and
set goals for the upcoming semester.
The SAFF process allows the I-O faculty to stay abreast of students' concerns
or questions as well as to provide a venue for students to gain feedback from
faculty at the end of each semester. It is a positive experience that provides
an opportunity for students to reflect, to become aware of their strengths and
weaknesses, and to identify opportunities for improvement. During the semester,
faculty and students' time is often consumed with coursework, teaching, and
research. SAFF provides an opportunity for each student to meet jointly with the
I-O faculty to discuss issues that they did not find time to consider or discuss
throughout the busy semester.
Faculty comments include the following: SAFF sessions have been conducted now
for 4 years. Although the level of self-reflection does vary across students,
most have approached the SAFF process in the developmental spirit intended. In
addition, many students have used SAFF meetings to ask miscellaneous
program-related questions, get career information, and discuss ways to
effectively structure their remaining time in the program. Generally,
"students get out of it what they put into it." Also, SAFF has been
instrumental in establishing and transmitting norms regarding student behavior
and involvement in research. The program has also served as a mechanism for
shaping a program culture that emphasizes a high degree of informal interaction
between faculty and students. SAFF meetings have proven to be great vehicles for
acquiring information about student welfare and interaction, as well as feedback
about teaching effectiveness. There is one noticeable cost however; the time
invested by all faculty to attend SAFF meetings is not inconsequential and comes
at the worst time (i.e., end of the semester). Still, the consensus feeling is
that this feedback program has been very successful in achieving its goals for
both students and the I-O program.
Summer Research Program
The summer research program is designed to ensure progress on the master's
thesis during the 3-month break between the first and second year. Four meetings
are scheduled at equal intervals over the course of the summer. The sequencing
closely follows the conceptual development process of the thesis and is intended
to stimulate critical thinking by both students and faculty about the student's
research idea. Participation in the program is voluntary, but students remaining
in the Indianapolis area usually choose to attend these monthly meetings.
Meetings are relatively informal, with each student presenting information for
15 minutes and answering other student and faculty questions for 5 minutes. The
meetings cover the following topics:
- Research questions, construct definitions, and design accuracy
- Empirical and theoretical rationale for hypotheses
- Operationalization of independent and dependent variables
- Description of appropriate statistics and mock data analysis
The format and content of these meetings is beneficial for both quality of
thinking and progress in writing the thesis. Each student is able to improve
upon the original version of his or her thesis. In addition, these meetings
offer a valuable opportunity to practice presenting and defending ideas, skills
that are necessary in the proposal and thesis defense. Overall, students feel
the time spent in summer research meetings is helpful.
Faculty comments include the following: This summer research program was
initiated to address the long delay that frequently occurs between the end of
course completion and graduation. As in many graduate programs, this delay at
IUPUI is usually due to the time taken to complete one's research, and a thesis
is required from each of our students. To date, this research program has been
conducted in each of the last three summers and has had a total of 12 student
participants. Given that, it is too soon to judge the program's impact on the
three students who completed the program last summer. Program success can be
most appropriately judged by examining the thesis completion rate and timeliness
of the first nine students: Six of these nine students finished their theses by
the end of the following summer, the end of their second year in the program.
Thus, the program's success is mixed in that 67% of the participants have
achieved the stated goal of timely thesis completion. Nevertheless, they feel
that this is a definite improvement over the prior base rate of 30_40%. Like the
SAFF program, "students seem to get out of the summer research program what
they put into it."
The mentoring program at IUPUI teams second-year students with first-year
students in order to help ease the transition into graduate school as well as
bridge the gap between the first- and second-year students. Once the school year
begins, students become more and more involved with coursework. Therefore, the
mentoring program is a great way for the students to get to know each other, in
addition to providing the new students with answers to their questions regarding
the program. Furthermore, a student-designed pamphlet is distributed to all
incoming students, which provides basic information about the campus, the
Indianapolis area, as well as helpful tidbits such as where to obtain student
identification cards and departmental keys.
As the school year progresses, informal relationships grow. These not only
benefit the first-year students by providing them insight into the workings of
daily life as a graduate student but also benefit the second-year students by
helping us all become a more cohesive group. Overall, the mentoring program
helps students find support in each other. This gives the program a unique
component not found in many graduate programs, making life as a graduate student
a little more enjoyable.
Faculty comments include the following: The goal in organizing both the
mentorship process and the pamphlet is to effectively socialize students to
Indianapolis, the University, and the program. The success of the program has
been observed through a couple of avenues. First, the camaraderie and level of
interaction between the first- and second-year students has increased since the
inception of the mentoring program. Secondly, students have reported that being
contacted by a formal mentor before coming to Indianapolis made them feel more
welcomed and that they experienced less anxiety during the entrance process and
beyond. Finally, they believe that this has initiated discussion among the
students so that they do appear more prepared for the heightened expectations
that occur in graduate school, the process of choosing a thesis advisor, and the
general expectations of the program. The mentor pamphlet has now been expanded
to be appropriate for all graduate students in the Psychology Department. Each
year students find information to add so that now, in its third edition, the
wealth of information available to students in the pamphlet is considerable.
