How Applied Psychology Drives Business Solutions

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Gina Chang: Hello, everyone, thanks for attending today’s session. We’ll be starting out live webinar. Today’s topic is about How Applied Psychology Drives Business Solutions. I do want to remind everyone to please turn off your device to hear the audio, as well as please occasionally refresh your browser to turn up the volume, I’m sorry, to refresh your browsers. [inaudible 00:00:29] the bottom, the Q&A section, you could update your questions and we’ll address them towards the end of the presentation. Today’s agenda, I’m your host and facilitator Gina Chang, and we today we have Program Director Dr. Ellen Leggett, and we will be covering the Applied Psychology Program Overview and Curriculum, Career Directions, we also have our Faculty Spotlight Dr. Meredith Lepley, we’ll go over practical applications of the MAPP Program, and then wrap up with next steps to apply. Thank you, Dr. Leggett for joining our session today. Would you mind telling us about your background, and your role here for the Applied Psychology Degree?

Ellen Leggett: Yes, thank you Gina. Welcome to, all of you who are on the line today, thank you for joining us. I joined this program five years ago as the Program Director, and like many of you, I have an undergraduate background psychology, I grew up on the East Coast, and my degree is from Mount Holyoke College. Then, like many of you may be considering, I earned a Master’s degree in Human Development from an organization that I thought would be one that could propel my career forward, even though I was getting a one-year Master’s Degree, and that was from Harvard University. I later went back and earned a doctorate from Harvard as well. Most of my career has been in applied areas. I have had a 20-year+ career applying psychology in the legal arena, working with trial lawyers around the country to help them understand how jurors make decisions, and how to work with the entire trial team for strategically preventing the case in trial. I’ve worked with witnesses, preparing them to testify, from all kinds of corporations. I’ve only done corporate work. Thus, I’ve seen companies when they’re at their worst, when they face the court of public opinion. My academic research, though, has been always in the area of motivation and personality, in particular the area of mindsets. I’d like to talk a little bit about what we think we’re doing in this program to make applied psychology relevant for business. Obviously, there are many arenas in which psychology can be applied, education, and counseling are two of the oldest ways in which psychology has been applied, but applications for business are newer. Our thinking is that human behavior is central to the crucial functions of motivating both employees and reaching the consumers of a company. Today’s workplace and the marketplace are both global, and we feel that psychology can play a crucial role in moving organizations forward in the new global era. As I mentioned, both consumer psychology and organizational psychology are central to our program. Consumer psychology really concerns the behavior of consumers in the marketplace. We understand and ask questions about why the consumers make the purchases that they do? What are the decision-making steps that consumers go through on their journey to purchase? How can we communicate persuasively to consumers? Also, how can we build and communicate effective, strategic marketing and advertising programs? On the organizational side we look at human behavior in the workplace. The marketplace and the workplace are both considerations for us. What we look for in the organizational psychology applications are how can businesses and organizations make better business decisions based on data that we can provide them about people? Whether those people are employees or, as above, we were talking about consumers. Also, how can we assist organizations in implementing large scale organizational change? Importantly, how can organizations attract and retain top talent, the employees that will really be crucial to moving their organization forward? Even, designing the most effective employee training programs to bring employee skills along as organizational change is occurring. The reasons we’re focusing on both of these areas is that the career outlook is very optimistic in both of these areas of applied psychology. Human resources, organizational psychologists, and even employee training and development professionals will be in higher than normal demand going forward. Additionally, market research, and consumer insights positions are also expected to be increasing. In fact, the position of market research analyst, which is a position many of our students do strive for, was named the number one best business job in 2013 by US News & World Report. We really are focusing on areas that we think organizations are focusing on as well, and the demand is there. What does the program entail? Our program, we think, is quite unique, first because we combine both organizational and consumer psychology as I’ve just described, but secondly, this is a very challenging program that is on an accelerated program format. Online students can earn this full degree