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Bridge Builders Takes Off


by Clif Boutelle, SIOP Public Relations

SIOP Members Participate in Initiative to Promote I-O Psychology

David Costanza of George Washington University has introduced I-O psychology to his children’s seventh grade Career Day classes. His presentations have been so instructive and appealing to the kids that he has been asked to conduct an encore performance, though his daughters have moved on.

Costanza, like many other SIOP members, has accepted Past President Tammy Allen’s challenge to become a Bridge Builder in the Building Bridges initiative to promote greater visibility and awareness for I-O psychology.

During her plenary address at last year’s SIOP Conference, Allen said the intent of the Building Bridges initiative was to, through contact with others, “increase our influence and advocate for our science.”

She urged SIOP members to engage in “at least one activity…that involves sharing information about I-O psychology by connecting with your local high school, university or community organizations.”

Her challenge is getting traction.

Seattle Pacific University, under the direction of Rob McKenna, chair of the I-O psychology department, has created the Center for Leadership Research & Development (CLRD). With a firm foundation in I-O psychology, the CLRD’s goal is to partner with businesses, not-for-profits, community organizations, schools and churches, an effort that has impacted the visibility of I-O in a number of ways.

A.J. Thurston, Kimberly French and Soner Dumani, all graduate students at the University of South Florida, provided general information about the field to several classes at Pinellas Park High School. They talked about personality testing as well as research and applied work.

“We definitely feel that we were effective in spreading the word and teaching others about our profession and their options for joining it,” French said.

Bo Armstrong, a doctoral candidate at Old Dominion University, and the Industrial and Organizational Psychology Student Association (IOPSA) co-hosted a panel informing undergraduate students about I-O and different applied research areas of psychology.

Joseph Allen of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, who with Suzanne Bell of DePaul University is chairing the Bridge Builders effort, said he has been encouraged by what SIOP members are doing to make the field more visible.

“Bridge Builders continues to expand and grow into a great connection building opportunity for SIOP members,” Allen said. “We recently completed a survey of those who signed up to be Bridge Builders at the last conference. People have shared I-O in so many ways, including talks to high school classes and groups, local Human Resource Management community group, Rotary Club and service organizations, a local APA chapter, and Veteran’s Affairs chapters as well as talking one-on-one with students, colleagues and co-workers.”

“These are all steps that are producing greater awareness of what I-O is all about,” he added.

Allen and Bell will be chairing an IGNITE panel session at the SIOP Annual Conference this month on the approaches and insights SIOP members have used to share I-O with others. The session will be at noon, Saturday, April 25 in the Franklin 08 room of the Marriott.

“Our work with the CLRD meshes perfectly with the Bridge Builders intent,” said McKenna, who will be one of the IGNITE presenters. “The CLRD was launched with a firm foundation in I-O psychology. It was an intentional choice; to establish a connection between our expertise and the street level issues facing our society, communities and organizations.”

In addition to forming partnerships with dozens of Pacific Northwest organizations, the CLRD has sent a team of faculty, business people and graduate students to a university in India to establish a graduate curriculum for individuals from the tribal areas of India and the “untouchable population” in the caste system, McKenna said.

Bridge Builders is not the only SIOP effort to promote I-O. The Visibility Committee has been working the past few years to conduct programs to inform professionals, non-I-O psychologists in particular, about how I-O practices can benefit their organizations.

Two years ago at the Houston SIOP Annual Conference, a session entitled “Just For You: Strategy-Driven Executive Talent Management” featuring SIOP speakers attracted 35 attendees from the Houston business community interested in learning ways to identify high-potential talent, develop that talent, and engage and retain the most talented employees.

During SIOP’s 2014 Leading Edge Consortium in Chicago, more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students took part in a program titled “Science for a Smarter Workplace: Industrial Organizational Psychology at Work at Pepsi, Google and Intel.”  It was designed to demonstrate how I-O can create a positive impact on organizations and their employees at all levels.

At this year’s SIOP conference, the committee is conducting a session for professional business leaders in the Greater Philadelphia area on “Developing Women Leaders: Evidence-Based Approaches from Academia, Consulting and Corporate Experts.” The three speakers—Mikki Hebl of Rice University, Anna Marie Valerio of Executive Leadership Strategies, and Lorraine Stomski of Aon Hewitt—will share distinct and complementary perspectives that show how evidence-based research helps inform organizations on developing women leaders.

These programs are being led by SIOP Member Jolene Skinner, Clif Boutelle, and SIOP Communications Manager Stephany Below.