Online Master of Science in Applied Psychology

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Meet the Faculty Webinar

Meet the Faculty Webinar

USC Master of Science in Applied Psychology
Meet the Faculty Live Webinar
Originally aired in October 2014

Get to know the University of Southern California Master of Science in Applied Psychology faculty.

In this session, we will hear from Professor Steve Westberg, a Consumer Psychology professor. He will candidly speak about his professional background, areas of interest, and specifics about the course he teaches within the program.

Dr. Ellen Leggett, Professor of Psychology and Program Director
Professor Steve Westberg, Adjunct Professor of Psychology
Darren Orcutt, Enrollment Advisor

Presented by the University of Southern California’s Master of Science in Applied Psychology Online program. For more information about the program, go to


Darren Orcutt:All right, I’d like to welcome everybody to the master of science and applied psychology meet the faculty webinar presented by the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences.  My name is Darren Orcutt.  I’m going to go ahead and be your host here today.  So, first of all, I’d like to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to go ahead and join us.  Before we do begin, however, I would like to review what you can expect during our presentation.

To cut down on the background noise, we have muted your phone lines.  So, you’ll be able to hear us, but we cannot hear you.  If you do have any questions please feel free to type them into the Q&A box in the lower right hand corner of your screen and just go ahead and hit the send button.  Please feel free to enter your questions as you think of them and we’ll go ahead and answer as many as time does allow at the end of the presentation.  Another thing that I’d like to add is a PDF and a recording of today’s presentation will be made available shortly after the event.

So, here is a quick look at what we will be covering.  First, we’ll go ahead and hear from Dr. Ellen Leggett.  Dr. Leggett is the director of the program and she’ll introduce us to USC, USC Dornsife and the program’s learning objectives.  Next, we will hear from our guest faculty member, Professor Steve Westberg.  He will go ahead and enlighten us on his professional background and specific areas of interest.  He will also give us a detailed description of the consumer psychology course that he does teach and what a typical week may entail.

Lastly, I will go over the specific admissions requirements and the next steps on how to contact me to begin an application.  And then, of course, we will end the presentation with a Q&A session.  So with that said, let’s go ahead and get started.  Hello Ellen, thank you for joining us here today.

Ellen Leggett:Thank you so much.  And welcome to all of you.  I’m very glad to have the chance to meet you all virtually through the wonders of technology and tell you a little bit about our program.  First of all, I’d like to say that we really believe this is a unique program, unique in this country and we have received that feedback from applicants both in the program on campus and in the online sphere as well.

And so I’d like to share with you some of the things that we think make this program unique and probably the most important is that we’re really focused on how psychology is used in business and organizations every day.  And by focusing on the human side of business, we’re really, in some ways looking at the functions that are most crucial for business success, which are things having to do with motivating employees and supervising employees and reaching out to consumers, nowadays consumers being all over the world potentially for any product.  So in a nutshell, that combination of psychology plus business in a very practical curriculum is what we think makes us unique in this program.

Next slide.  So, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about USC.  Of course, you can all Google USC and read the rankings and everything like that.  Some of you may even be from California, but just a quick thumbnail, we are the largest private university in Southern California.  Established in 1880, which is back in the good old days and the school has really grown and changed over just the last 20 years to the point where it’s really one of the world’s leading private research universities.

The school in which this program resides I think is very important to mention because we are not in the business school.  This is not a professional business program.  We are in the liberal arts school in the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences in the psychology department.  And the psychology department is one of the largest programs in all of USC and Dornsife is actually the original school – excuse me the letters, arts and sciences liberal arts school is really the original school of USC before any professional schools existed.

So, we really are very proud of being in a liberal arts environment where critical thinking is one of the most important skills for business success and in the liberal arts, that is something that we continue to focus on in this program.

So a little bit more specifically about this program.  This very wordy chart with four learning objectives are actually taken word from word from our accreditation.  So, these are the objective that you’ll see on our syllabi, on our website, because this is what we’re held responsible for.  And first off is the combination of theory with real world issues that our students will be able to learn psychology, theories and concepts, but not just learn them for learning the theories themselves.  They’re going to be pushed to apply those theories to issues that are real world happening today, whether it’s about the organizations as a whole, whether it’s about internal dynamics of organizations meaning employees, teams, supervision, motivating, leading or whether it’s issues facing organizations externally communicating with their external audience of consumers, whoever those consumers might be.