in 16 months, if you take two courses per term, which is what the program is designed to have as a normal trajectory, and this would include both a one-semester internship of the student’s choice, and a capstone research project, all within the 16 months. Secondly, we believe we are unique because we have a uniquely qualified faculty, you’ll get to hear from Dr. Lepley a little bit later, but I have hired faculty for this program, and USC has invested in faculty who have particular interests that are relevant to the program, primarily because they not only have stellar academic backgrounds, and training, but also has had experience as professionals working in consulting for organizations in many industries, including nonprofits and government agencies. But, what I like to comment on most is that I know these professors, and I know them to each and everyone of them be passionate about the role that they play and that psychology trained individuals can play moving forward in organizations. Lastly, our program is contemporary, and globally relevant. We are, even in the online format, designing the projects and the assignments for our courses to be team-based projects that are often using real world examples, real world company challenges, and we’re focusing on the role that data can play in helping organizations make important decisions. With respect to being globally relevant, we talk very often in the program about the fact that in today’s world, the marketplace for products is global, and the labor force for companies is also global. To provide students with an opportunity to get first-hand experience working in an international organization, we’ve created an optional summer internship in Dublin, Ireland for students to work for a summer in Ireland [inaudible 00:09:35] internship. Since I mentioned internships, I love this slide because it is a kind of smorgasbord of logos from the many kinds of companies that our students have done their internships in. We have online students who are around the country in organizations already working at companies, or aspiring to work in companies. Thus, we’ve had interns at organizations as diverse as Facebook, and Intel in the Silicon Valley, Mattel and other entertainment organizations and companies here in Los Angeles, consulting firms like Towers Watson up there in the right-hand side, and Boston Consulting Group. We also have public agencies like Metrolink, the US Air Force, we’ve had a student, who was an enlisted member of the Air Force, do an actual internship at the Air Force in another department, another area of service. We also have nonprofit organizations, large and small, represented that students have found interesting work to do, because if you think about it, every kind of company and organization needs employees, and needs external stakeholders, their consumers, or the company audience that they are trying to target their products for. Regardless of the industry that you’re interested in, you ought to be able to find fruitful opportunities for internships, as our students have. A quick summary of the requirements for our program, there are a number of foundation courses, these are required courses. The first group here on this slide are the required courses that cover both organizational psychology and consumer psychology, you see both of those listed. You also see a requirement for our Research Methods in Applied Psychology. Dr. Lepley will be talking to you about that class as she’s one of the key professors in that area, and you’ll also see professional seminar, Pro-seminar means Professional seminar. We have two semesters worth of Professional seminar, where you are exposed to both a variety of academic areas that have application in the business arena as well as workshops that are specifically designed to focus on skills that we think will make you more marketable. There are also six units of Practica Required, and that includes four units for the internship, you actually take a course during the term that you are engaged in your internship, so that you can share with other students what you are doing that’s similar, what’s dissimilar, and learn from them as well as through your own experience. We also require a two-unit research project as I mentioned that is the capstone treatise. Two courses are elective of your choice, on the right-hand side here, under the photo of some students meeting with a client, that’s what that photo is there, we have electives currently in Group Dynamics, Cross Cultural Psychology, Interactive Media, an Advanced Workshop in Quantitative Methods, and also a course in the Psychology of Employee Selection. The Dublin internship, as I said, is only an option, not all students have taken that path, but this summer we will have eight students going to Dublin, and we have more online students choosing to go to Dublin than students who have been studying on campus, interestingly. Thus, they have an opportunity to come together as MAPP students, living and working in Dublin, which adds a whole different dimension to their experience as an online student in this program. I think, at this point, I’ve given you an overview of the program, and I’d like to turn it over to the, as promised, Professor Dr. Meredith Lepley, and Meredith, are you on the line?

