Meredith Turner
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Who Hires Whom in I-O Psychology Programs?

Vivian A. Woo, Mercer|Sirota; Sayeedul Islam, Farmingdale State College/Talent Metrics; and David Cassell, Hofstra University

Acknowledgement: The authors would like to thank Dr. Tamer Desouky for his help with data collection and the design of this study.

Who Hires Whom in I-O Psychology Programs?

 I-O psychology is one of the fastest growing fields (Schellenberger, 2010; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014) of this decade, and the job of industrial organizational psychologist has been ranked the second most attractive job in science (“Industrial Organizational Psychologist Overview,” 2018). As more undergraduate students enter the field of I-O psychology, this will result in an increased demand for graduate-level degrees. With the growing influence of I-O psychology as a result of this influx, there is a need to understand from where I-O PhD programs draw their faculty. These faculty train new I-O psychology PhDs, and their training can have an effect on the course of the science (Smaldino & McElreath, 2016) and the academic life of these institutions. One way to understand how I-O psychology graduate programs grow is through an investigation of the academic origins of their faculty.

Understanding from which schools highly ranked I-O psychology PhD programs select faculty is important in several ways. First, I-O psychology is an interdisciplinary field that crosses the boundaries between psychology, business, and human resources, thus it truly “owns” selection (Rotolo et al., 2018). One would expect that the selection practices of I-O psychology programs would reflect the desire for meritocracy to which the field aspires. Second, understanding where PhD-level educators receive their I-O psychology training would be beneficial to our discipline as it has proven valuable in other STEM fields by helping in recruitment efforts for those students most inclined to academic careers (Roach & Sauermann, 2010).

Faculty hiring is especially important to any scientific endeavor. It determines the direction of the science as the faculty in Tier 1 institutions receive the most grant funding, the best PhD students, and other rewards (Flaherty, 2015; Fuerstman, & Lavertu, 2005; Tierney, 1988). There has been growing concern that faculty hiring involves closed networks where only individuals from top programs can receive tenure-track job offers. Recent findings estimate that “25% of institutions produce 71 to 86% of all tenure-track faculty” (Clauset, Arbesman, & Larrermore, 2015; Warner & Clauset, 2015). This type of closed network creates a situation where most individuals in the applicant pool have limited opportunity, and this can result in poor hiring decisions. Subsequently, these hiring decisions can sometimes lead to further undesirable outcomes such as admissions gatekeepers unwilling or unaware enough to support the selection of diverse student bodies (Jaschik, 2018).

Improving the diversity of the academic job pipeline has been a concern of higher education for many years, usually focusing on women and people of color (Pell, 1996). But the need for a diversity of educational backgrounds is also a concern for these institutions (Bedeian & Feild, 1980). This need has been supported by the National Science Foundation and Institute for Education Sciences (Harvey, 2008). By de-prioritizing diversity of backgrounds, a scientific endeavor or a field may be limiting itself and its ability to discover new findings (Fadeeva & Mochizuki, 2010; Østergaard, Timmermans, & Kristinsson, 2011). Furthermore, HRM functions within an institution can influence organizational performance (Guest, 1997). In the case of higher education, organizational performance includes research productivity (Beiler, Zimmerman, Doerr, & Clark, 2014) and the education of future PhDs and masters-level scientists and practitioners (Cassuto, 2014).. Hiring practices consequently determine rewards, grant opportunities, and other positive outcomes for graduate students and new faculty (Reese, 2014).

Given the recent calls for new I-O psychology PhD program rankings (Salter et al., 2016) and the resultant rankings from these efforts (Salter et al., 2018), the present research seeks to evaluate which institutions top I-O psychology programs hire from most often and whether this cross-disciplinary issue appears in I-O faculty hiring. We examine two exploratory research questions:

Research Question 1: From which institutions do top-ranked I-O psychology programs hire their faculty?

Research Question 2: Does the hiring source differ across ranking methodology?

