Life After Psychology

On October 29th, 2021, the Berger Institute for Individual and Social Development, hosted three panelists who pursued non-traditional career paths after earning degrees in Psychology: Faye Sahai, Haley Umans, and Matt Wallaert. Ms. Sahai is now a partner at Mirai Global, Managing Director at Vinaj Ventures, and an Advisory Board member for the Berger Institute.  Ms. Umans is a PhD candidate at Claremont Graduate University and the Director of Evaluations at LA’s BEST. Finally, Mr. Wallaert is the Head of Behavioral Science at frog, a consultancy firm specializing in designing and building experiences, products and businesses. 

Each speaker had valuable advice for students, and they elaborated on how psychology is an important part of their professional roles even though they are not directly working in academic or clinical psychology fields. Each speaker took a unique journey to arrive where they are now in their careers. Ms. Umans described how she chose the field of program evaluations because she felt that it opened a lot of doors for her, and that she could pursue many different directions with the experience. After realizing that she enjoyed research and working with children, she found that doing evaluations of programs designed for children gave her the perfect balance between research and community engagement.

Mr. Wallaert continued on a more traditional academic path by continuing to study psychology in graduate school, but he left that path to become one of the pioneers of the field of behavioral science. Working in the field of technology, his training in psychology and human behavior has been especially helpful in the field of technology. Mr. Wallaert described how the focus of his work differs from that of academics. For example, rather than wondering if a p-value is significant, he says, his work is concerned with understanding how technology design may impact the risk to return ratio.

Ms. Sahai explored many different careers and companies before finding her passion in venture capital where she is now. She explored traditional consulting and non-profit work, and utilized every skill she learned in each position as she continued through her career path. Ms. Sahai also highlighted the importance of understanding behavioral science in her work, explaining how it shapes many of her decisions on the job.

Attendees gained useful insights from the panelists, and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to hear their stories. 

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How We Thrive at Work: Understanding the Needs of Minoritized Employees

Students and staff working at the METRICS lab and the Berger Institute over the summer were able to take part in a thrilling panel that discussed “How We Thrive at Work: Understanding the Needs of Minoritized Employees” led by four distinguished panelists: Dr. Alicia Grandey, Dr. Mikki Hebl, Dr. Enrica Ruggs, and Dr. Daan Van Knippenberg. 

Dr. Alicia Grandey joined the industrial-organizational psychology program at Penn State University in 1999. Her 65+ publications and book focus on performing emotional labor in customer service and workplace mistreatment in the diverse workplace, and her award-winning research is frequently cited by both scholars and media. Dr. Grandey highlighted how social movements over the past few years, such as the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movement have brought in emotions often unseen into the workplace. Dr. Grandey also discussed how women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) face more consequences for showcasing anger than their fellow co-workers. To combat this, she suggested that leaders do both self-work and reflection to understand these issues themselves, and that they create a time and space for these emotionally laboring conversations to occur. 

Dr. Mikki Hebl is a professor of psychology and management at Rice University. Her research specifically focuses on workplace discrimination and the barriers stigmatized individuals (such as women and ethnic minorities) face in social interactions, the hiring process, business settings, and the medical community. Dr. Hebl, in response to the question of how new employees can make change in the workplace, reminded the students that they are the future as the incoming workforce, and that despite not having organizational power as new employees, they should still act upon their eagerness to help minoritized employees. 

Dr. Enrica Ruggs is an Assistant Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion (CWDI) in the Fogelman College of Business and Economics at the University of Memphis. In her research she examines individual, organizational, and societal factors that influence inequality in the workplace. Dr. Ruggs reminded students that both managers and employees can use empathy to diminish discrimination in the workplace. Dr. Ruggs highlighted how empathy is a powerful, research-backed tool for creating work environments where employees feel valued and are able to succeed.

Dr. Daan van Knippenberg is Joseph F. Rocereto Chair in Leadership at Drexel University. He was Editor in Chief of Academy of Management Annals, Founding Editor of Organizational Psychology Review, and Associate Editor of Academy of Management Journal, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and Journal of Organizational Behavior. Dr. Knippenberg reminded students that an organizational structure where employees have to hide their identities will make it difficult for those employees to thrive, as what we do is intertwined with who we are. While the work employees accomplish is important, the success of employees also depends on their levels of belonging and comfort in the workplace. 

Attendees were inspired by the panelists’ encouraging words and advice, and were thankful for this opportunity. Follow @bergerinstitute on Facebook and Instagram for future updates on events!

The Problem of Conflicting Goals: A Philosophical Approach

In the 2nd segment of a 3-part series on Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Happiness, Dr. Valerie Tiberius (University of Minnesota) spoke about the philosophical perspective of conflicting goals and well-being. What are our main motivations as goal-oriented human beings? How can we reduce our stress and increase our well-being through addressing our conflicting goals? Dr. Tiberius addressed these questions to a remote Athenaeum audience on Monday evening, April 26th.

