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The Georgia Association
for Industrial and Organizational
Psychology (GAIOP):
A New Stage in the Evolution
of Georgia’s I-O Community

FEATURE ARTICLE 

Nita French
French & Associates

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A new local I-O group, The Georgia Association for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (GAIOP), was officially incorporated as a not-for-profit professional organization on February 12, 2016. Our metro Atlanta-based group has a new face and new objectives; however, this is just the latest stage in the evolution of the I-O community in Georgia. This article is an account of how we got here, what we’ve accomplished, and what challenges remain. Because this leg of our journey is just beginning, we wanted also to describe our future aspirations in the hope that more professionals (and students) will want to join us. We hope that our story will be instructive for colleagues in other locations as they contemplate the costs and benefits of getting organized.

It is hardly surprising that Georgia has a critical mass of I-O psychologists and professionals in related fields because of the educational and employment opportunities located here. The Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Georgia both offer I-O PhD programs in their psychology departments, and the Goizueta School of Business at Emory University offers a doctorate in organizational behavior. In addition, Georgia State University, the University of Georgia, and Valdosta State University offer master’s programs in I-O or related fields (http://my.siop.org/GTP; SIOP2016a). Eighteen Fortune 500 companies have their global headquarters in Georgia, and more than 450 Fortune 500 companies have a presence in the state (http://www.georgia.org/competitive-advantages/pro-business/fortune-500/; Georgia Department of Economic Development, 2016), offering many opportunities for I-O teaching and practice.

Ancient History

Atlanta area I-Os have been networking and collaborating on professional issues at least since the early 1980s when the Atlanta Society for Applied Psychology (ASAP) was first organized (Hoopes, 2004). In the early 1990s, a call to action was sounded when it became clear that the needs and interests of I-O psychologists were not being considered in developing state legislation and regulations concerning the practice of psychology.

Like many other states, Georgia’s psychology licensing law was, and remains, a practice law, meaning that anyone who offers fee-based services that employ the principles, techniques, or methods of psychology must be a licensed psychologist. In 1993, the rules issued by the Georgia Licensing Board made it virtually impossible for I-O psychologists working in Georgia to obtain a license. Particularly onerous were the requirements for internship and postdoctoral work experience, both of which had to be supervised by a licensed psychologist. In 1993, a group of I-Os from business and education convened to determine how to respond to Georgia’s practice law. As is still true in our profession, there were strong differences of opinion about whether I-O psychologists should be licensed. Nonetheless, operating under the belief that it ought to be at least possible for I-O psychologists to obtain a license, they subsequently drafted changes to the rules for license qualification that would enable I-O psychologists to meet them and would enable midcareer psychologists to qualify for a license on the basis of their education and career accomplishments. A delegation consisting of Jack Feldman, Garnett Stokes, Martin Haygood, and I successfully petitioned the Georgia Licensing Board to incorporate the changes. This made it possible for I-Os to obtain a license, and we hoped that enough would do so to provide supervised practice opportunities for future graduate students and new PhDs who needed or wanted them.

I-O Study Group

As it turns out, we traded the how-do-we-get-a-license challenge for a how-do-we-earn-40-CEs-every-2-years challenge. With few exceptions, only those able to attend SIOP’s annual workshops and conference every year would earn enough hours of credit in 2 years to fulfill Georgia licensing requirements. Locally, almost all approved CE programs for psychologists were sponsored by our state association (the Georgia Psychological Association, GPA) and were directed primarily to clinical psychologists, GPA’s largest and most active group of members. To make up the shortfall of I-O CE programs, in 1997 an I-O steering committee consisting of Mike Moomaw, Andy Neiner, Chris Sloan, Donna Sylvan, and I organized the I-O Study Group (I-OSG) for the explicit purpose of planning and delivering CE workshops on topics of interest to I-O and other psychologists whose practice focused on psychology applied to work in organizational settings.

From 1997 through 2015, the I-OSG held at least four workshops every year, always including a biennial ethics session to correspond with license renewal CE requirements. Participation was awarded three CEs by our sponsor, GPA, and the 10 to 20 participants per workshop met in GPA’s offices. Fees were low, initially $50 for a series of four or five workshops and paid to GPA. By 2015, fees increased to $280 for four workshops for GPA members and $320 for nonmembers. Approximately 1 in 5 workshops was delivered by nonmember visitors (including Vicki Vandaveer, Nancy Rafuse, Nancy Tippins, Dave Bracken, Mirian Graddick, Tyler Nunnally, Steve Olson, Kurt Kraiger, and Denise Rousseau), all of whom graciously donated their services. Remaining sessions were given by one of the approximately 35 I-O Study Group members who felt that preparing and delivering a 3-hour workshop was a small price to pay for the ability to practice lawfully and contribute to the professional development of the I-O community. For 19 years, the I-OSG successfully fulfilled its CE mission and helped to promote a professional network of area psychologists who enjoyed the opportunity to participate in relevant continuing education sessions and meet with colleagues and friends four times a year.