Method

The researchers used the 2018 U.S. News and World Report Best Grad Schools in Industrial and Organizational Psychology ranking of programs, the program rankings from Salter et al. (2018), and the rankings of Beiler et al. (2014) to compile a list of school faculty. Table 1 includes the top five rankings from U.S. News and World Report. The next three tables include the top five rankings from Salter et al. (2018): Table 2 from Landers et al. (2018), Table 3 from Howald et al. (2018), and Table 4 from Roman et al. (2018). Table 5 includes a list of the Beiler et al.’s (2014) top five rankings. Following the methodology outlined in Emerson (2018), we gathered faculty information from these top programs through a review of their websites. For each school, full-time faculty data were collected. Faculty data included: (a) faculty name, (b) doctoral alma mater, (c) graduation year, and (d) current program. Any alma maters not found for faculty through their institution’s websites were identified through the SIOP membership directory, LinkedIn, online CVs, biographies from published books, and dissertations. Although Emerson’s (2018) methodology only included US-based schools, we included the University of Western Ontario, located in Canada, but we were unable to obtain data for Australia’s Griffith University. Faculty were classified as recent graduates if their graduation year was 2008 or later.  For each of the rankings, we sought to assess the amount of interprogram hiring, that is, what percentage of faculty at those top programs received their doctorate from another program within the same ranking.

Table 1
U.S. News and World Report (2017) Ranking

Best grad schools in industrial and organizational psychology

  1. Michigan State University
  1. Bowling Green State University
  1. Georgia Institute of Technology
  1. University of Minnesota
  1. University of South Florida


Table 2
Landers et al. (2018) Ranking

Raw interdisciplinary publication counts

Proportion of
interdisciplinary publications per publication

Raw I-O
publication counts

Raw
interdisciplinary citation count

Interdisciplinary
impact rate

Raw I-O citation count

  1. Rice
    University
  1. Alliant
    International
  1. Michigan State
    University
  1. University of South
    Florida
  1. Alliant
    International
    University, San Diego
  1. University of South
    Florida
  1. University of Georgia
  1. Griffith
    University
  1. University of South Florida
  1. University of Western Ontario
  1. Roosevelt
    University
  1. Michigan State
    University
  1. Clemson
    University
  1. University of Texas at
    Arlington
  1. University of
    Minnesota
  1. Rice
    University
  1. University of Texas at
    Arlington
  1. University of
    Minnesota
  1. University of South Florida
  1. University of
    Nebraska at Omaha
  1. Rice
    University
  1. Michigan State
    University
  1. Griffith
    University
  1. Rice
    University
  1. Michigan State
    University
  1. Roosevelt
    University
  1. George
    Mason
    University
  1. University of Georgia
  1. University of
    Nebraska at Omaha
  1. University of
    Western
    Ontario

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 3
Howald et al. (2018) Rankings

Teaching development
opportunities

Research development
opportunities

Applied development
opportunities

  1. Texas A&M University
  1. University of Minnesota
  1. Louisiana Tech University
  1. University of Minnesota
  1. University of Georgia
  1. Pennsylvania State University
  1. Northern Illinois University
  1. Michigan State University
  1. Roosevelt University
  1. University of Georgia
  1. Texas A&M University
  1. The Chicago School of
    Professional Psychology
  1. Michigan State University
  1. Pennsylvania State University
  1. Illinois Institute of Technology

 

 

Table 4
Roman et al. (2018) Rankings

Student perceptions

Program culture

Learn practical skills

 Faculty quality

  1. Portland State
    University
  1. Old Dominion
    University
  1. Louisiana Tech University
  1. Portland State University/
    University of South Florida
  1. Pennsylvania State University
  1. University of
    Akron
  1. Michigan State University
  1. Michigan State University
  1. Michigan State
    University
  1. Wayne State
    University/Clemson
    University
  1. Alliant
    International
    University
  1. Texas A&M
    University
  1. Texas A&M
    University
  1. Pennsylvania State University/Portland State University
  1. Pennsylvania State University/Seattle Pacific University
  1. Rice University/
    University of Minnesota
  1. Old Dominion
    University

 

 

 

 

 