And I’d like to say that consumers are not just people who want to buy products.  They may also be people who are being persuaded to change their lifestyle in some way, whether it be health related or a social cause.  And consumers in many ways are the general public who may be the people that serve on juries having to decide the fate of companies.  I’m a jury psychologist, so I consider jurors consumers as well.

Secondly, an objective is research.  This is a program in psychology.  Psychology is very much an empirical science.  And in this program we teach research.  But we also teach research that is applied and that will be very different if any of you have taken undergraduate psychology, you’ve learned about how to do experimental design and actually in business experimental design is not necessarily the hallmark of research.

There are different ways to do research when you’re in the real world where corporations are paying for the research, or a company is paying and they’re looking for data that will help them actually make a business decision.  So we take you, kind of pull across that line of what’s traditional psychology research and how can it be used in the real world to transform the way in which you’ve been taught research potentially in the past.

Third, students are gonna be good communicators in this program.  We really want to put people in some situations outside their comfort zone to keep working on writing and oral communication because we have to face it, those are skills like in the liberal arts, these are skills that will help you succeed no matter what your career path may be.  And the writing is not only traditional writing of academic papers, but I think you might even hear from professor Westberg that we’re teaching you to write reports and write some kinds of documents that are more focused on how it would be used in business .

And lastly, I really feel that this program, again, is unique in helping students see that they’re getting preparation that will parlay into many different jobs, not just one job, but many different jobs.  Jobs that may not even exist today, because psychology is applicable.  It’s applicable by definition wherever there are people and therefore, we kind of try to inspire students that this program is not giving you necessarily skills for a particular job today, but skills that can be transformed and to help transform the workplaces or the needs of businesses in the future.

Next slide.  And I think that’s my cue to turn this over to Professor Westberg who has been with the program since the program began and we’re very fortunate that he has actually relocated out of Los Angeles to Texas for professional reasons.  And this gives him the opportunity to continue doing what he’s always done well on campus but doing it for our online students virtually from his location in Texas.  So Steve, you wanna give us a little bit more about your background and the course that you teach?

Steve Westberg:Yes, thank you Ellen and for all of you who are listening, thank you for your interest in the program and I hope to shed a little bit more light on it from my perspective.  And as Ellen mentioned I’m adjunct professor of psychology in the online master’s of science and applied psychology program.  And I started in the program teaching in the classroom and just now more recently have transitioned into the online program and online instructional format.

And through that transition, it’s actually been fairly interesting for me because I have a pretty strong interest in being able to provide online education that is just as rich and vibrant as what you might get in person in a classroom.  And so I’ve tried to structure my class to replicate that classroom environment, but with all of the benefits that you get from an online program which is you can learn at your own pace.

And so from that, it’s actually been quite exiting being in the program.  And I guess just before I move onto the next slide because there’s a little blurb at the bottom of this one and this is what I really try to leave the students with and that is a practical knowledge that bridges both academic and the business world.  So, students can go out and immediately put that to use in a marketing oriented job.

So onto the next slide, a little bit about my background.  I do have a Ph.D. in management science with an emphasis in marketing from University of Texas in Dallas.  And just as an aside, my faculty advisor and dissertation chair happened to be a graduate of USC’s department of psychology from some years previously.  So, I feel like I have sort of an indirection connection to the university that was as well.  And I have a B.S. in business administration from UC Berkeley.

My day time job and what I’ve been doing for about the past 20 years, I’m a partner in a marketing diagnostics and strategy consulting company, HINER & Partners.  It’s located in Southern California.  And what we do is data driven consulting.  So, we do both market research and database analytics to help our clients apply that to their marketing strategies.  And I do try to bring that 20 years of experience into my classroom.

Most of my clients are big fortune 500 companies but I’ve also done work for mid-size and small companies as well.  And adjunct professor, you’re kind of getting the idea of I’ve got a full-time job outside the university, but I also have been teaching part-time for four years in the USC department of psychology, but before that I’ve got about another 14 years of teaching at a number of different programs, primarily in business schools, but both undergraduate and master’s level and MBA students at the schools that you see here.  And then before that, had some experience as a manufacturing supervisor at Texas Instruments.  And my claim to fame there was I was the area coordinator for the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award and Texas Instruments happened to win it in my tenure there.  So that was quite an accomplishment.