Overall, the three activities combined with the cohesiveness of a small
program (five students accepted each year) help define the MS program at IUPUI
as one that nurtures its students by providing a climate that is both
developmental and demanding. There are at least three benefits of these
activities. First, the activities encourage active participation by students in
their own personal and professional development. The SAFF meeting is structured
to compel students to reflect on past experiences and set goals not only with
regard to class work and research, but also regarding other personal
characteristics such as general career goals and overall communication skills.
These issues are believed to be an integral part of graduate education but are
not normally systematically addressed in other graduate school activities.
Second, goal setting and better time management are supported: For example, the
SAFF meetings require that students set personal and professional goals to be
achieved within a self-determined timeline. Also, thesis-related goals are
supported by the summer research program, which has the potential to lead to a
more timely graduation date. In addition, the mentorship program fosters the
goals of new students by providing them with a more realistic outlook of the
program and their near future. Third, although only time will tell how effective
these activities truly are, customer (student) satisfaction and program climate
already indicate the positive utility of these activities.
Faculty and students in other programs are invited to consider various
student developmental activities and initiate such activities where they do not
currently exist. In addition, discussion and evaluation of developmental
strategies within the I-O community are encouraged. Implementing developmental
activities such as the ones described here will contribute to a more beneficial
graduate experience for the next generation of I-O professionals.2
2 For more specific information regarding the
information presented in this segment contact: John Hazer (program head)
TIPs for Balancing Life and Graduate School
Summer is fast approaching as the semester closes. For months on end, you've
been slaving away at papers, tests, research, and well, you get the picture. And
that meansyou deserve a break. Time to break up the monotony of educational
strife. This column's tip should prove to do the trick nicely.
Instead of vowing to spend additional hours locked in your
"dungeon" (which is what I unaffectionately call my study room) to
finish that research project, take some time off. Travel the world on a luxury
liner or traverse the globe in a hot-air balloon. Or more realistically, grab a
few friends, pick a destination, and jump in the car to begin your ROAD TRIP!
Remember: all work, no play makes graduate students go postal!!
A road trip is the perfect opportunity (and excuse) for adventure, mayhem,
and complete disconnection from "professional development" that you
have been yearning for since your advisor handed your fifth thesis draft back
with still more red ink than black. You haven't even seen daylight since you
started graduate school, so driving to a far away place that you have wanted to
visit since you were this high will be stimulating indeed. Hey, you may as well
do it while you don't have a job!! And with 3-4 friends, it won't cost that
muchhow much is your sanity worth?
Road trips come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties. You can camp in the
woods with only a tent, fire, and sustenance from the land. Or you can play
tourist in a big city, dine at the finest restaurants, and treat yourself to an
overnight stay in a luxurious 5-star hotel. Or perhaps, you can just jump in the
car and start driving for wherever the road takes you and enjoy the scenery
along the way. And for some, a relaxing and comforting trip "home" to
see parents, siblings, or other friends and family might be the ideal vacation.
Whatever type of trip you and your friends decide upon, remember the goal is to
enjoy your youth and vitality and forget about the responsibilities and
drudgeries of graduate school (for a little while).
The choice is yours, but here are a few suggestions. Make it long enough to
get away (physically and mentally) from the tempestuous concerns of graduate
school and its local confines. It will take you more than a weekend to silence
those pesky voices in your head nagging you about the latest work to be done.
Besides, if you are driving you may not want to spend ALL of your trip in the
car. Yes, you can afford to take a week away from that project/researchyou
may even come back and be so inspired that you finish ahead of time.
You certainly don't have to choose a certain destination, particularly if you
are the spontaneous type, but if you do, pick a place you've never been to
before. Or choose a destination that provides a multitude of distractions to
prevent any guilt from creeping in. Either way, it should provide stimulation to
all your senses, not just your intellect! In fact, I say the less intellectually
stimulating the better. Bring on the mind-numbing activities.
Before you embark on this journey, choose your travel companions wisely!
Don't you remember what happened when you decided to room with your best friend
from high school all through college? Exactly. You should be willing AND able
to spend every waking (and sleeping) hour with your fellow roadies, so don't
invite someone who crawls under your skin after 30 minutes. Of course, someone
with a sense of adventure and humor would be an asset to your jaunt into
relaxation! Most of all, go with friends you enjoy and who know how to shed
their poker faces and get down to the business of having fun!
Lastly, make only one rule: NO SHOP TALK! Remember, you are trying to restore
balance to your life. And, unless you are superhuman or possess wondrous secrets
the rest of us are not privy to, you are (almost) hopelessly lopsided toward too
much work and not enough play.
Unfortunately I don't have any brilliant ideas as to where your adventure
should lead you, but to quote an enlightened "sports entertainment"
icon, "it doesn't matter!" The point is to break away from the
status quo and learn how to have some fun for awhile. And for those who need a
little more help breaking away, it's the process that counts, not the goal (at
least in this situation). Send me a postcard from the roadenjoy!
To contact the TIP-TOPics columnist:
Kim Hoffman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fax: (813) 974-4617/Attn: Kim Hoffman
Mail: Department of Psychology, BEH 339
Tampa, FL 33620-8200
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