Table 5
Beiler et al. (2014) Rankings

Rank by overall publications

Rank by I-O

publications

Rank by SIOP presentations

Rank by overall productivity

Rank by overall productivity per capita

  1. Michigan State University
  1. University of South Florida
  1. Michigan State University
  1. Michigan State University
  1. Ohio University
  1. University of Minnesota
  1. University of Georgia
  1. University of Central Florida
  1. University of South Florida
  1. University of Maryland
  1. University of South Florida
  1. Michigan State University
  1. George Mason University
  1. University of Minnesota
  1. University of Minnesota
  1. University of Central Florida
  1. University of Minnesota
  1. University of Minnesota
  1. University of Georgia
  1. University of Albany, SUNY
  1. Griffith
    University
  1. Purdue
    University
  1. University of South Florida
  1. George Mason University
  1. Auburn
    University

 

Results

Data were collected on a total of 185 faculty members across 31 PhD programs from the 19 different ranking methodologies. Across all rankings, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has produced the most faculty (7%), followed by the Universities of Akron and South Florida at 5% each. The rankings were examined individually, and the results are displayed in Table 6. In 17 out of 19 rankings, there was interprogram hiring. The highest percentage of interprogram hiring occurred for Landers et al.’s (2018) ranking by raw I-O citation count (37%) followed by their ranking by raw I-O publication counts (27%). Three rankings had 26% interprogram hiring: U.S. News and World Report (2017), Roman et al.’s (2018) ranking by faculty quality, and Beiler et al.’s (2014) ranking by SIOP presentations. We then examined only recently graduated faculty, resulting in 11 rankings with inter-program hiring. Landers et al.’s (2018) ranking by raw I-O publication counts (60%) had the highest percentage for those recently graduated but were followed closely by Landers et al.’s ranking of raw I-O citation count and Beiler et al.’s (2014) rankings by overall publications and SIOP presentations, all at 50% interprogram hiring.

Furthermore, we discovered that five PhD programs had hired their own alumni. The results are presented in Table 7. 71% of the University of Western Ontario’s faculty are also alumni, while 40% of the University of Minnesota’s faculty are alumni. When examining the data for recent graduates, there were no instances of programs with alumni hiring.

Table 6
Percentage of Interprogram Faculty by Ranking Type

 

All faculty

Recently graduated faculty

Ranking

Interprogram

faculty

Total

faculty

Percentage of

interprogram

faculty

Interprogram

faculty

Total

faculty

Percentage of

interprogram faculty

U.S. News and World Report (2017)

9

35

26%

1

6

17%

Landers et al. (2018)

           

Raw interdisciplinary counts

4

41

10%

1

8

13%

Raw I-O publication counts

10

37

27%

3

5

60%

Raw interdisciplinary citation count

9

42

21%

2

8

25%

Raw I-O citation count

14

38

37%

2

4

50%

Howald et al. (2018)

           

Teaching development opportunities

3

36

8%

     

Research development opportunities

5

38

13%

     

Applied development opportunities

3

29

10%

     

Roman et al. (2018)

           

Student perceptions

3

35

9%

1

11

9%

Program culture

5

40

13%

     

Learn practical skills

2

32

6%

     

Faculty quality

11

43

26%

3

7

43%

Beiler et al. (2014)

           

Overall publications

3

29

10%

2

4

50%

I-O publications

9

40

23%

3

11

27%

SIOP presentations

9

35

26%

3

6

50%

Overall productivity

8

40

20%

4

9

44%

Overall Productivity per capita

5

26

19%

     
               

 

Table 7
Percentage of Alumni Faculty by PhD Program

Program

Alumni faculty

Total faculty

Percentage of alumni faculty

Rice University

1

6

17%

University of Akron

3

9

33%

University of Minnesota

2

5

40%

University of South Florida

1

10

10%

University of Western Ontario

5

7

71%

 

Discussion

The present research attempted to replicate prior findings on PhD faculty source from sociology (Emerson, 2018) and management (Bedeian & Field, 1980). Interprogram hiring ranged from a low of 6% to a high of 37%. According to SIOP’s Graduate Training Programs data (n.d.), there are 74 North American (71 U.S. and 3 Canada) doctoral programs in psychology departments. Given that there were five schools per ranking, the chance occurrence of interprogram hiring is 6.76%. All but one ranking (learn practical skills) exceeded this threshold, indicating that current hiring practices in doctoral programs may be problematic. Unfortunately, we are unable to make comparisons to other fields of study due to differences in methodologies and results (Bedeian & Field, 1980; Clauset et al., 2015; Emerson, 2018); none of these studies reported percentages of interprogram hiring within top doctoral programs. However, we can compare interprogram hiring within I-O psychology; the average rate was 18% for all faculty, but it was nearly double for recent graduates at an average of 35%. This dramatic increase in interprogram hiring over the last 10 years is concerning. It could be that interprogram rates have always been this high, but because the top programs have changed over time, the overall faculty rate is lower. Unfortunately, the alternative is that hiring practices have become more exclusive up in the past decade.