Meredith Lepley: I am.

Ellen Leggett: Okay.

Meredith Lepley: Can you hear me?

Ellen Leggett: Yes. Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background?

Meredith Lepley: Sure. Thank you. Thank you, I’m delighted to be joining you all today. I’m Meredith Lepley, and I teach in the online MAPP Program from Lexington, Kentucky. Just as the students come from all over the country and beyond, so do the faculty. To tell you a little bit about myself, I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology, and a PhD from the University of California, Irvine. I have been conducting research on organizational issues for about the past 25 years. I have studied some really interesting topics, such as how and why people personalize their workspace, and what it says about them. I’ve also done quite a bit of research on pets in the workplace, in fact, some have even nicknamed me the grandmother of pets in the workplace research, because a colleague and I were the first to examine the psychological and organizational effects of having pets at work. This was such an interesting topic to the public that the media picked up on this, and we’ve been in Psychology Today, and the Washington Post, LA Times, even in publications in London, England, and a radio show in Canada. But, several years ago, I transitioned into more applied research, conducting research for businesses, seeking to solve a challenge, or a problem. Using my research and teaching skills, I help organizations assess and improve employee engagement, I help them diagnose and change their organizational culture, and I even work with leaders to help them enhance their leadership skills. My clients include Toyota, both in the US and Canada, the US Army, the New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority as well as some global thoroughbred racing horse farms, which is fun. [inaudible 00:16:42] there is rich in varied experiences with my clients into my classes, particularly into my primary course, Applied Research Methods, and I am actually going to let you take a peek into my classroom right now. This is my classroom, and that’s me in the picture on the top left along with my students. As you can see in this picture, we have our webcams on as we always do so that we can see each other face-to-face. Our names are posted on our pictures there, although really after the first week we never rely on them at all. There’s also a chat box on the right side of the screen there where we may have little side conversations going on, perhaps congratulating each other for good work, or something of that nature. Now, in this particular photo, it’s the last week of class, and the students are giving presentations of their semester-long consulting projects. In my class, the students are taught to conduct applied research. They practice these skills. In groups, the students conduct a project for our clients, Logan Aluminum, which is based here in Kentucky. Like I said, this is a semester-long project. Early in the semester, people from Logan join us in the classroom, and they discuss their business challenges, and their research needs, which in this case happens to be an engagement survey. Then, in teams, the students work together to design a survey using survey software, and they analyze the data using SPSS. Afterwards, they prepare a report of the results, and they deliver a presentation, which is what you see here. So, the students really seem to enjoy this class, and I really enjoy working with them, their skills, to see the development of their skills over the course of the semester is pretty impressive.

Ellen Leggett: That does not sound like your usual undergraduate statistics class, Dr. Lepley, thank you for taking us inside your classroom. I moved to the next slide here, which shows some of the other faculty in the program, and me there, in the rose-colored robe there. But, could I ask you to comment about your colleagues? What observations do you have about others who teach in the program as faculty?

Meredith Lepley: I continue to be impressed with my faculty colleagues. They have extensive experience, and consult on projects all over the globe. In fact, one of our colleagues was on a project in Scotland last week. Yet, although they are busy practitioners, they are highly accessible to their students. The MAPP program is high-touch, and we have a lot of interaction with our students. Of course, in class, but also one-on-one, we’re constantly in contact with them individually, emailing, texting, having web chats with video, et cetera. The faculty are really accessible. The MAPP program is really committed to developing a strong community, and it’s been really thoughtful and deliberate about how best to create an ideal sense of belonging and connectiveness within this program. In fact, we’re so committed to this issue, and since we are focused very much on data, we recently conducted a needs assessment collecting some data on community and we were really pleased with the results. This is a strong community, and I’m really excited in May to go to campus for graduation, to meet in person these students that I have been working with for over a year. I’m sure it will feel very much like a family reunion, since we already feel so connected to each other.

Ellen Leggett: Thank you, that is really true, commencement, as you can see at this happy photo here, we really feel like it is a reunion, not a first meeting when we finally get together with our students face to face. Dr. Lepley, could you kind of wrap this up a little bit by commenting on what role you see Applied P
ychology playing in business, why is that important?

Meredith Lepley: The research consistently shows that data drives better decisions. Our students are leaving this program with strong applied research skills. They know how to ask the right questions, they know which methods to use to find the right answers, they know how to analyze data, and they know how to pull out the key insights. These are skills that are highly in demand, because they enable businesses to make better decisions. Data really is a bridge between applied research and business success. In fact, a student of mine one semester announced in class, late in the semester, that someone had overheard her discussing the research skills she had learned in MAPP, and offered her a job on the spot, which totally illustrates how in demand these strong research skills really are. I am really proud to be a part of this program that is teaching students these valuable skills and really setting them up for career success.

Ellen Leggett: Thank you very much, Dr. Lepley. I really agree with you, and know that we’re in an era of data explosion right now, and that is one reason why our students, who have excellent data skills, are able to impact organizations so meaningfully. Thank you. I’d like to just wrap this up even a little bit more by saying that our program is deliberately geared to helping you not only learn in the classroom, but providing ways for you to be able to immediately transfer what you learn in your classes to challenging workplace scenarios. In fact, many of our students online around the country are working professionals, and I love it when they tell me that what they’ve learned in class they are applying in their jobs the very next day or week. Thus, we know that our curriculum is relevant, because our students are using it in their day-to-day jobs. Not only that, but they’re also able to project forward, and know that the skills that they’ve learned will enable them to evolve into other kinds of opportunities, either in the company that they currently work at, or for the next step in their career. I think that at this point I’d like to turn it back to Gina, and she can tell you a little bit more about how one can apply to our program. Gina?

