What is the career impact of an online degree or certificate from The Chicago School? In these profiles, you can learn more about some of our alumni, their professional backgrounds, and how The Chicago School’s online-blended degree programs have contributed to their career development.
Mariana Tomas, M.A. in I/O Psychology Alumni
Skills and accomplishments: Six Sigma Black Belt, Project Facilitation and Change Management
Can you tell us a little about your undergraduate work? What did you major in?
I am an alumnus of the North Park University Information Systems Management program. It is a degree in management with a focus on the information technology.
Please tell us more about your work background, as well as your experience with Six Sigma.
Basically, Six Sigma is a customer focused process for quantifying business performance in terms of the variability of product, process, or service quality. The three primary goals of this approach are to improve customer satisfaction, reduce cycle time and to reduce the overall number of defects, primarily by reducing variation. I practiced Six Sigma and Lean for almost five years within Providence Health and Services, a not-for-profit health care system which includes 27 hospitals, 214 physician clinics, senior services and supportive housing, a health plan, a liberal arts university, a high school and many other health and educational services. The health system spans five states – Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
[My projects] focus on improvements that result in better quality of care for the patients we serve. I worked with a variety of health care professionals (e.g. physicians, nurses, care managers, etc.) who would come together to form a cross-functional project team. My job was to provide facilitation and project management, change management, as well as Six Sigma/Lean expertise.
- What is your current job and what are your responsibilities?
I am currently transitioning jobs. I am leaving the position of the Change Facilitator and entering the position of the Director of Business Engagement. As Change Facilitator, my focus was on the “people side” of the 12 clinical advancement teams. I worked with a Project Manager who took care of the schedule related work, and I focused on engagement, training, defining processes, and change management. I got a lot of practice managing virtual teams, and facilitating over the phone. The new role I am transitioning into is responsible for change management support to the business functions, meaning revenue cycle and access, so that people in these important areas are well supported through the transitions into a new unified system.
- Why did you choose The Chicago School and why did you want to study I/O psychology?
Anyone who has to put a team together will tell you that methodology and tools account for 20% of the success. The 80% comes from building highly productive teams and facilitating the process through the phases of group formation. Before I decided to study with The Chicago School, I was already trained in facilitation methodologies, but I felt that the depth of understanding could only come through focused study in the field of I/O psychology. The Chicago School’s reputation and the flexibility of the online program were the major reasons to pick TCS over any other school.
- What is the correlation between I/O psychology and Six Sigma? How do they complement each other?
To sum it up, both methods are scientific, and while Six Sigma focuses on process, I/O Psychology focuses on people. Together, they provide a holistic approach to organizational improvements.
In more detail; Six Sigma is based on the scientific method and includes data and fact based problem solving and project management methodologies. As I/O psychologists often don’t get formal training in project management or structured problem solving, which are often necessary to implement our systems effectively; on time and at cost. When an I/O psychologist understands and uses the language and frameworks of Six Sigma, the suggestions about improving employee performance in organizations are taken more seriously.
However, speaking only “Six Sigma” or another traditional process engineering language can leave the people you work with in complete confusion. Traditionally trained process improvement engineers are often lacking the I/O psychologist’s understanding how the attributes of work and workers drive business outcomes, so the two disciplines are absolutely complimentary.
- How has your master’s in I/O psychology helped you in your current job?
[In the Change Facilitator role] I managed 12 virtual teams of over 200 clinicians collaborating on organization-wide clinical practice standardization; and on a very tight timeline. My master’s helped with this tremendously, especially what I learned around building virtual teams and managing them successfully.
- What is the most satisfying part of your job?
The most satisfying part is definitely making my role obsolete. I believe that when a team is built to last and to be self-managed, the manager or the facilitator can step out, and the team will continue to perform.
- How do you envision the MA in I/O program at The Chicago School preparing you to reach your career goals?
Organizational psychology is my passion, so I can see the connections to everything I did and I am about to do. The organizations are made of humans, but it is only recently that the business world has started recognizing that humans may need some help in organizational transitions. Such transitions are the major disruptions in the organizational life--such as large IT implementations, mergers, acquisitions, down-sizing, re-orgs, etc. The speed and frequency of organizational disruptions is only going to increase, so I see that organizations which care for the well-being of their workforce will see such help through transitions as major factor in maintaining the productivity through these difficult times. The I/O background will be indispensable for me in helping the business/finance professional transition to the new way of doing things.