The frequency of interprogram hiring varied widely depending on ranking approach. Interprogram hiring occurred most often by citation count ranking. On the surface, citations may be an indication of research productivity or program prestige. This may lead to more favorable hiring between top academic programs. If a highly ranked I-O psychology program is reading the work of a promising PhD student from another highly ranked program, it may increase the likelihood of selection during that student’s academic job search. The raw I-O psychology publication count ranking may indicate a favorability for I-O psychology-specific publications in faculty hiring. The data from recent graduates seem to indicate that interprogram hiring has increased dramatically, especially in rankings of I-O psychology-specific productivity (citation counts, publications, and presentations). Deeper examination reveals that these productivity-related rankings may be less about program prestige and more a function of productivity as a result of faculty size. The frequencies of faculty sizes are displayed in Table 8. Although six is the average faculty size, two programs, Michigan State and University of South Florida, have a faculty size of 10. Both programs also appear in every raw productivity ranking, which is unsurprising, given their faculty sizes.  

Table 8
Frequency of Faculty Headcounts

Faculty size

N

4

7

5

6

6

10

7

3

8

1

9

2

10

2

 

More than half of the ranking methods, whether by faculty quality, SIOP presentations, or citation counts seems to be a measure of research productivity, and research productivity appears to be an important criterion by which programs are selecting faculty. This proposition is further supported by the increased interprogram hiring in the past 10 years for these specific ranking methods. Academic programs presumably select from other top programs due to the inherent research opportunities, such as grants, afforded to these PhD students. These programs may also offer PhD students a “behind the scenes” look at the process of publication and research that gives the students an advantage in gaining employment at another highly ranked programs. The top programs in the U.S. News and World Report and other rankings may attract students who are more inclined to seek out an academic career.         

Based on the present findings, potential PhD students looking to establish academic careers in prestigious programs may wish to take program rankings more seriously. Those students should also focus on publishing research in highly regarded I-O psychology journals to be hired for future academic positions. These top doctoral programs may also wish to evaluate the pedigree of their faculty and how much publications play a role in their hiring process. These findings may discourage students from lower ranked institutions from attempting an academic career in a highly ranked program. The hiring patterns may also reflect an accrual effect of rewards that is apparent only in top-ranked programs such as high-quality research assistants, and there may be a potential halo effect associated with a distinguished program (Bedeian & Field, 1980). The top I-O programs may wish to evaluate whether their hiring process languishes in the closed networks that have been highlighted in the academic hiring of other fields (Clauset et al., 2015). Although one can argue that hiring faculty from similarly prestigious programs can reinforce the academic culture and values of the institution, there is a growing argument that increasing the cognitive or deep diversity (e.g., how people think, feel, and act) within organizations (Chamorro-Premuzic, 2018) can lead to increased success. As a result, there is potential value in opening up these networks for PhD students from other institutions to provide fresh, innovative perspectives at high-ranking programs, infusing them with a greater likelihood for constructive disruption that can help programs change and grow with I-O psychology. As Clauset et al. (2015) note, faculty hiring affects “research priorities, resource allocation, and educational outcomes.” Opening faculty hiring networks improves all of those outcomes through cognitive diversity.

Students that are interested in pursuing careers in academia at the most prestigious institutions should be more careful about program choice. The present findings indicate that where one receives their PhD has a relationship to where one becomes a faculty member. Students should reflect on their career goals and make their choices about PhD programs carefully. Potential PhD students should carefully vet programs about their opportunities for research, applied experience, and teaching experience. This information will allow students to make more effective decisions regarding their future career prospects.

Caveats            

The researchers wished to present several caveats around the analysis conducted in this study.

