USC MAP Webinar: How Applied Psychology Influences Consumer Behavior

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Hear from USC faculty as they outline the online Master of Science in Applied Psychology, talk about the important role Applied Psychology plays in the consumer world, and share how the degree can make you a valuable candidate in the professional world.


Jacqueline:                         Hi, everybody. Welcome. We’re just going to wait a few more minutes before we get started here. Thank you for joining us. Hello, everybody. Welcome and thank you so much for joining us today for our live webinar where we’ll be discussing how applied psychology influences consumer behavior. Please be sure to occasionally refresh your browsers and turn up the volume on your device so you can hear audio. If you have any questions, please use the Q and A box shown below. We will be sure to address all of these at the end of the webinar. Do not hesitate to ask questions here throughout the presentation. Looking to our agenda, my name is Jacqueline and I’ll be the facilitator of today’s webinar.

We also have with us our program director Dr. Ellen Leggett and in the faculty spotlight, we have Dr. Steve Westberg. Today, we will go over the applied psychology program and curriculum. Clear with you some career directions. Meet one of our professors, Dr. Steve Westberg, discuss practical applications of this degree and finally go over the next steps in how to apply. I’m now going to turn it over to our program director, Dr. Ellen Leggett. Dr. Leggett, thank you so much for being with us today.

Ellen Leggett:                     It’s a pleasure to be here. I really appreciate all of you joining us today and especially appreciate that you have an interest in our program. Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I’ve been at USC for five years as the director of this program and before that, I have spent 25 years working in a very niche area of applied psychology, my area of consulting was working with trial lawyers on how to prepare them for jury trials. That was a very fascinating career. I helped to build that career and that field over the last 25 years. Coming back to academia was always a dream of mine and coming back to USC, I say back because I had began my career as a professor in psychology at UC Riverside.

I was really delighted to have the opportunity to join USC’s faculty specifically to build this program. Over the last five years, the curriculum has been completely redone and we have generated a lot of excitement as the faculty has grown, as the student body has grown and as our online program has grown. The main focus of our program, although we’re going to especially talk about consumer psychology today, we actually focus specifically on two areas of application for psychology to business, consumer psychology and organizational psychology. In fact, students in our program are required to take one course in each.

Why is that? That was one of the revisions to our curriculum that began five years ago. We believe that the tools and language of psychology are relevant whether you were talking about the external audiences of a company which are the consumers or other stakeholders, actually I consider jurors, a kind of external consumer or whether you’re talking about the internal constituents of a company which would be the employees, leaders and executives. Because psychology is everywhere that there are people, we have found the commonalities, both in the way psychology theory applies as well as how the research tools of psychology apply.

Whether you’re talking about understanding consumers and their purchasing trends and their decision making process or whether you’re talking about the organizational change that has to happen at your organization by motivating employees. We focus on these two particular areas because we believe the career outlook in both of these areas is very strong. Human resources and organizational psychologists are experiencing rapid growth because this is a time of rapid change in organizations, especially being out here in California with Silicon Valley and Google, leading a lot of the innovations in how employees are treated, how creativity is fostered and how organizations are designed.

We see that other organizations are taking a more progressive look at their own employee policies and procedures as well, making this a ripe area for job growth. Additionally, we know that there’s an explosion in data about consumers and their preferences and employees who have the capability to interpret that data and lead companies towards a better understanding of their consumers are also jobs that are increasing tremendously and we have many of our graduates who are in both of these fields or who join this program with already some experience in these fields, especially in the online program. What else do we think is unique about this program?

We do think it’s unique. You think that the fact that it is an accelerated degree and a challenging program is important to comment on, when students join this program on campus, they can complete it in one academic year. Students who are in the program virtually, usually are working or have other life responsibilities which make them … considered full-time if you’re taking two courses a term and thus, the entire program can be completed in 16 consecutive months including summer. During that time period, although that seems fast, students are also completing an internship or a professional development opportunity and concluding with a capstone research project.

