March 30, 2015
In February, Kristin Chase ’03 was presented an Outstanding AlumKnights Award by the College of Sciences at their annual awards reception. The honor was based on her dedication to the UCF community and accomplishments in the field of psychology. Kristin serves as the Director of Organizational Development for Universal Orlando. We recently interviewed her to discuss her job, how UCF’s I/O Masters Program helped prepare her, and advice for current students.
Q: Could you describe your role with Universal?
I am the Director of the Organizational Development (OD) department for Universal Orlando. I’ve contributed to Universal since 2003 through consulting and leading employee feedback surveys, performance and talent management, leadership development, mentoring, selection and assessment tool and competency model development, employee research, facilitation, and team effectiveness. I am a 2003 graduate of the UCF Masters’ program in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, became PHR certified in December 2011, and SHRM-CP certified in February 2015.
Q: What sparked your interest in OD?
In high school I took a Psychology class and loved it, but realized I didn’t want to go the traditional clinical or counseling route. I took an independent study course in I/O Psychology at Stetson University, and realized it focused on figuring out why people do what they do and motivating them – at work! As I networked with friends during grad school who were already employed, I learned that the Organizational Development was the most closely matched field that had several large employers with dedicated departments. By doing an internship with Orange County Government in their Personnel Testing area focused on selection and assessment, I was able to experience the “I-side” of I/O, and wanted to expand to be in more of what I would call an “OD Generalist” role.
Q: How would you sell OD to current I/O Masters students who might be interested in the field?
Organizational Development is one of the most common department functions that exist with a direct connection to I/O Psychology. This function tends to be fairly broad in scope and enable a wide variety of learning experiences that span the scope of both “I” and “O”. When you are an OD practitioner, there is often a focus on consulting within the organization, thus allowing you to directly translate your skills and knowledge from school and learn how to apply them and meet the needs of leaders and employees. There is significant potential for visibility and impact at both the individual, team, and organization level.
Q: How do you think the I/O Masters program helped prepare you for this role and work in general post-graduation?
Some of the classes I took such as Statistics and Organizational Psychology built the roots of my knowledge “tree” that I continue to grow each day I’m on the job. Some of the textbooks remain on my shelf as a reference for when those tougher calls have to be made “by the book”. Overall, the discipline and focus of being a researcher that is instilled in almost every course, combined with the practical application of theories that is evident in classes such as Assessment Centers, helped me to build a solid foundation of analytical depth and pragmatism.
Another important skill that I developed in school is presenting findings and engaging audiences. I hone my presentation and facilitation skills almost every week as part of my current job working with everyone from hourly Team Members to senior Executives at Universal Orlando.
Q: What advice would you give current I/O Masters students looking for internships and full-time positions post-graduation?
“Analytical skills” are a really hot hiring and resume buzz phrase right now. To help assess this when I’m interviewing, I want to hear about specific experiences that demonstrate what you can do to mine data, identify trends and patterns, and help those not in I/O understand what it all means. When interviewing, be ready with detailed examples and come prepared with questions about the company and the position to help “self-assess” if it’s right for you. Seek a broad experience that will both allow you to dabble in different areas of OD, as well as dive deep into one or two specific areas. This will help you more quickly assess if you want to go down the path of “generalist” in I/O, OD, Talent Management, HR or similar areas, or hone in on one particular area of our field.
For those of you without “formal” work experience, highlight your volunteer work and extracurricular activities that demonstrate leadership as well as analytical potential. Determine how important it is to you to be part of a larger company versus work on your own in a more independent setting. And last but not least, remember to have fun and build lasting relationships with your co-workers so you have a network to call upon in the future!