I/O psychology program moves into its own workspace

I/O Psychology master’s students gathered on Feb. 4 for the grand opening of the Work Place, a new space in Hemphill Hall for students to meet with clients on project work, attend classes and meet in-person or virtually with the program’s successful alumni.

When Jake Lamparella began exploring master’s programs in industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology, his search focused on universities that offered a perfect blend of academics and hands-on experience.

“The context of this program is what brought me here,” said Lamparella, now in his second year of Radford’s I/O psychology program. “A lot of programs at other schools focus so much on academia, but the Radford program has a more applied focus.

“You get plenty of academic knowledge in the classroom,” the Baltimore, Maryland, native continued, “but you also get the experience of working.”

Work is at the heart of I/O psychology. “We are work psychologists,” said Associate Professor and Program Coordinator Ben Biermeier-Hanson, Ph.D. “We apply it to the workplace and help organizations solve their problems.”

The Radford I/O psychology master’s-level program trains students to attain employment in a variety of internal and external consulting roles with various companies and organizations. Graduates typically work in jobs as consultants, directors, managers, human resource specialists and generalists, test developers, risk analysts, trainers and organization development specialists.

Training for these coveted positions begins as soon as students enroll in Radford’s two-year program. There is the classroom work, of course, but students also get to work with clients from local businesses and organizations. That’s what was so appealing to Lamparella.

“We typically do class projects that entails finding organizations in the area that do not have the time or on-staff expertise to solve some of the problems they are experiencing,” Biermeier-Hanson said, explaining students’ project work with outside clients. “We, the students and faculty in the program, help those organizations meet their needs.”

In the fall of 2021, students worked with the Town of Christiansburg, Virginia – specifically with the public works department, Biermeier-Hanson said – on efforts to boost employee retention. I/O psychology students developed and administered a survey and conducted focus group interviews in order to provide actionable recommendations.

At the same time, throughout the fall semester, first-year students worked with a business in Blacksburg, Virginia, to develop new position descriptions, which was vital in helping the company hire people for numerous open positions.

“You can pick up a book and read about these things – you can read about a job analysis or read about performance management – but working with real clients and learning how to do that through practice before you go out into a job and do those things is extremely valuable,” said first-year student William Charnock of Mobile, Alabama. “The client work we do here in this program is so valuable, and that is really what drew me to Radford.”

Much of the work the students provide for their clients is done pro-bono, Biermeier-Hanson said. “We’re doing work that a consulting company would charge 10, 20 or $30,000 for,” he said. “And we’re generally doing it for free.”

The quality of work that students and faculty provide results in many repeat clients who often visit campus, either in-person or virtually. The groups work countless hours collaborating to generate solutions for their clients. “That work is a huge part of Radford’s I/O psychology program,” Biermeier-Hanson said, and that work necessitated a need for a convenient and professional workspace.

Now, after several months of planning and creating, the program has a space of its own on the fourth floor of Hemphill Hall.

It’s called The Work Place.

“We now have a space where students can all meet comfortably in a place that is meant for collaborative work,” Biermeier-Hanson said, “It’s a meeting space that lets us say to clients ‘come in and let us show what we can do for you.’ It gives us more of an air of legitimacy in their eyes.”

The Work Place has been open and operational since the beginning of the fall 2021 semester. In addition to project work, the space is used for classes and meetings each Friday with alumni of the I/O psychology program.

To show the space off to the public, I/O psychology faculty and administrators from the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences (CHBS) held a grand opening ceremony on Feb. 4 for in-person visitors and a handful of alumni visiting virtually.

One of those alumni, David Cohen, M.S. ’97, the founder and CEO of DCI Consulting Co., based in Washington, D.C., spoke to the gathering about the importance of I/O psychology – “corporate America really needs what we do,” he said – and praised Radford’s program.

“It is such a great mix of the academic and the practical,” Cohen said, echoing the reason Lamparella chose the Radford program. “I think that is what sets us up for success. It certainly did me.”

At The Work Place open house, CHBS Dean Matthew J. Smith said he is excited about the future of this space.

“It gives our students an opportunity to collaborate within the program, and it is an incredible and useful space for welcoming clients,” the dean said. “It will help our I/O psychology program to remain on top of its game as it moves forward.”

Feb 23, 2022
Chad Osborne
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