I mention it just because it also – I’ve got an operations kind of orientation as well.  And so some of my consulting, people think about marketing as really selling products and services, but many companies now rely on their operations to provide services to customers, think about your cell phone providers is one great example.  So, I try to bring that into our perspective of how we look at consumers.  And before that, served our country as a naval officer.

To the next slide.  My area of expertise, this is what I do in my marketing and consulting job.  To help my clients develop marketing campaigns to boost some key metrics they tend to follow like awareness, knowledge about the product, consideration to purchase and ultimately trial and purchase and help them develop product positioning strategies and effective messaging to be able to get their positioning out there in the mind of the consumers.  And then do work to help support their four Ps, which not taking any marketing classes before, that’s no problem but four Ps, stand for product, place, price and promotion.  And we do go through that in my course as well.

And then we do quite a bit of monitoring of the effectiveness of marketing for our clients.  But just give you a little bit of a feel for what I’m doing in my day time job, because as I mention, I really do try to bring that as much as I can into my class.  Onto the next slide then which is what is the class I teach?  It’s consumer psychology.  My perspective, I think consumers – understanding consumers is vital for a company’s success.  So, the role of marketing and in business in general then is to connect consumers with products in order to facilitate this exchange, which means consumers buying products.

And from all my experience, I know the best way to do that is really test to understanding consumers and then applying marketing activities or tactics to be able to have some influence on those consumers.  And so there’s some bullets here that are about my course content.  I have helped students understand how consumers think in regards to how they make purchase decisions.  I try to teach as much as I can the language and terminology of consumers that is currently used in business today so that when students graduate, they are able to step into jobs in business and be able to talk the lingo and be able to attend – you know, my goal is that you can attend the meeting in the first week on your job and be able to effectively participate and contribute.

I also try to teach conceptual and practical models.  I think there’s huge value in both having an academic orientation and understanding its conceptual models and then being able to understand how to apply them.  That’s something else I try to bring with my own background has always straddled the line between academic and the business world.  And so it’s become a firm believer that in the value of what you can get out of academics, but then you need to learn how to apply that in a work environment.

So we do that.  I think what I’d like to do is also share with you a little bit about gosh what happens, what do we do in our class every week?  One thing I try to structure the course so that in the end students are working towards completing a fairly large project and that is to develop a marketing plan on a product or service of the student’s choice.  I have the students in small teams.  I think that works most effectively because there’s quite a lot to do to put together a marketing plan.

And so then throughout the semester as we learn new concepts week by week, I’ve got exercises and assignments that are geared to facilitate learning about that concept, but then also translate in a way chapters or modules that you can then put into your marketing plan as we get towards the end of the semester.  So, of course it definitely builds towards creating a marketing plan and along the way we learn all the things that you need to do to really, I think, put us together a winner of a plan.

So a typical week, what students will do, I’ve got a textbook that I’d like to follow and then also a number of readings that are both academic and business oriented.  And so in a typical week, the students will do some readings out of the text.  They’ll also do some readings from some of these other books that I’ve got and they’ll typically watch a short video of myself or a couple of videos of me talking about that week’s topics or concepts.  And then we have one or two, sometimes even three different discussions thread that the students participate in and they discuss what we’re learning in that week and it helps develop their knowledge in these topics.  Students post comments and they respond to each other and I interject and keep the learning on track and add things as I see fit.

And then there’s usually also a practical assignment or two that has the students either by themselves or in their small teams put together usually something written that then they submit so it’s related to those same topics of the week.  And then we also have a live session every couple of weeks so that we all get together at the same time.  Students are able to ask questions.  There’s always specific areas of topics that I think are just really important that I wanna make sure everybody has got a good grasp of.  I usually focus these live sessions on those topics.  And it’s also a way for all the students to get to know each other and it helps create that sort of holistic almost in person classroom kind of experience, even though the students often times are kind of far flung and don’t really otherwise get a chance to talk face to face with each other.

And I think that’s about it about myself and about my course.  And now I’m gonna turn it over to Darren who’s going to talk a little bit about the enrollment requirements.