Gina Chang: I appreciate it, thank you very much Dr. Leggett, and thanks Dr. Lepley for joining us today, and answering really great contents about our program here. If anyone is ready to apply, please start your graduate application, we’ll need at least a minimum Bachelor’s Degree, having a general GRE Test Scores, a Statement of Purpose, all official Transcripts, your Professional Resume and three letters of recommendation. We are currently accepting applications for the summer and fall 2018 terms. Our summer application deadline is April 15th, and our semester starts May 14th through August 28th. Our fall application deadline falls on August 5th, with the semester starting September 3rd through December 18th. We will now open the board with questions, if anyone has any questions, please feel free to use the Q&A box at the bottom center and use that and we could definitely address questions that you have for Dr. Lepley, and Dr. Leggett for anyone here who’s attending. A question that popped up is “For those who are working full-time, what would be the expectation for their course layout?” I’m not sure exactly what … as far as those who are working full-time, and I think Dr. Leggett and Lepley, you could mention about majority of our students here that are enrolled are full-time employees, would you say that’s correct Dr. Leggett?

Ellen Leggett: Yes. Yes, I would say that’s correct. Although, there are some students who are in a career transition, and may be working part-time until they redirect their career, but most are working, definitely.

Gina Chang: Perfect. How does our online program provide support to the distant [inaudible 00:26:17] outside of LA?

Ellen Leggett: That’s a great question. I think you heard from Dr. Lepley that the faculty is very committed to the students, and we reach out to the students, and try to have as much one-to-one contact with students as possible. But, in addition, on the line here with me is our program advisor, Serena Diep, who is the academic advisor for all of the online students. She also is in one-to-one communication with students to get to know what their career goals are, to work with them on internship placement, and registration for courses. She’s the person that knows what you need to do if you’re having a really busy couple of months at work, and you don’t think you can get your assignments done, maybe you need a leave of absence, maybe you need an incomplete, maybe you just need to talk to the professor, and more often than not, talking to the professor will yield a solution. Because our faculty is committed to the success of every student.

Gina Chang: Thank you very much. Another question came in about working full-time with the internship required taking on another job.

Ellen Leggett: I love that question. This was one of the areas that we have … when we started this online program for working professionals, we wondered what we would find in the way of internship opportunities for students, and how that would take shape. I’m very proud of the way we have worked with students to articulate the goal. The goal for all students, whether you are full-time working or not, is to identify where you want to go, what do you want to learn, and what new skills are you aiming for. Because, this may not be possible to you in the job that you have currently. Although, there may be other people, or other departments in your current workplace that may offer an opportunity for you to learn those skills. We have a very good track record of advising students to talk with their supervisors, talk with HR at their company, and to talk to managers who are in other areas, for example, a student who maybe is an Executive Assistant to the CEO, to use a recent example, is interested in going into HR. She has arranged for one day a week to work with HR on some special projects, and everyone in the organization recognizes that this for her to achieve her degree, they’re supportive of her degree progress, and love the opportunity for her to cross train in another functional area. The words cross train are very important within many companies right now. It increases your value to your current employer, if you also know how to do something else. These opportunities have been very successfully created for many, many of our students. If not, then students have, some students have gone so far as to take a leave of absence in order to pursue another opportunity, but I’d say that’s rare. Generally speaking, they’re doing something that may enable them to do weekend work, or evening work. But, the first advice we give to every student who is working is to look close to home first, at your current workplace, where are there projects that no one has had time to do? How can this provide you an opportunity to gain visibility and gain more skills?

Gina Chang: Perfect. Thank you very much. Another question came in is typically what would a school week look like enrolling into two courses? How much time needs to be dedicated per week?

Ellen Leggett: Dr. Lepley, how much the students work for your class in a week?

Meredith Lepley: They would, in a week, they would do some reading, they would watch videos, they would post on discussion boards a few times, they would comment on their peers discussions post, so there would an ongoing discussion on at least two topics throughout the week. Then, usually, there is some sort of a research assignment that is due on Sunday. They, I would imagine, might put in four hours, perhaps, in my class. I would guess. Does that sound about right comparable to other courses in MAPP?