Nonetheless, by 2015 it was clearly time for a change. Our workshop sponsorship and administration had been operating through GPA, yet members’ strongest professional affiliations tended to be with SIOP, Division 13, or SHRM. Although GPA had given us a home for 19 years, our status as a special interest group operating under GPA’s auspices was increasingly unsatisfactory. With no budget to call our own, we were unable to pay honoraria or compensate speakers for their travel costs. In addition, our member rolls were no longer increasing and, shockingly, the median age of our members was creeping upward. Lacking the resources to add activities and outside speakers, the I-OSG was still fulfilling its core CE mission but lacked the vitality offered by new voices, a broader membership base, and alternative programming.

GAIOP—Applying the Science of Psychology to Work

A group of 14 members of the I-OSG spent about 6 months exploring what it would take to form and operate as an independent nonprofit corporation, what resources would be required, how I-OSG membership felt about the potential change, and where to go for help. We are grateful to local I-O groups in Chicago, Houston, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, and Washington, DC for providing advice and sample materials. After much discussion and finding most signs favorable, we decided to take the plunge. Our plan for the new organization was to offer more kinds of programming, more networking opportunities and try to attract a wider audience than the I-OSG, including faculty and students. We also wanted to be self-funded and to continue to provide quality CE workshops for licensed members. Formally, GAIOP’s purposes are:

  • To benefit its members through the open exchange of information relevant to the field.
  • To promote the sharing of ideas and information about psychology as applied to work and human resource management.
  • To provide professional development, including continuing education.
  • To promote the application of psychological science in the workplace.

 The first order of business was to select first-year officers who would set up the organizational structure and systems for the new organization. In recognition of her tireless efforts in keeping the I-OSG organized for its entire history (and because she graciously agreed to do it!), Donna Sylvan was named our first president by proclamation. Donna recruited other first year officers and Board members Alison Mallard and Mike Moomaw, Co-Vice Presidents for Programs; Michele Ingram Mobley, VP for Membership; John Morrison, Secretary/Treasurer; and Nita French, VP for Communications.

The GAIOP Board has had a busy first year. Since January 2016, with help from the Local I-O Group Toolkit (http://my.siop.org/Resources/IOGroups; SIOP 2016b), we have created bylaws; incorporated; instituted various policies; developed a website (https://www.gaiop.org); set membership and dues structures; and established a budget, bank account, payment methods, and communications vehicles. In addition, we have reached an agreement with SIOP to cosponsor our continuing education programs under the auspices of SIOP’s status as an approved sponsor with the American Psychological Association (Below, 2016).

Most importantly, as of June 19, 2016, we happily welcomed 32 members, including 3 student members, and developed a set of five outstanding CE workshops to be presented in 2016. Workshop topics included an overview and discussion of selected SIOP 2016 programs, developing midlevel leaders, organizational mentoring, the legal context for selection, and technology-assisted assessment.

Many people and organizations have helped us get to this point. Thank you, Wanda Hayes and Emory University for letting us use Emory’s conference space for the 2016 CE workshops. We are also indebted to the Management Psychology Group for serving as our official mailbox and for sharing their application software, and to Linda Hoopes for setting up and maintaining our website. Finally, we’d like to thank Tracy L. Vanneman, SIOP Programs and Continuing Education Services Manager; John Cornwell, SIOP Continuing Education Chair; and SIOP’s Continuing Education and Local Group Relations Committees for their advice and support. Peter Rutigliano, Chair of SIOP’s Local I-O Group Relations Committee commented, “We are quite proud of the work that GAIOP has done this year and have been pleased to help in their transition. GAIOP is an excellent example of how each local I-O group can be designed to meet the specific needs of their members to create an active and sustainable program. To learn more about joining an existing local I-O group or creating your own, please visit http://my.siop.org/Resources/IOGroups.” It takes a village to raise a nonprofit, too.

Even though we are off to a good start, we are looking forward to helping unify the Georgia I-O community, providing more networking opportunities, growing our membership, and offering some shorter and more informal programs in 2017. We are also entertaining the possibility of providing internship and employment referrals. If you are in Georgia or travel here frequently for business, please join us!

 

References

 

Below, Stephany. (2016). “Best of SIOP” event a success. SIOP partners with local group to offer continuing education. SIOP Newsbriefs, June issue. Retrieved from http://www.siop.org/SIOP_Newsbriefs/2016/June/june.pdf

Georgia Department of Economic Development. (2016).  Eighteen Fortune 500 companies have their global headquarters in Georgia, and more than 450 Fortune 500 companies have a presence in the state.  Retrieved from http://www.georgia.org/competitive-advantages/pro-business/fortune-500/

Hoopes, L. (2004). ASAP: Atlanta’s I-O psychology community. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 41(3). Retrieved from https://www.siop.org/tip/backissues/Jan%2004/pdf/413_089to091.pdf

SIOP. (2016a). Graduate training programs in I-O psychology and related fields. Retrieved from http://my.siop.org/GTP

SIOP. (2016b). Local I-O groups and related organizations. Retrieved from http://my.siop.org/Resources/IOGroups