We also believe that we have an exceptional faculty and you’re going to have the opportunity to hear from Professor Westberg in this call but we have added faculty specifically who desire to teach in this program because they are practitioners who have strong psychology background and have been working in an applied area of psychology. Therefore our faculty have a lot of experience in how companies can benefit from the work that we do and we’re in many cases, teaching you exactly what we do in our day job so to speak but we’re all passionate about the fact that there are many ways to use psychology within the business world and not just with clinical applications which often are … what are emphasized in undergraduate programs in psychology.

Lastly, we are striving to make this program very contemporary in the way in which we teach and what that means is that projects are very typical. We work in teams of students often and we are challenging you to not just memorize out a book. There is very little of that in fact. What is more relevant is how do you use what you have learned and therefore many of the test and projects are intended to have you solve a real world problem so that organizations can benefit from your ability to think on your feet, strategize and advise not just memorize things, memorize psychology out of a book.

We have the internship as a required part of this program specifically to make sure that students have kind of practiced what they have learned in a more real world setting and we’ll talk a little more about the international opportunity to do this which we have developed in Dublin, Ireland. The internships which I mentioned are required and it’s a one semester requirement and you’re taking a class at the same time. The word internship though can have a lot of different meaning so what we mean is that it is a professional development opportunity commensurate with your current professional expertise as well as commensurate with where you desire to go with you career after this degree.

Therefore students are responsible for identifying a learning opportunity that will be approved by … well, actually by me but students are extraordinarily creative especially because our virtual students are located all over the country in very remote areas sometimes and in major metropolitan areas like Washington DC and New York and Chicago other times. The organizations that are in your backyard and sometimes even the organization where you may currently be employed are the first source for interesting opportunities for our students. We put up a smattering of logos here for you to see that we have had students in many different kinds of settings.

Across the top you’ll see some very highly recognized brands, Facebook, Intel, Mattel, Disney and in the middle there LRW. Some of you may not know Lieberman Research Worldwide is one of the largest market research firms in the country, it’s an international firm and our students are highly sought by them. We’ve had students in entertainment, in more manufacturing areas, in consulting, as well as public agencies, nonprofits and even the military. I mentioned also that we’ve developed … well, that we have a goal in the program of making our course work relevant for global employment settings.

As we know the marketplace is increasingly global. Apple wants to sell its iPhone not just in the US but worldwide and thus, the boundaries between countries are quite invisible in the consumer arena right now, similarly in the employee workforce, companies are global and that they have offices around the world, they also have teams that are put together from employees in different parts of the world as well. Knowing how to think about these global issues is a focus of our program. We have given the first actual global opportunity to an internship in Dublin, which is optional.

Students can go in the summer and do an internship that meets our requirements. Somewhere in Dublin, we will be working with you to identify an internship placement that is particularly chosen for you and this summer, we have eight students in Dublin. Most of them are virtual students who did not know each other and are from very different parts of the US and they have converged and are living and learning together and working together in Dublin and having … from what I can tell, having a great experience. I went last summer at this time to Dublin to visit our interns and can tell you that it was a place I wish I could have stayed longer.

To wrap up about our program, I want to be sure you understand how the curriculum is laid out. We have foundation courses that are required and much of this programs is required. As I mentioned, first students are required to take both consumer psychology and organizational psychology. Those are research methods in applied psychology that is also required and then there is a two semester sequence which we call professional seminar, pro seminar for short which is the first … the first semester of it is a tour of many different areas of academic psychology and how they maybe relevant to the workplace and the marketplace.

The second semester of professional seminar takes a tour through applied skills and we have workshops each week on a very useful and timely skillset that we want to make sure everyone in this program acquires. The second part of the program is the Practica, which I’ve mentioned both the internship for four units and the capstone treatise which is a research project. In addition there are electives and students have the option to take electives totaling eight units which is two courses and we have electives that were very excited by. We have group dynamics and leadership. We have an applied cross cultural psychology course which meets a lot of our expectations about learning to work in the global workforce and marketplace.