For much of history, goal conflict has been talked about with two terms: morality, or wanting to do what’s right, and self-interest, or wanting to do what’s good for ourselves. But “most of our goals don’t neatly divide into these two buckets,” argues Dr. Tiberius. We have multiple goals all throughout our lives and in various sectors of our lives (work, family, school, community, etc.), and not being able to fulfill our most important goals can produce unhappiness and stress. On the other hand, being able to fulfill our most important goals over time can improve our well-being.

So how do we go about fulfilling our most important goals and overcoming our goal conflict? Essentially, we want to look at our values, which are the “relatively stable, ultimate goals that harmonize our desires, emotions, and thoughts,” according to Dr. Tiberius. We want to look at what ultimate values are at stake in our goal conflict. Dr. Tiberius outlines three strategies for reducing goal conflict in relation to our values. First, refine or reinterpret your goals. Dr. Tiberius shared that in their own goal conflict between wanting to please everyone and being successful in the more aggressive field of philosophy, Dr. Tiberius reframed it as: “How can I change how I think about success in philosophy?” Second, you could give up a conflicting goal. We can look at ones that aren’t good for us or our values (e.g., maybe being perfect or having everyone like us). Third, you can prioritize and adjust. “When we have a better sense of what our ultimate goals are, we can think about how to prioritize and pursue them . . . New paths open when we recognize what really matters,” says Dr. Tiberius.

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Money Matters: CMC Alum Shares Finance Strategies That College Students Need to Know

College students were able to learn how to manage money and make smart choices with the help of CMC alum and Certified Financial Planner, Mari Adam (CMC ’80). Adam has worked at several wealth management firms specializing in financial planning and portfolio management, and she founded and ran her own comprehensive wealth management firm in Boca Raton, Florida, for 25 years. Adam recently sold the firm to become part of Mercer Advisors, a leading national investment advisor with 50 offices across the US and over $27 billion under management. Adam joined the Berger institute on Friday morning to present “10 Things Your Parents Never Taught You About Money”, a presentation with 10 tips to help college students, especially women, who are often left out of conversations regarding money, lacking financial literacy and confidence with money, learn how to manage their money.

Some takeaways from the presentation include making sure to get started on saving right away, taking charge of your finances, spending in balance, making sure to invest what you save, and having confidence in yourself. Adam showcased that there are gaps between saving in women and men—women aged 16-25 are 50% less likely than men to have investment accounts; yet 95% of women will also be solely responsible for their own or their family’s finances at some point in their life. Thus, women are often responsible for money but are less likely to know how to manage it, as they are often not taught about money management growing up.

Adam also made sure to really highlight the importance of making a plan and being the CEO of your own money; “money is all about having choices, if you are not in control of your money it is difficult to make your own choices” she said. If you write this plan down, you are more confident about it in the future, and are likely to save two to three times as much money. She also suggested putting your savings on autopilot and opening a Roth IRA or 401k so that you have financial wellness when you retire. Overall, Adam says, have confidence and make the money decisions that are right for you.

Try testing your own financial literacy! Adam suggests taking the GFLEC three questions test:

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The Pursuit of Happiness: What Science Can Tell Us

There’s a reason we’re all chasing happiness all the time. According to Dr. Todd Kashdan (George Mason University), happy people are more successful and creative, have more meaningful relationships, are more resilient, and even have stronger immune systems. In last night’s Athenaeum presentation, Kashdan shared that despite these benefits, we cannot seem to stay happy. Why is that? There are two primary reasons. The first, according to Kashdan, is hedonic adaptation, or the process of becoming accustomed to new situations over time. Say we get a new car. At first it’s exciting – we’re smiling, we’re showing it off to others, we’re having a blast driving it – but eventually that novelty wears off as we get used to having that car in our life. We go back to our original level of happiness eventually, which is different for everyone. The second reason we have a hard time staying happy is due to a concept that Kashdan calls “emotional time travel.” “We’re terrible at predicting how something will make us feel,” Kashdan explains, yet we still try to predict anyway and make decisions based on this prediction.

Despite these setbacks to happiness, Kashdan assures us that “you can get better at achieving this thing called happiness.” Two helpful pathways that have come out of scientific research are gratitude interventions and kindness interventions. Writing in a journal once per week about who you’re grateful for and what you’re grateful for can lead to more happiness (but be careful not to make this more frequent as that can actually decrease your happiness, warns Kashdan). Acts of kindness can also boost your happiness, but only if there’s consistent effort and variety in what you do. If you only donate food to a food pantry and it’s only when you remember, then you won’t get that happiness boost. But consistently doing different types of acts of kindness, like donating, holding the door for someone, leaving a large tip, etc. will help. Even better? Make the activities match your personality. Are you outgoing? Optimistic? Do activities that fit well with who you are so that you’ll really feel the benefits.

This presentation was part of a 3-part series on Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Happiness. Follow @bergerinstitute for updates on future events!