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Jenny Baker
/ Categories: TIP, 2021, 583

SIOP Award Winners: Meet the Winner of 2020 Early Career Award in Practice—Juliet Renee Aiken

Liberty J. Munson

As part of our ongoing series to provide visibility into what it takes to earn a SIOP award or grant, we highlight a diverse class of award winners in each edition of TIP. We hope that this insight encourages you to consider applying for a SIOP award or grant because you are probably doing something amazing that can and should be recognized by your peers in I-O psychology!

In this edition of award winner highlights, we recognize the winner of the Early Career Award in Practice—Juliet Renee Aiken, someone who’s accomplishments early in career are more than many of us will accomplish in a lifetime!

Share a little a bit about who you are and what you do.

I wear several hats. In my consulting work, I’ve been a solo practitioner and most recently incorporated with colleagues into Conducere, an anti-oppressive consulting company focusing on transforming and aligning systems in organizations. In my other life, I created and run the master’s program at the University of Maryland College Park, where my colleagues and I train practitioners of I-O psychology to be change agents in their organizations. In all parts of my professional work, I strive to create community, connection, and opportunity, particularly for those who are typically underserved.

Describe the research/work that you did that resulted in this award. What led to your idea?

Three different tracks of work were highlighted in my award application, specifically, (a) my work in the legal profession, (b) my work transforming a local government organization, and (c) my work within I-O psychology as a profession.

Within the legal profession, I conducted research to inform law center policy and counseling decisions, led research projects to provide actionable guidance to legal organizations, ran leadership executive-education programs for partners and senior associates, educated lawyers and law students on how to responsibly use empirical research to make evidence-based decisions at work and in their cases, and served as a statistical expert witness for the Department of Justice in a disparate treatment case. My work in the legal profession has been published in legal journals and other outlets, including a book on the traits and behaviors that lead to young-attorney success at law firms.

After my work at Georgetown Law, I transitioned to consulting for a local government organization, the Jefferson County Commission (JCC), to eliminate discriminatory, unethical, and unprofessional practices. These practices, unfortunately, persisted for 35 years despite a consent decree. The county’s failure to meet the requirements of the decree resulted in a contempt finding in 2014, and the county went into receivership. I worked with the receiver and human resources to orchestrate change efforts throughout the county, including restructuring, staffing, and skilling up a professional and cutting-edge human resources department. By the conclusion of my work during the receivership, the county moved from having a receiver to having a monitor and is getting closer to release from the decree. During my work with this organization, I and my colleagues won IPAC’s 2017 Innovation in Assessment Award for developing legally compliant selection procedures quickly and at a low cost through synthetic validation.

 

Finally, I have been focused on diversity, inclusion, and opportunity within I-O psychology. I created and run the University of Maryland’s MPS in I-O Psychology program. In 3 years, this program is now majority minority—60% of incoming students to the fall cohort are students of color. Within 2 years of its creation, the program was top ranked regionally and, in some measures, nationally, according to two TIP publications. I also launched a YouTube channel designed to bring I-O psychology to a broader audience (The I-O Soapbox—https://www.youtube.com/TheIOSoapbox) and spent several years working with the Committee for Ethnic & Minority Affairs (CEMA) in SIOP, spearheading an initiative to develop pipelines into I-O psychology from HBCUs and HSIs.

What do you think was key to you winning this award?

I am tremendously fortunate to have worked with, been mentored by, and received opportunities from amazing people. Without them believing in me, advising me, supporting me, and giving me opportunities, I would not be doing the work I am doing, and I would not have won this award.

What did you learn that surprised you? Did you have an “aha” moment? What was it?

As just one example, when I started working at Georgetown Law, I really began to understand the critical role of context—not in terms of moderating variables but in terms of industry and sector. There are entire theories in I-O that just don’t make a lot of sense within law firms simply because of how law firms work and are structured.

What do you see as the lasting/unique contribution of this work to our discipline? How can it be used to drive changes in organizations, the employee experience, and so on?

