The Industrial/Organizational Psychology Program’s new Master of Professional Studies degree has been in the works for a long time. It’s a natural extension of a need to develop programs to make education accessible to a wider audience, including individuals working full time and all across the nation. Dr. Afra Ahmad, the MPS Program Director, sees this as part of the goal of the new program.
Dr. Ahmad first worked on developing an online course during her time as a PhD Industrial/Organizational Psychology student at George Mason University when she was teaching PSYC 333: Industrial and Organizational Psychology in 2013 to undergraduate students. This is a course that examines the application of psychological principles and methods to problems commonly encountered in business and industry. At that point, there were only 1-2 psychology courses online, so she took the initiative to develop an online version of Psych 333. She saw the need for the online course when she taught the in-person offering late in the evenings, usually 7:10-10:00pm, to working professionals dedicated to advancing themselves in their careers through their educational goals.
Dr. Ahmad ensured three central in-person course components were made available in the online offering as well. One, that there would be a case study or something relevant to the textbook to confirm students were keeping up with foundational course readings. Second, students would interact and learn from each other by sharing their own personal work and relevant experiences related to the course material. This exercise would include students who did not have a job as well. For example, students who did not have a boss or supervisor likely would have some experience with hierarchical relationships that they could relate to course material on leadership. They would do this through discussion posts, to help them continue to engage with the material. Third, the students would relate course material to an outside source, such as a link to a TEDx talk. Dr. Ahmad wanted to take the in-class experience and translate it to an online experience in a way that made the lessons more accessible for students.
When the decision was made to offer an MPS Program, Dr. Ahmad was the perfect choice to help bring the program online, especially as it is the first completely online Master’s Degree offered by the Psychology Department. All of her degrees have come from George Mason and within the Psychology Department: she received her BA in 2008, her MA in 2012, and finally her PhD in 2016. She has helped this very collaborative process, working with Dr. Steve Zaccaro and the partners at Wiley to develop a program that is going to ensure students receive high quality education from George Mason University.
The MPS program is designed for those working professionals who are in HR, management, I/O, or related positions, and want to implement the information they are learning into their jobs immediately. The program has rolling admissions, meaning they accept students for Fall, Spring, and Summer cohorts. Courses are taught in 8-week modules so that students are focused on one course at a time. There are 10 total course requirements (for a total of 30 credits), including six foundational courses, two elective courses and two practicums. Current I/O faculty and alumni from the I/O program are developing and teaching the MPS courses. The partnership with Wiley is set up so that George Mason provides content expertise, while Wiley provides advertising and technical support This collaboration requires a great deal of teamwork to ensure that everything is working towards the ultimately goal of creating an online accessible program for a wider range of students.
Ultimately, Dr. Ahmad believes the process of collaborating with Mason faculty and Wiley is pushing her to be a better instructor and program director. She hopes to make sure that no one who wants to get ahead is held back by their inability to get to class on campus. The driving goal to make education accessible to all students makes the MPS program an important inclusion to the Psychology Department and to the broader George Mason University community.