An interactive media class. An advanced quantitative methods class which is useful for those of you desiring to go into consumer insights but we’ve also made sure that those who were interested in people analytics are getting well served in that course as well. We have a course on psychology of employee selection which is of course relevant to the talent acquisition and talent management arena. The entire program is 34 units and I want to comment on this picture here. This was just taken at graduation. That’s me in the middle but I am surrounded by what I like to call the men of MAPP.

This was a group of online students who met each other for the first time at graduation and I just noticed, I was surrounded by a bunch of guys at one point and couldn’t resist snapping that photo. I’d like to pivot now and give you an opportunity to hear from one of our professors focusing specifically on the consumer psychology arena. We believe that understanding human behavior is central to the functions of reaching and influencing consumers in the marketplace which I’ve described for today as global.

Dr. Westberg, I will let him introduce himself in a moment but he is the professor who’s been teaching in this program for the longest of any of us. He’s well-qualified to teach the consumer psychology course and we’re very glad to introduce him to you now. Dr. Westberg, would you like to take it from here?

Steve Westberg:              Yes, absolutely. Hello, everybody and I’m really happy to be able to chat with you a little bit about myself and about our program here today. First of all, I want to just give you a bit about my background. I’m going to get into the weeds a little just because I feel like it’s really important that you have a good sense of where your professors come from. What our backgrounds and experiences are because that’s a lot of what we bring to the program and then how we bring that into the courses that we teach. You can see on this slide here, I have a BS in business administration, actually, specialized in accounting at UC Berkeley.

Actually never got around to becoming an accountant due to life circumstances and other things, grabbed my interest and I just haven’t yet pursued becoming an accountant but once I graduated from Berkeley, I had a really strong desire to branch out and expand my world view. I ended up joining the US Navy, went to officer candidate school and then I served on a ship for about four years so I have that experience and when I went to transition out of the military back to civilian life, I took a job at Texas Instruments, that got me into Dallas, Texas. At that same time, I probably was where many of you were at which is considering going to grad school.

I knew that was a strong focus so I really wanted to use that to bolster my knowledge but also give me more direction into a career path. I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to take me but I knew that education is going to get me there. I started out actually in an MBA program but then quickly realized I wanted much more focus, concentrated information so I switched over into this MS and PHD program in marketing science and when I finished that program, so then my career sort of blossomed out into consulting but on a parallel track, I’ve been teaching ever since and so I first started at a big consulting company, Wirthlin Worldwide.

Oakland was best known for being Ronald Reagan’s poster and campaign strategist and I did a fair amount of corporate work though so a fair amount of political work when I was working there but then I felt like I wanted to expand my horizon and understand what is the consulting arena like but from the client’s point of view. I took a job at Southern California and this is where I was the manager of market research for two years, actually during a really interesting time period for that industry because it was going through what was going to be deregulation but all that kind of fell apart in California but nonetheless, learned an off a lot about what it’s like to be a client of other consultants.

Then, switched back to the consulting side and took a position at Hiner and Partners and that’s where I’ve been ever since and worked with a variety of different clients and then as I mentioned, parallel through this, I’ve been teaching … I started at UCLA. Obviously, I was living in Southern California as you can tell from my work experience but living in Southern California so I taught at UCLA, Cal State Fullerton and then UC Riverside. From UC Riverside at that point, I had really actually become firstly burned out on teaching in that sort of environment, I had been teaching all along within business schools and at UC Riverside in particular, I was teaching some intro to marketing class where I have about four or 500 students and was coming in, once or twice a week to give a lecture and big lecture hall.

After a while, it was not all that rewarding to me. I took a break from teaching but shortly after I decided to take a break, I was approached by USC to come into the MAPP program and I first started teaching in the research methods class and then shortly after transitioned over to consumer psychology and I have found, and what brought me back into teaching in academia was just what I thought was really an ideal program of what MAPP is all about, but just basically taking people for the most part students who have backgrounds in psychology although it’s not required that you have that but then in a relatively short amount of time giving a lot of practical skills.