  1. Program rankings: There were 19 different program rankings utilized in the current research, which featured 32 different institutions. Emerson’s (2018) original methodology focused on a single list of top 10 schools from U.S. News and World Report. Unfortunately, the I-O program list only featured five schools, necessitating a search for additional rankings. Our search proved too fruitful, yielding 19 different lists, which prompted us to modify our methodology and focus on comparison. The frequency of program appearance among all rankings is listed in Table 9. The frequency gap between the top three programs (Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, and University of South Florida) and the rest of the list indicates that we may have a criteria problem, especially because 13 schools only make a single appearance. It begs the question, what constitutes a top program? Our data indicate that there is not a lot of agreement on the subject, given the surprising variance. Part of this may be due to poor ranking methodologies, such as not controlling for faculty size when ranking by citation count, in the cases of Landers et al. (2018) and four of Beiler et al.’s (2018) rankings. Of course, programs with larger faculty sizes will always have an advantage when it comes to raw counts; more hands churn out more publications. These issues with the rankings ultimately affect potential PhD students as they navigate to which doctoral programs to apply. As the main consumers of these rankings, the sheer number of them as well as their inconsistencies can be confusing to individuals who are still familiarizing themselves with I-O and are yet untrained in critically evaluating research methodology.

Table 9
Frequency of Program Appearances Among All Rankings

Program

N

Michigan State University

14

University of Minnesota

11

University of South Florida

10

University of Georgia

6

Pennsylvania State University

5

Rice University

5

Texas A&M University

4

Alliant International University, San Diego

3

George Mason University

3

Griffith University

3

Portland State University

3

Roosevelt University

3

Clemson University

2

Louisiana Tech University

2

Old Dominion University

2

University of Central Florida

2

University of Nebraska at Omaha

2

University of Texas at Arlington

2

University of Western Ontario

2

Auburn University

1

Bowling Green State University

1

Georgia Institute of Technology

1

Illinois Institute of Technology

1

Northern Illinois University

1

Ohio State University

1

Purdue University

1

Seattle Pacific University

1

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

1

University of Albany, SUNY

1

University of Akron

1

University of Maryland

1

Wayne State University

1

 

 

 

  1. The uniqueness of academic hiring practices: Academic hiring practices differ significantly from other organizational hiring practices. These searches occur over long periods of time, and new hires, in some cases, have long gaps of time between hiring cycles due to tenure of established faculty (Tierney, 1988). Unlike other hiring practices, academia tends to use search committees that convene when an academic budget line opens. Thus, the decision-making process for hiring faculty is often distributed among several different faculty members. In some cases, these individuals are not members of the academic department but merely serve on the search committee. Hiring decisions and candidates are often approved by deans, provosts, and university presidents who have the right to veto candidates. Therefore, the effect of a candidate’s academic pedigree is difficult to discern through this analysis.
  2. The scarcity of academic jobs – The number of full-time, tenure track academic positions is decreasing as the rise of untenured and adjunct faculty continue in universities (Gappa, 2000; Thedwall, 2008). The present analysis may be the result of growing changes in higher education hiring (Kezar & Gehrke, 2014) and an increasing scarcity in academic jobs. This limited number of jobs may hinder graduates from less prestigious programs from attaining academic positions. Furthermore, it may reduce the likelihood of high-performing students from all programs to attempt the academic job market.  

Our research question began as an exploration of where top I-O programs hire their faculty. However, what we have discovered is a classic criterion problem related to program rankings. Although there seems to be an 18% rate of interprogram hiring, averaged across our results, this percentage may or may not be inherently problematic. Without an adequate comparison group, it is difficult to say. The greater concern is the dramatic increase of inter-program hiring of recent graduates to 35%, indicating a potential shift in academic hiring practices. Interprogram hiring has been highlighted as an issue in other fields, so it behooves us as a discipline to be mindful of this issue, especially because selection is within the I-O wheelhouse. Our second finding involves the sheer volume of rankings themselves. With so many rankings, students may be confused as to how to navigate the educational path toward an academic career. Thus, the criterion problem of effective faculty and high-quality programs affects both faculty hiring and students entering PhD programs. Future research should seek to clarify the criterion problem first before evaluating interprogram hiring.

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