- How long did it take you to complete your master’s degree?
A little less than two years.
- How did the faculty help and/or inspire you?
I am very impressed that the instructors are not only theorists, but also apply their knowledge in real organizational situations. This is why I found the curriculum and learning to be very relevant, and the instructors provided that background and examples from their own experience, which I found very inspiring.
- Do you have advice for those interested in a career in this field?
I would say to anyone who is considering a graduate degree to study the subject that you are passionate about, and that energizes you. You will have to sacrifice other things in life to reach your goal, so your goal should be worthwhile. If you decide to pick I/O psychology, don’t just be limited to what the traditional roles of I/O psychologists were in the past. The world is changing, and you can partake – you can influence where the I/O field is going. There is much to do, the world needs you!
Michael O. Perkins, Training Specialist, M.A. in I/O Psychology Alumni
Hometown: San Antonio, TX
What motivated you to pursue an advanced degree in your field?
My work in the U.S. Army for 20 years as a Behavioral Health Specialist included organizational consulting, combat stress control and supporting employee selection programs. After retiring from the Army and working in civil service, I saw formal education in IO Psychology as the way to progress professionally. Industrial/Organizational Psychology is an interesting field with potential in various areas.
Why did you choose The Chicago School of Professional Psychology for your degree?
When researching I/O Psychology programs online, The Chicago School came up as highly regarded. I requested information and was quickly contacted by a school representative who explained the program. What set TCS apart from any other program was the emphasis on taking students who had professional experience and motivation rather than a high GRE.
What are your career goals, and how do you think the M.A. in I/O Psychology program will help you reach them?
My career goals are to progress in my current work for the U.S. Army Medical Department. A formal degree in I/O Psychology will give me skills, knowledge and qualifications to apply to a wider array of positions. Beyond that, I hope to consult and teach in the community college system.
In one word, this degree will provide me with options. Options lead to more choice.
- Describe your relationship with your professors. In what ways do they maintain a connection with you and support your educational goals?
During the program, I had a number of professors. What was consistently demonstrated was a desire on their part to go beyond theories and principles to application. My professors gave me individual feedback on assignments and responded to online postings with follow-up questions. For only communicating from a distance, this was incredibly helpful.
Other resources within TCS are the academic advisors, student services and financial aid folks. They made each class easy by automatically enrolling me and sending out emails with new class dates, books lists and financial aid information. They kept me on track, which allowed me to focus on classwork.
- How long did it take you to earn your master’s degree?
Sticking to the program, it took approximately 21 months to complete it.
- Do you have any advice for those interested in a career in this field?
I was working full time and traveling extensively throughout the program, and these tips really helped me.
- Have a firm goal from the start. It should focus on what completing the degree program will give you. Refer to this often, especially when you are discouraged.
- Hang up your degree map up on the wall. Refer to it often. Check off each course as you finish it. Look at the classes coming up. You can watch your progress and it will give you hope.
- Set up a comfortable, functional study area. Make this your “classroom” and a place you want to study in. If traveling, set up your hotel room the same way.
- Get family support. This is critical. Your family will see much less of you throughout the program, but they can also be a good sounding board for your ideas.
- Get everything ready for each new class. Obtain books, logons and passwords for classes, library resources, and E-reserves. Write logons and passwords down and keep them handy — do not rely on your memory.
- Since the program is online, make sure you have good equipment, including a computer and printer. It is also good to have a backup plan. Systems break down. If your computer fails, you will need to get on another one quickly. This also means you should be diligent about creating backups of your weekly course materials on DVD or other media that you can stick into another computer and keep working.
- Manage your electronic files. Set up folders for each week of each class. Set up E-reserve folders for each week. This will keep you from misplacing your work.
- At the start of each week, create a document with the assignments for the week. Create APA references for the readings. This will make it much easier to copy and paste into discussion boards.
- Develop a schedule and stick to it. Each week is similarly structured for assignments. Plan to spend several hours reading and writing each week. Split it up to make it easier to get through the week.
- Become intimately familiar with APA format. There are online applications you can purchase that will make setting up each paper much easier. You can also create a template to reuse. Setting up a correctly formatted document with a reference section is about a third of each written assignment.
- When you get discouraged, refer to your goal, your degree map to show you what you have already accomplished, and seek support from your family.
Learn more about how the online-blended programs at The Chicago School can help you reach your career goals. Call us at 866-907-4209 or request more information today.