Knowledge to be able to make a really effective transition either into a subsequent job or for some students, this might be a first professional job. I’ve been with the program ever since, that was in 2011 and in 2013, I shifted to teaching online, from teaching in the classroom and that was actually quite a big adjustment for me and for the program. To help me make that transition, I’m completing a certificate in online instructional design so that I better understand how students are interacting with the media of working with an online class. I use all the information to really create what I think is a pretty effective course in consumer psychology.

We move on to the main charges and apply progression here so I can … Yeah, all right so, a little bit about the course I teach. It’s Consumer psychology, it’s PSYC 552 course. The images that you’re looking at here is just a quick representation of the basic structure of the course. What we focus on is understanding the consumer from three main perspectives and I should point out that my end goal at the end of this course is that all students have the language of marketing, they have a knowledge about how to apply it. They have some practical skills that we’ve gained through the course, through a number of hands on practical exercises that we do throughout.

All through the course, we’re building towards creating a marketing plan for a product or service that the students choose. They work in very small groups to do that so that my ultimate goal is that when a student graduates if they so choose that they would be able to take a career in marketing and really any position whether it’s in market research or with an agency or with a client’s company and that they would be immediately be able to be an effective contributor if they were in a meeting with the other decision makers having to do with marketing.

If you’re in a meeting with a VP of marketing, with an ad agency, executives, with a marketing research executive so all of those people that are involved in creating marketing for companies that you would be an effective contributor and that with time, you’d eventually be able to lead those meetings. That’s my end goal so getting back into, a little bit about this graphic. We dig in and provide structure to this really confusing world of the consumer market place. We look at consumers from the cognitive perspective and that’s really what … how they’re thinking, what their … it’s more of the rational side of the consumer’s mindset.

We also look at the emotional side so what consumers are feeling. Why those are two main division in how we’d like to look at how consumers make decisions. Then, the third big piece of it is the behavioral side. The behavioral side is growing in importance and it really is … a way to think about it is what if you were going to be a marketer but all you wanted to do was just impact behaviors regardless of what was going on in the mind of the consumer. It’s a very different way of looking at marketing  but with the growth of online marketing, Amazon and other companies like that, behavioral marketing is becoming more and more important just because these companies have lots of … huge amounts of data about what their customers had done but they don’t necessarily have a lot about what consumers are thinking at the time that they’re doing those behaviors.

We try to take accounts of all of these pieces to really have a good strong understanding of the consumer from these different aspects and we take all this into … in the lower right hand corner, the marketing strategy process so just as important as it is to understand the consumer and by the way, I actually have quite a bit of the courses grounded in psychological theories but virtually all of it, we then apply in a way that you would be able to develop the right strategies if you’re working in a marketing position in a company or in one of their agencies. That’s a little bit about the course and how I think about it and little bit about what we do and what I hope that students really get out of it.

As we move on to the next slide, sort of just an image of what we call a live session so in consumer psychology in the span of 15 weeks of the course, we have five live sessions and the live sessions are a time for … that we, myself and all the students in the course, we all get together at the same time and we can see each other with our webcams and we can have an interactive discussion. We use these one for Q and A because I think it’s important that I’m acceptable to all our students and that the students get to know each other and so I start up every live session with a Q and A. If anybody’s got any questions or just wants to bring up any issues related to the course or really about anything, sometimes student talk about career things.

We do that at the beginning of a live session and then, most of the live sessions, the students are presenting some of the work that they’ve been doing so that they got an opportunity and experience presenting and then I get direct feedback so they get to know if they’re on track or not with what they’re working on and they get feedback from both myself but also from all their peers during a live session. We do those kind of spaced every few weeks throughout the term. I kind of find them very valuable for both myself and I hope the students also get something out of them because I think we’re imparting additional skills there that you wouldn’t get just from a more static sort of interactive online course without needing live on occasion.

I would just say that all in all, what I’ve tried to do is I’ve got lots of experience teaching in a classroom. I try to bring all of that, all the really wonderful great things that come out of a classroom experience and build that into an online experience so we don’t lose any of that by learning online by that we also then gain all the advantages that online provides which is the flexibility and just being able to do this from all different locations so a little bit about my self and a little bit about my course and about my, I guess you could call it my philosophy about instructing … hopefully you can tell I’m really passionate about it.