Through others, we can leave a lasting impact. By training students, coaching clients, and supporting colleagues, I am able to make more of a lasting contribution than I would through my independent work. The people make the place, or in this case, the profession. My work is just part of a movement to leverage I-O for change beyond private-sector organizations in the United States (nonprofits, government organizations, volunteer, faith based, internationally) and to open doors and improve access to I-O and within I-O.

How did others become aware of your award-winning work/research? 

I talk about it. I spent years hoping that someone would broadcast my work before I realized that I needed to advocate for myself. It still feels uncomfortable. I now see looking for outlets to broadcast the work I’m involved with and to build community with like-minded I-Os (and others in other disciplines) as a central part of the work I do.

Who would you say was the biggest advocate of your research/work that resulted in the award? How did that person become aware of your work?

There has been one incredible person who has consistently championed and promoted me, given me opportunities, and spoken well of me my entire career. He is the reason I am who I am today, and I will never lose my gratitude for the one and only Dr. Paul Hanges. He not only shaped the way I think and approach my work, but he also consistently recommended me for projects and supported my various nominations. Hanges has always thought of my career for my benefit, rather than for his own, and I treasure his mentorship, his friendship, and himself as a colleague. Other key advocates have been Lorren Oliver, Jim Outtz, Marc Sokol, and my incredible students and alumni, among others. While I’ve learned how to keep pushing when I know I’m onto something, I’m also grateful for my deep and growing community of incredible I-Os who keep me pumped to do the hard work daily.

To what extent would you say this work/research was interdisciplinary? 

I have always tried to stay plugged in to other disciplines. I work with lawyers, economists, and sociologists, and continue to read research and theory in these and other disciplines. I committed to I-O as a field in part because of how interdisciplinary it is at its best, and I never want to lose track of that interest and attraction.

Are you still doing work/research in the same area where you won the award? If so, what are you currently working on in this space? If not, what are you working on now, and how did you move into this different work/research area? 

Yes, and then some! I continue to be motivated by my belief that the people make the profession and dedicate myself to diversifying and removing barriers to access/entry in the field of I-O. Since receiving this award, I’ve launched and supported the launch of communities within I-O, including the I-O Coffee House, The Otherwise Invisible Consulting group, the Fern Center for International Organisational Science, and biweekly program-director meetings for I-O program directors internationally.

In addition to community building, I’ve been working within the University of Maryland to provide advice and resources on anti-racist education and the transformation of graduate education. I’ve also continued my consulting practice, offering coaching and support in system transformation and alignment to enable the development of talent pathways that are deep and diverse.

What’s a fun fact about yourself (something that people may not know)?

Before I turned to I-O, I was fully invested in arts and soccer. I won a silver medal in the Scholastic Arts & Writing competition for a painting of my sister, played on a number of competitive soccer teams, and published several poems. My artistic streak didn’t fully disappear once I entered the field—I’ve written a children’s book framed through statistics called Positively Skewed that is available on Amazon.

What piece of advice would you give to someone new to I-O psychology? (If you knew then what you know now…)

You will likely be told to specialize. When I received this advice, I thought that meant that I had to limit my interests and activities. What I’ve learned it means is that you need to learn how to tell your own story. Even if your story looks messy to you from the inside, you need to find the common threads, the things that tie it together, and tell that story to others as cleanly and clearly as possible. Specialization is often about framing. If you have diverse interests, that’s wonderful—just find the string that pulls them all together and keep your focus, your energy, and your effort there.

 

Liberty Munson is currently the principal psychometrician of the Microsoft Technical Certification and Employability programs in the Worldwide Learning organization. She is responsible for ensuring the validity and reliability of Microsoft’s certification and professional programs. Her passion is for finding innovative solutions to business challenges that balance the science of assessment design and development with the realities of budget, time, and schedule constraints. Most recently, she has been presenting on the future of testing and how technology can change the way we assess skills.

Liberty loves to bake, hike, backpack, and camp with her husband, Scott, and miniature schnauzer, Apex. If she’s not at work, you’ll find her enjoying the great outdoors or in her kitchen tweaking some recipe just to see what happens.

Her advice to someone new to I-O psychology?

  • Statistics, statistics, statistics—knowing data analytic techniques will open A LOT of doors in this field and beyond!

 

 

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