Ellen Leggett: I think that, because people are taking two classes, you want to be thinking of your role as a student, as essentially another part-time job. Our students work very hard doing everything that Dr. Lepley just described for one class, and doubling that. I’d say that there are some students who may say that they work 15 hours a week, and during times when it’s midterms, they may be needing to put in 20 hours a week. But, clearly, your weekends and your evenings are the time when if you’re working full-time, those are the school times, and you need to be prepared to maybe realign your priorities a little bit in order to use that time effectively to meet you assignments and the schedule that we set out. As Dr. Lepley mentioned, each lesson is a week long, so that much of the work itself paste throughout the week, but we do have due dates within the week, as Dr. Lepley mentioned, assignments, maybe due on Sunday. Because, that is what we consider the end of the week.

Gina Chang: Wonderful. I have another question that came in is how many students go to complete a PhD after this program?

Ellen Leggett: Some do, but I would say that the goal of this program is not to be a feeder to PhD programs. The goal of this program is more deliberate career focus with application as the primary purpose of the degree. For example, a PhD program that is very heavily research-based, or may expect publications from you, that is not something that we put an emphasis on. On the other hand, there is no such thing as never, and we do have students who become so excited, for example, about the area of the organizational psychology that they want to continue learning and apply to PhD programs straight out of the program. Again, it is not our focus. Our focus is clearly, as an alternative, we’re looking to focus on your career, and how will this program give you skills that you can apply in the workplace. I should say, after my Master’s Degree, I worked for seven years before I went back to get a PhD, so that’s what I mean by never say never. We believe in growth, and that we wall continue growing and learning. It’s just what is the primary focus of our degree.

Gina Chang: Absolutely. That’s a great question. Another question came in about the benefits of our online degree versus obtaining a certificate.

Ellen Leggett: I think there’s no difference, there’s no way to compare having a certificate to having a Master’s Degree from USC. We’re a nationally known prominent university, and having a Master’s Degree is always going to be more impressive, a better piece of credential on your resume, and in your background than having a certificate. On the other hand, certificate programs are growing, and there may be a certificate program that can give you skills you’re looking for, but it won’t be the same as a degree program. I don’t know what kind of certificate would even be coming close to what we do in this program, can you, Dr. Lepley?

Meredith Lepley: I cannot. I agree with your assessment.

Gina Chang: Okay. I think we have time for one more question. You wouldn’t mind addressing, naming some examples of starting career roles after this degree?

Ellen Leggett: Sure. Students who are interested in the consumer marketing area have had great success walking out of this program getting hired by national research organizations as Research Analysts, and Project Managers. I’ll use an example of here in Los Angeles, we also have alumnus that walk out of the program and go in-house to the client’s side, for example, working at Disney in the Consumer Insights Marketing area. In fact, we’ve had a recent example of a MAPP alum at Disney in the Consumer Insights. Consumer Insights has hired Lieberman Research, which is a national research organization in the consumer marketing to do a project for Disney, and our MAPP alum inside Disney found that she was talking to a MAPP alum at Lieberman Research Group. The [inaudible 00:37:27] to Consumer Insights and Consumer Marketing, especially on the research side, is very successful. We have alums at most of the major research … These are research consulting firms here in the West Coast, and they are national firms with offices around the country, and the world in fact. The organizational side, students are leaving the program leveraging prior work experiences, some are able to achieve consultant positions, depending upon what their prior experience was. We have a growing number of students who are interested in applying analytics in the talent and people area, and I can think of two students who are just graduating who are going into people analytics area. Generally, the HR and organizational development areas are right for our students, but it does depend upon what your prior work experience has been. If you’re coming into this program straight from college, you’ll have a different entry point than if you’ve had some years in your career already.

Gina Chang: Thank you very much, Dr. Leggett. I definitely appreciate you and Dr. Lepley being available here in addressing these great questions and sharing the great knowledge that we have about our program. The next slide we’ll basically share our contact information myself, as your Enrollment Advisor, and Serena Diep, feel free to write down the number, or email address to reach us. If we haven’t addressed your questions today, we will be sure to contact you, reach out individually, and address your questions. Again, I wanted to thank you for attending our webinar today. Again, thank you Dr. Lepley, and Dr. Leggett for attending today’s session and I hope everyone has a wonderful day.

Ellen Leggett: Thank you, Gina, and thank you all for joining us today.