I do this only because I really enjoy it and I feel like I’ve reach that point of my career that I’m now giving back and so that’s really important to me. I do try to be very accessible to students. I guess I should point out, just a little bit more about myself. I’m married. I ended up living in Austin, Texas, that’s why I moved from Southern California and living in Austin, Texas now so my wife can further her career but then actually I found that it’s not hampered me at all. I can work remotely both with teaching and consulting. Then I have two daughters that now has gotten up into the age.

They’re in their early 20s that I feel like as I’m working and seeing them as well and just coincidentally both of them right now, where one just made a graduate school choice. It’s been about a year trying to figure all that out. My older daughter is now just starting to think about what her graduate school choices will be so I feel like I can also really relate to our students and I try to be as accessible as long as I can, both about course work but also about career, guidance and advice. I guess with that, I will move on and pass this back to Ellen. Ellen?

Ellen Leggett:                     Hi. Thank you Dr. Westberg. In this photo that we have here, another great photo from graduation. I would like to comment on how great you look in the front row there on the left. We had all the faculty from wherever they live in the country, come to graduation and this is most of the faculty that teaches on the online program. What are your observations about the faculty in general?

Steve Westberg:              Well, I would say that number one is, I think that just as you described at the beginning of our session here is that our faculty are very low grounded academically but then they’re also all practitioners and they all really do an excellent job of bringing that into the classroom to the students. That was … I have to say that my prettiest teaching experience is, that’s an element that I didn’t always see, that many of the faculty really weren’t practitioners also but that’s definitely the case I think with our MAPP faculty. It’s really been a pleasure I think to work with our … with my peers in the faculty and actually be able to do what I think of is more traditional academic types of things like pursue our own research and bring that into what we’re doing.

Ellen Leggett:                     Great. I think, I would comment on the fact that the faculty really cares about creating a virtual community that we don’t expect to just interact with students one on one and hang up the phone from a conversation and go on our merry way. We want the students to be connected to each other and the faculty, I see each and everyone of these people as mentors and taking that role seriously.

Steve Westberg:              I would definitely agree with that. I think that’s another strong opinion.

Ellen Leggett:                     Great. Can you wrap it up Dr. Westberg with any comments about how the MAPP program can create advantages for our students in the workplace?

Steve Westberg:              Yeah, so I think … Well, one clear aspect is that we have the two tracks of those consumer and then the employee side and in my experiences, I’ve done work both primarily with consumers but also having to do with employees and I think there’s a lot of overlap and it makes a lot of sense that both sides of the equation I guess are taught within the program and that our students have the ability to both. Then, I also want to stress that the underpinnings of psychology are really becoming more and more important in the business world and I think just as technology is becoming important.

I see that the way companies are marketing is becoming a bit more quantitative yet at the same time, there’s an increase need to really understand what’s going on … from the consumer’s side, what’s going on in the mind of the consumer. Why are they behaving the way they do, the way that they do, why do they do the things they do and how can marketers who have more tools available to them now than ever before and how can marketers really facilitate that process in a way that most … it’s advantageous to the company, because it makes efficient use of their money but also advantageous to the consumer because it makes more … better use of the consumer’s time.

It’s more cognizant of how consumers are living their lives and try to create a more seamless integration, I would guess of consumers with companies and the employee’s side, with employees with companies and the way that you do that is really, it is grounded in psychology so it’s kind of where I think the … where this program really shines.

Ellen Leggett:                     Great. Thank you. I like to think of the fact of it as just giving a little extra competitive advantage to understand both the consumer psychology as well as how organizations work because no matter where we focus our careers or where the students focus their careers, they will always be working in the context of some kind of organization, even if it’s an entrepreneurial venture of your own so kind of an additional benefit of understanding both arenas. I think at this point, we are ready to turn this back over to you Jacqueline.

