09:35 AM

I/O psychology graduate students place second in national competition

I/O psychology

In a national intercollegiate competition for industrial/organizational psychology graduate students last month, University of Houston-Clear Lake’s team, consisting of Team Captain Daryl Thong, Ana Florencia Garcia and Ifeoluwa Bada came in second place. Their excellent showing was all the more notable, said Program Director and Associate Professor of I/O Psychology Alex Milam, because of the 10 teams competing. UH-Clear Lake’s students were the only first-year graduate students.

“The ‘I/O COVID-19 Competition,’ hosted by University of Maryland-Baltimore County, featured teams of three second-year students from universities all around the country, but our team of first-year students did extremely well,” Milam said.

He explained that he was on the committee to help design the remotely-held competition, along with many other program directors from around the country. “We found that although some students were strongly affected by the economic and health crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, others were simply bored sitting at home,” he said. “We wanted to find a way for those students to apply their skills to the situation in which we all find ourselves.”

Thong said that the focus of the competition was to analyze nine questions using I/O perspectives to help corporations and organizations today cope during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We were judged on our I/O theory, creativity and practical application,” Thong said. “We were figuring out how businesses are coping and what they can do to improve the situation.”

Garcia said the questions were about what companies could do to promote a better work environment, how to increase motivation and engagement, and find out how priorities have shifted under the current work-from-home circumstances. “We leveraged these questions into I/O theory to create innovative answers to we can help companies cope with the situation,” she said.

Had the pandemic not forced everyone into home quarantine, Bada said, the competition would have been much different. “The competition was adapted to see what we could come up with to deal with the impact of COVID-19,” she said.

Thong said the competition helped him grow as a person, see different perspectives, and push his teammates. “We didn’t win first place, but we sent our report to a lot of people and got feedback, so the competition didn’t end there,” he said.

“Initially, the organizing group discussed not making this a competition at this difficult time, but I knew that with our people, that’s the only way they would have taken part,” Milam said. “The great part about our program is that although many of our students are very competitive, it does not hurt the program. They’re also very cooperative and supportive of each other. We have a lot of great students just like them, which is why I love my job.”

Learn more about UHCL’s Industrial/Organizational Psychology program online.