By: Kathleen Stedman
If you had asked me what I’d be doing in the summer after college graduation, chances are low I’d respond with work that had anything to do with organizational management. When the Covid-19 chaos arrived, I found myself at home, finishing my last semester of college remotely and asynchronously. I was already deeply entrenched in the process of applying to research positions, but the realization hit me quickly, that the pandemic meant fewer job opportunities for new graduates. A posting on my college’s Career Development Office site caught my eye, as a company by the name of Plaid was advertising a remote position to help complete two research studies. A cover letter and interview later, I was thrilled to find out that I had been chosen to work on the research studies.
Through the course of my work with Plaid, I’ve been able to gain incredible insight into a world I thought I’d never step into. I was eager to contribute to this work, as I drew parallels between this research and my personal interest in psychology and addiction studies. With Plaid, I was tasked with two projects: one focused on the results of an annual leadership program for a fraternal organization; and, another focused on a behavioral intervention program, also for a fraternal organization. Over the past two months, I’ve re-coded and analyzed data, collaborated on literature reviews, and drafted a formal results write-up to be considered for publication. I’ve gained mentorship relationships with those I have been collaborating with, and have begun to tap into the complexities of studying organizational behavior.
Throughout these projects, I’ve drawn parallels between my personal interest in substance addiction, and organizational management. In particular, I drew on my passion for reducing stigma on addiction and emphasizing education and rehabilitation as a connection to the perception that behavioral intervention for organizations, including fraternities, is best when it is educational and rehabilitative, as opposed to punitive and sanctioned. The emphasis of understanding that organizational management work strives to simply “be better” is at the core of much research. Psychology, as the backbone of organizational management as a field, seeks to not only understand, but to look forward in ways to improve. I’ve learned through my work that the scope of Psychology research in general is broad, but the objective seems to remain the same for most every niche section.
Additionally, I’ve learned to truly embrace the complexity and importance of numbers and quantitative data in Psychology-based research and organizations. While Psychology balances the line of being considered a soft science, working with statistics and data analyses through research has further validated my understanding of the importance of data-driven research, especially to organizations. The intersection of completing research on human behavior with statistics has amplified my belief in Psychology as a science. Pop Psychology, or the general understanding of Psychology (which often refers to concepts based in scientific truths but have since been modified through modern society to be more casual) has often projected a small part of the Psychology world, and led to misconceived perceptions of being a pseudo-science. Understanding concepts like validity and reliability within Psychology research have proved integral to understanding how we can best objectively observe human behavior in organizations. In the case of my work with Plaid, I worked with self-reported responses from fraternity members in relation to their understanding of leadership and membership. While self-report is susceptible to internal biases, the use of converting responses on a scale to number values, and evaluating average means among different groups has allowed me to better understand consistency and accuracy of a measurement, such as a self-report survey. When I began my studies in Psychology, I often undersold the importance of understanding numbers in my work, as I often focused on concepts. Working with datasets in this internship has allowed me to fully understand the applied statistical analyses that are required in Psychology research, and how integral they are when studying human behavior.
Perhaps of greatest importance, I have gained a stronger foundation in self-motivation and management. I certainly never thought my first job post-graduation would be conducted remotely, however I have come to appreciate the nature of remote work, as it has strengthened my abilities in time management, planning, and motivation. Adapting to the nature of my “office” while in a pandemic has been challenging, yet entertaining and more human at the same time. I can recall being in a video meeting, during which my nine-year-old Black Labrador chose to run up to the window directly next to me, and let out a deep bark that made me (and others) jump. Google Calendar and Docs have become my closest friend through it all, as I’ve set deadlines, meetings, and daily reminders regarding work details. In strengthening my self-motivation and management skills, I find myself feeling more confident moving forward as a student and researcher. While my future seems somewhat uncertain at the moment, I look forward to applying these skills to become a better researcher, writer, and data analyst. I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity to grow, and believe this experience has made me a more inquisitive and curious person when it comes to understanding human behavior.
Author Bio: Kathleen is a recent graduate from Kenyon College, where she majored in Psychology with a strong background in Neuroscience. She is passionate about understanding human behavior in order to reduce social stigmas. She enjoys hikes with her family, trying spicy Asian cuisine, and psychological thrillers.