Jacqueline:                         Thank you, Dr. Leggett. If you are ready to apply, we do accept applications throughout the year, as we have start dates in spring, summer and fall. We are currently enrolling for the fall 2018 term where classes begin Monday, September 3rd. The admissions requirement for our program are a completed application, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with at least a 3.0 GPA. All official transcripts, GRE scores, statement of purpose, professional resume and finally three letters of recommendation. The application deadline for the fall term is Sunday, August 1st and if you’re interested in Spring 2019 that application deadline is December 3rd.

Please feel free to contact us to further discuss the program and the enrollment process. My contact information is below. Again, my name is Jacqueline Campagna and I’m the enrollment advisor for this program. We also have here Serena Diep, our academic advisor. Serena, do you want to say hello?

Serena Diep:                      Yes. Thank you, Jacqueline. Hi everyone. My name is Serena Diep. I am the academic advisor for the applied psychology online program. Feel free to reach out to me via email or via phone if you have any questions regarding the program.

Jacqueline:                         Thank you Serena. Now, I want to open it up for some Q and A. Don’t forget that you can ask some questions in the Q and A box below. One question that we did come through, we actually have several students ask about the internship opportunities so can we go over again, Dr. Leggett how the internship works with those working full-time? Are you able to apply your internship to your current job?

Ellen Leggett:                     Many of our students are currently employed but your current job will not satisfy the internship requirement for this program. On the other hand, your place of employment may offer or you may find or you may develop opportunities at your current company that will very readily meet this requirement. The reality is that students are quite creative and we are very supportive in helping students to think about what skills they want to learn and where there maybe an opportunity for them to learn them. Even though you’re working full-time you were not exempt from this opportunity nor can you count your current job as fulfilling this.

Although that may sound onerous, I think that our students actually find it to be a career enhancing experience that they would not have missed for anything and that it turns out to be one of the most pivotal parts of their experience in this program. We’ve had students get promotions at their current company because of this internship or whatever you want to call this requirement obviously for those of who are already working, it’s more of a cross-training potentially in your current company, taking on a project that no one else is willing to do and championing it, getting some extra opportunities.

You are stepping forward and saying, “I want to do it and also USC required me to do it,” and we found companies to be extraordinarily cooperative and really welcome an employee who wants to do more and learn more. That’s about the most that I can say about it at this point. We’ve had every student in this program fulfill this requirement and those were working full-time sometimes have the best opportunities right where they’re working currently.

Jacqueline:                         Great. Thank you so much Ellen for clearing that up. Another question that came through regarding the practicum are what are some examples of treatise topics students have used in the past?

Ellen Leggett:                     Students will stick on the consumer side here but students have … there are so many things that students do and there’s not just even one type of project but the kind of opportunities that most students do for the capstone treatise is a survey research project or a qualitative research project, where they are actually speaking with consumers. One example would be a student who really was fascinated with the focus that millennials have on specialty coffee and she, herself was someone who was very interested in developing a coffee product. She did focus groups of patrons to a local coffee shop and found it very easy to get patrons from this coffee shop to say they would come and talk to her.

She didn’t even have to give them a gift certificate for another cup of coffee but she pursued with them what their consuming habits are with respect to specialty coffees. We’ve had students, and I can think of one in Seattle who did a very interesting survey noting that many of the stores in Seattle advertise, flags outside their shops that are rainbow flags, that is meant to connote being friendly to LGBT community. She wanted to know whether it really matters with consumers and she did an online survey actually of consumers that she randomly found through social media in the Seattle area.

She presented them with pictures of storefront, some of which had the rainbow flag, some of which had no flag and some of which just had a little rainbow sticker that’s greatly in the window. She was trying to determine whether it was noticed and what the meaning was that consumers attach to that symbol as another example. Dr. Westberg, do you want to comment on any other examples of students you’ve worked with for their treatise?

Steve Westberg:              Sure. Yeah. I had a student who was … he worked for the USC’s coliseum and so he was … I think he was the assistant facility director and he had been approached by the LA Olympic Committee for when Los Angeles will be hosting the Olympics again in the future and wanted to understand the impact of the Olympics locally focusing on sustainability efforts. Whether or not the Olympic organizers could integrate more and promote more sustainability activities be it as simple as just recycling at the venues or more broadly encouraging within the surrounding area.

