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New I/O Psychology Program welcomes first class

Posted: 12/19/2012

By Laura Janota

Roosevelt Review, Fall 2012 [ PDF ]

The first PhD program in the history of Roosevelt University officially opened its doors this fall to faculty and students at the University’s Schaumburg Campus.

Four faculty members and five students are trailblazers in the PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology (I/O Psychology) program, which teaches candidates how to do research and testing aimed specifically at improving the workplace.

While industrial psychologists work to improve the employer’s hiring process, organizational psychologists work to solve workplace problems, including lack of efficiency, productivity and sagging employee morale.

New I/O Psychology Program welcomes first class

“There is an increasing demand in companies, hospitals, schools, as well as in government organizations, for research that will lead to better hiring and improved employee morale and productivity,” said Adrian Thomas, director of the program made possible thanks to a major gift from retired businessman Irwin Helford. “Those pursuing a PhD in the field are sure to find many significant job opportunities.”

One of approximately 75 I/O Psychology PhD programs in the nation and among 100 worldwide, the Roosevelt program has been launched at a time when the U.S. Department of Labor is predicting a nearly 26 percent growth in I/O psychology job opportunities and CNN Money Magazine is estimating the average pay for I/O psychologists at approximately $85,000.

Helford, a Roosevelt alumnus and the former CEO of Viking Office Products and former vice chair of Office Depot, gave $1 million to create the Roosevelt program, which was recently accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

The program will offer students the opportunity to work on research with faculty members and to gain practical experience in the field working at the Organizational Effectiveness Consulting Center, which is also located at the Schaumburg Campus.

Clients of the center have included the Chicago Transit Authority, the Cook County Treasurer’s Office and Alpine Access Call Centers. “The center will offer our PhD students the chance to put into practice what they are learning, and they will help us expand the center’s reach into the community,” said Guy Di Spigno, assistant professor in I/O Psychology and director of the consulting center.


Meet The Students

Out of 50 initial applications, five candidates were selected to be part of the inaugural I/O Psychology class.

Sarah Jones, a 2009 psychology and communication graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She enrolled in the University’s Master’s in I/O Psychology program last fall and is currently completing her master’s thesis, “Effect of Person/Environment Interaction on Counterproductive Work Behavior and Organizational Citizenship Behavior,” which looks at the role that person and environment variables have on negative behaviors like theft and absenteeism to positive behaviors like volunteering for projects and service that go beyond every-day work assignments. “I’m interested in the field because it’s a way to put business and psychology together,” said Jones.

Alexis Cosco, a Rochester, N.Y., native and 2012 psychology graduate of St. Bonaventure University in upstate New York. She became interested in the field as an undergraduate while leading freshmen orientation teams providing motivational and leadership training to students.

Ben Sher, an ordained Jewish rabbi and 2004 graduate of the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Ill. He joined Roosevelt University’s master’s program in I/O Psychology in 2008, completing his master’s thesis on “The Effects of Height on Hiring Decisions,” which looks at stereotypes about short people and whether these stereotypes make a difference in hiring decisions. “I had an opportunity to pursue other PhD programs around the country, but I chose to stay at Roosevelt because I believe in the culture of the program and its faculty,” Sher said.

Long Nguyen, a 2011 psychology graduate of Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, who is interested in the “I” or industrial side of the PhD program including personality intelligence testing and employee selection. “I’d like to focus on improving peoples’ capacity to improve organizations,” said Nguyen, who also chose Roosevelt’s program over others around the country in large part because he believes the inaugural class will have an opportunity to shape what the new PhD program will become for the future.

Marlaina Montoya, of San Antonio, Texas, who received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis from the University of North Texas in 2012. She did applied behavior analysis during her undergraduate studies and also minored in business management. “I noticed there were similarities between I/O psychology and business leadership and culture and that’s a big part of why I became interested in the field,” she said.