Darren Orcutt: Sure, thank you Professor Westberg.  That was very helpful and informative, so thank you again.  With that being said, I did wanna go over the initial steps for admission for the online Master of Science and applied psychology program.  So, from an admissions requirement standpoint, we do require that students complete an application profile.  They submit that along with an $85 application fee.  We do request that students that submit official transcripts from each institution previously attended.  We also look for a copy of their most current and professional resume.  We also have students submit a personal statement of purpose, which really just covers why it is that you’re interested in the applied psychology program, why it is that you feel USC is obviously going to be the most appropriate it for you.  And most importantly, how the degree itself is going to help you contribute positively to the field.

We also do require three letters of recommendation.  Those are typically professional letters, however we have accepted academic letters of recommendation.  But again, three in total.  And then we also have our students submit official GRE scores to complete the application process.  And again with all of this, I can’t stress enough the importance of discussing all of these items with me.  If you do have any questions or concerns about where you’re coming in at with your test scores, with work experience or even your GPA, please don’t hesitate to reach out so we can discuss it in more detail.

With that being said, it is now time for our Q&A session.  Just as a reminder to everybody, if you do have any questions, please type them into the Q&A box in the lower right hand corner of your screen.  Please be sure to also hit that send button.  What we’ll do is I do see that Chelsea has already typed in a question, so we’ll go ahead and start with that.  Chelsea asks for an online students are there still group projects?  I think Professor Westberg did touch on this here a little bit and yes with some of the courses, that certainly will be an expectation.  I don’t know if you wanted to elaborate any further on that Professor Westberg, but –

Steve Westberg: I could say a few words.  I know that sometimes students – and I actually used to refer to these as the dreaded group project because I know that sometimes that that can be a challenge to get your classmates working together and that sort of thing.  But on the other hand, in the business world and in particular in marketing, just about everything you do, if you’re working in a marketing position is a group project.  So, I think it’s a good reflection of that.

And then I’ve been supervising group projects for a long, long time and I feel like I’m able to minimize any of the negatives and really foster the positives and so that’s, I think, in part of how I describe my course and that we build upon this marketing plan throughout the course that really I’ve learned has really facilitated the students being able to learn to work together and to get those projects done without it being too onerous or without one student having to do more than their share of the work.

Darren Orcutt: Thank you professor.  We do have another question coming in.  What kinds of careers do graduates of the program typically pursue or go into?  Dr. Leggett, that might be a good question for you to address.

Ellen Leggett: Sure, definitely.  First, I’d like to say that we can’t speak to careers from graduates of the online program because I think it’s fair to say that this online program is still in its inaugural phase and our first graduates of the program will be graduating this Spring.  So, we will be happy to talk about what the graduates from the program on campus have done.  And they are in probably every kind of industry that you can imagine.  But they tend to be clustered in areas related to marketing, marketing research, public relations and recruitment, internship management.  We have at least two people who are coordinating internship programs for corporations.  And working inside organizations in some kind of HR capacity or organizational effectiveness on the team executive search and head hunting is a very big area for students who are in the organizational area of this program as well.

Now, that would be a blanket statement.  And what we have to keep in mind is that everyone in this program, online students and the students here on campus in sunny California brings to the program particular and unique skills.  No two students in this program are the same.  So, people’s interest take them in unique ways and one of the things we like about the program is that the internship experience, plus the treatise, gives you a way to personalize the program and get inside the kind of industry that you wanna be in, for example if you’re interested in sports marketing or entertainment marketing or healthcare.  All of these are possibilities that you can get some experience in.  Not because there’s a class in that, but because your interest is there and you seek out opportunities in those areas.

Darren Orcutt: All right thank you Dr. Leggett.  I do have another question here asking about what the typical candidate does look like for this program.  It’s a great question.  So, what we do typically look for in our candidates is we do look for students that have a very strong social science background.  I would say a large majority of the students that we work with do have a psychology degree.  And if it is not a psychology degree, it’s again within the social sciences, or something with sociology or anthropology, political science.  I think these courses do a great job of establishing the foundation and give students the necessary exposure to the research and the methodologies that this program really does build on.

So with that being said, it is still very much a holistic approach to reviewing applications so that it’s not the only thing that the academic committee will look at.  But that is one of the areas that we do feel very strongly about.  Great question.

Another question that is coming in.  How is the program similar to and also different from a master’s in industrial organizational psychology.  That is a great question.  Dr. Leggett, that might be another one that you wanna address.