He conducted a survey amongst potential … in the Los Angeles area, amongst consumers who are likely to be interested to watch or to even attend the Olympic games and his investigation was just about the potential impact of the Olympics focusing more on sustainability. That was a recent one that stands up in my mind.

Jacqueline:                         Great. Thank you both so much for that. We’ve had a few questions come through regarding the live session. Can we elaborate more on these live sessions more specifically when do you meet and how long do these lasts?

Steve Westberg:              Well, that’s great question. Yeah, we meet … They’re spread out not exactly every, like in consumer psychology, in the PSYC 552 class, we have five live sessions. The other courses have more or less about the same number of live sessions and they’re spread out more or less every few weeks but not exactly and they’re also … we coordinate with each other so we’re not overlapping too much with our live session. The live sessions then would be just pre-scheduled at the very beginning of the semester, you get the full schedule when they are and they typically lasts from one to two hours. It, in part, depends on how many students are actually enrolled in the session and then a little bit about what the topic of the session is.

Then, for the consumer psychology live sessions, actually I realized that many students are busy, they have jobs. Sometimes they have conflicts and so like I do not grade the live sessions or grade attendance at live sessions. I think they’re beneficial but if you can’t make it, we totally understand and we record the live sessions so you can go back and view it and get the benefit at least seeing which you might have missed but all in all, I think that the live sessions are … they’re not an overwhelming burden to students but yeah, I think students really get a lot of them and we’ve tried to adjust the number of sessions and what we found is having about five seems just about right for what students think about them.

Ellen Leggett:                     They’re usually in the evenings. They’re no earlier than 5 PM California time and really no later than 7 PM California time that they would end. Really, it’s a pretty tight two-hour window of time that we learned is optimum for students all around the country to be able to join at the same time.

Jacqueline:                         Great. Thank you both so much for that. Another question that came through, would you say this program can set up students for a PHD program?

Ellen Leggett:                     Yeah. Let me talk to that. We have students that aspire to other degrees, even as they’re in this programs but we will not be focusing on caring you for graduate school through our curriculum per se. Our curriculum is very focused on work place issues and performing task and real world applications for what we’re learning. Nonetheless, there are many different PHD programs that students can be interested in and can pursue whether it’s in educational leadership or organizational leadership or sometimes, I supposed students go and get an MBA although I can’t think of any.

I have in fact more students with MBAs have come to get this degree afterwards but if you are thinking of this as a way to get a foot in the door, towards a PHD program in psychology at USC, the answer is no. It will not prepare you for that or give you any extra credit so to speak.

Jacqueline:                         Great. Thank you Dr. Leggett. Another question that came through was how does the online program provide support for the distant learners outside of LA?

Ellen Leggett:                     Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s something we care about a lot. In fact, the faculty as I said consider … we consider each of us to be mentors to the students. The first resource for every student in each course is their own professor and professors have been known to … I’m going to speak kind of generally and then Dr. Westberg, you can be more specific but professors have been … are definitely making themselves available for one on one conversations with students about anything related to the class or even their own career and if you’re in the LA area, I know that students have come on campus, students have met at Starbucks and met with the professor there.

Professors are in this program because we want to help students. This is not a mook environment where you have hundreds of students in these classes. The largest class size maybe is 25 more typically 15 to 20 because we want to be able to give personal attention to the students. This is a private university and you will get private university attention, I believe is what we’re trying to deliver. Dr. Westberg, any other comments about that?

Steve Westberg:              Well, I concur that the faculty are really … that they would be your first point of contact but then also, we have great support with … like Serena for example, for more program type issues that might occur, that you might want some assistance or advice or guidance or whatever is needed on that. Most of the time, student issues are really best handled by the faculty and just as an example, I give all my students … well, you can get my email address but also my cellphone number and I encourage all my students to phone or text my cellphone really if I don’t respond to emails really quickly because just like everybody, I’m not always looking at my email.

