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Industrial and Organizational Psychology Added to the STEM Optional Practical Training Program

A several-year-long effort by SIOP and advocacy partner Lewis-Burke Associates came to fruition last month when the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added Industrial and Organizational Psychology to the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program.

I-O psychology was one of 22 programs added to enhance the contributions of nonimmigrant students studying in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and support the growth of the U.S. economy and innovation.

Dia Chatterjee, one of the SIOP members who worked on this initiative, said this designation will positively impact how the field markets itself and will allow graduate students and faculty to now compete for STEM-related funding opportunities and collaborations.

“This transition ensures that the rigorous, scientific contributions of I-O psychology in creating effective organizations are now appropriately recognized,” she said. “It centers the fact that our evidence-based study of the workplace is an important driver of a robust economy and therefore merits STEM classification.”

The STEM OPT program permits F-1 students earning bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees in certain STEM fields to remain in the United States for up to 36 months after degree attainment to work in their field of study. According to the DHS, adding these 22 fields of study will ensure the U.S. economy benefits from students earning degrees in the United States in competitive STEM fields.

SIOP’s advocacy efforts are always at work behind the scenes, in some cases for years, raising awareness of the importance of industrial and organizational psychology science and expanding opportunities for our members and our profession,” said SIOP President Steven Rogelberg. “This advocacy is essential to advancing policies that support funding for I-O research initiatives and promote the adoption of our science in evidence-based policymaking. The addition of I-O psychology to the STEM list is a visible and exciting example of the impact our members can have on the public policy process.”

Steve Kozlowski, who was SIOP president at the time this initiative started and who is now the Research & Science Officer overseeing advocacy, said this tangible accomplishment is a testament to the development of SIOP’s capacity to advocate for I-O psychology.

“Ten years ago, SIOP did not have the capacity to advocate for our science and practice. Now, in partnership with our advisor, Lewis-Burke Associates, SIOP and the national value of I-O psychology are becoming known in the halls of government,” he said. “I know that there will be many I-O psychology graduate students who will be beneficiaries of the STEM designation for I-O psychology. Effective advocacy requires a commitment to be persistent in efforts to shape public policy for the better.”

Tim Huelsman, another one of the SIOP members who worked on this initiative, added, “I am very pleased that I-O psychology was added to the STEM fields. Dia and others in SIOP have been dedicated advocates in this effort for many years; I am glad I was able to assist as we worked to get it over the finish line.”

The 22 new fields of study are bioenergy, general forestry, forest resources production and management, human-centered technology design, cloud computing, anthrozoology, climate science, earth systems science, economics and computer science, environmental geosciences, geobiology, geography and environmental studies, mathematical economics, mathematics and atmospheric and oceanic science, general data science, general data analytics, business analytics, data visualization, financial analytics, other data analytics, industrial and organizational psychology, and social sciences, research methodology, and quantitative methods.

Read SIOP’s statement on this topic here.

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