Ellen Leggett: Sure.  We get this question a lot and actually we think that we have some differences that make, again, our program unique in that many masters in IO psychology would be two-year programs if you’re going to school full-time and the only exposure that you have is to IO issues and all of your coursework would be related to industrial or organizational psychology.  And our program is intended deliberately to give you a somewhat broader view than that.  Every student in our program is required to take not only their organizational psychology class if you are interested in organizational psychology, but also Professor Westberg’s course in consumer psychology.

And the reason for that is to broaden people’s understanding of how these areas fit together and also to broaden career flexibility.  And in a lot of ways to emphasize that every person no matter what kind of work you do you will be working inside an organization.  So, we want everyone to understand organizational dynamics and everyone will be in charge of personally marketing their own brand and their own career.  So, that’s why the consumer side is there.  So the short answer is we are different because we’re a little broader and we’re also a faster program.

Darren Orcutt: Thank you Dr. Leggett.  Another question did come in asking if there is a difference in the distinction between online and on ground degrees when it comes to the diplomas or any different USC alumni benefits?  Great question.  So, what I generally tell my student population is the expectation, as well as the requirements for the two programs are really going to be identical, from the admissions requirements, what we look for in our candidate to really just the overall expectation of the program itself, as far as the curriculum, the syllabi, the assignments and projects that you will have exposure to.  You know, once again, the expectation should really be the same across the board.

You know, obviously upon completion of the program, there really is no distinction between an online environment versus our ground campus.  A successful completion means that you will have earned your Master’s of Science in applied psychology program from USC.  And then I guess the second part of that question really just addressing some of the alumni benefits once again.  Whether you are in our online environment or whether you are attending the brick and mortar, you are part of the Trojan Nation and part of that family and therefore the benefits will remain the same.  Great question.

Have another question coming in.  Are there any courses that need to be taken in a particular order or at the same time?  And if I am taking one course this semester, is that okay?  Great question.  Typically, the way that the curriculum works is our traditional students will go through this program and complete two classes every 15 week semester.  When you look at the overall curriculum and the structure of the program, there really are three tiers that are built into this program.  The initial tier is what I referred to as the foundation and really just the required courses.  It’s really initially the first 20 units of the program, which really does a great job of focusing on human behavior, the research methods in applied psychology as well as the principles to both consumer psychology and organizational.

From there as you move into the second tier of the program, you will have some flexibility in choosing from the consumer psychology and organizational psychology tracks.  So, I think that is where the greatest amount of flexibility will be found, because when you do move into the third and final tier of the program, that is where you’ll approach the internship and the capstone project.  So, there really is a structure in place for this program, however you will have some flexibility within that second tier to pick and choose what obviously aligns best with your goals.

Ellen Leggett:I think that was a great answer and just if I recall there was a second piece to the question which was is it okay to take classes out of sequence.  Was that part of the question or was I reading that as another question someone was asking?  I will say that the classes are sequenced deliberately as Darren said and generally people are taking two.  If you were to take one at a time, it would take obviously a lot longer and we would be having to work with you because not every course is offered every term.  They are roped on a rotation basis.  So, you can’t assume that the whole curriculum is available every single term to choose from.

Darren Orcutt:Thank you Dr. Leggett.  So another question that just came in is just kind of asking about the application process and how long it does generally take.  You know it really does vary.  I would say on average our typical application process does take about 3-4 weeks.  Again, as we did review some of the admissions requirements, a lot of that depends on where you’re at in the process, if you have already completed the GRE, if it’s something that you have scheduled and are scheduled to take here in the immediate future.  But typically, getting official transcripts sent to us, getting an updated copy of the resume, working on the statement of purposes, those are items that are work in progress but can typically be completed within that window of time, so great question.

So with that being said, that will conclude our Q&A session for the time being.  I do wanna take this opportunity to thank Dr. Leggett and Professor Westberg for all of their time.  This will conclude today’s webinar.  I will also add for those of you that did have questions that weren’t addressed, please feel free to follow up with me.  My contact information can be seen on the screen.  I will be more than happy to answer any additional questions that we weren’t able to get to today.

I will also have a PDF and a recording of this event and will be able to send that to you within the next week.  So, again for those that weren’t able to attend, weren’t with us for the entire presentation today, I will be more than happy to follow up with that.  But thank you again everybody for taking time out of your day to join us.  Have yourself a great day, thanks again.

[End of Audio]

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