I always have my phone with me and I am willing to talk to students about any issues really at anytime, day or night. Just an example, I had one … although, when I go to bed, I put my cellphone in a different room so it doesn’t bug me. That actually worked really well with one student I had, who just like to text at about 3 AM in the morning with various thoughts and comments and things that were fine. I would get up in the morning and every couple of days, there would be like her pretty lengthy text that then I read through and I respond to and answer whatever questions or at one point we’ve setup a … ended up having a couple of scheduled calls just to go through some things in more detail.

That’s sort of one extreme. At the other end, I just get random periodic quick questions from students that maybe they’re studying for an exam or working on a particular assignment and something just pops in their head right in the middle of … when they’re working on it. They send me a quick text and I usually answer immediately so that it doesn’t slow them down and they just keep on track. That’s the way I do things and I think probably the other faculty are pretty similar.

Ellen Leggett:                     You did mention Serena and Serena is on the line. I want to reinforce the idea that your academic advisor here on campus is right next to me, in the office right next to me and when it comes time for registration, she will be speaking with you and we map your progress in the program and are advising you all along the way regarding how you’re doing with work life balance. We also have another team member who is … if any of you have lived in a residence hall, you may know the difference between your academic advisor and the RA of the residence hall who just stopped by and says how were things going. Well, we have one of those too.

She will be calling … she has a schedule of calling students just to check in and say hi, how is it going and direct you to other places where you can get things solved. Additionally, you have all of USC available to you. The university has made a great effort to put mesh of its … many of its resources on its website and you can find access to even the career center through their website. The USC entire university, although you can’t come on campus necessarily, if you’re in Boston, that doesn’t preclude you from having one to one chats with the librarians for example.

Jacqueline:                         Great. Thank you, Dr. Leggett. I think we have time for one more question. How much time do you feel needs to be allocated per class, per week for this program?

Ellen Leggett:                     It’s definitely like having a part time job and your work life balance will change because the balance will tip towards whatever you used to do for recreation, you will now be spending much more of that time on your school work. Steve, speaking specifically, what would you say for your class?

Steve Westberg:              Well. That’s a good question. I think it varies week to week and it’s somewhat flexible, I would like to point out that we understand that almost all of our online students have jobs and they have … maybe even have families. We even have one student who I think had a baby during the middle of term, which is quite amazing and never missed a beep. We have kind of built-in flexibility into the program. I guess, in terms of actual hourly commitment, maybe that’s about it. Maybe it’s an eight hour day so that could be spread over some evenings, weekend work, that’s probably on average. It kind of fluctuates up and down a little bit on … some weeks, I have more readings in my course than other weeks and that sort of thing.

Ellen Leggett:                     It is important to mention that much of work that you need to do in the course cannot be done in a solitary fashion. It is done in collaboration with other students so that you will be coordinating with other students for meeting times and working together on projects. That takes some effort but it is worth it. It’s works get done in the real world and it’s how you become connected to other students and how you do the application part of this program. By the way, another … I think I saw a question, I just want to stuck it in here because I don’t think I have mentioned that this isn’t master of science degree, not a master of arts.

We take that seriously. What that means is that data matters and that we are graduating from this program, students who will be facile with at least understanding how collecting data can help solve a business problem. The kind of data that we specialize in is people data, whether the people are consumers or the people are employees. The master of science is generally why we have students doing a research, project and applied project for their Treatise which is satisfied very readily by doing a survey, an online survey, doing focus groups or doing a qualitative interview study for the most part. Just wanted to mention that because I think I saw one question on that.

Jacqueline:                         Great. Thank you so much, Dr. Leggett. I think that’s all the time that we have today but if we did not get to your questions, we will definitely be sure to contact you directly to get those addressed. I want to thank you all so much for joining and Dr. Leggett, Dr. Westberg, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today and sharing all of this wonderful information.

Ellen Leggett:                     You’re very welcome. Thank you everyone and we hope to hear from you again.