Dear Students,

Spring has finally sprung in New York City. The Comprehensive Exam is behind us, as is SIOP.  Baseball season is here. Game of Thrones is back on. Taxes remain certain. The end of the semester and graduation will be here before we know it. I hope April is treating you gently.

I have been thinking about power and authority a lot lately. My group relations colleagues, Debra Noumair, Matthew Tye, Flora Taylor, Eliat Aram and I gathered over a long weekend this month for a working retreat on group relations at TC. Understanding the use and abuse of power and authority are central to group relations, so we discussed those ideas at length together. Further, I just finished a memoir written by one of my favorite fiction writers where she detailed her father’s horrific abuse. I have enjoyed this author’s writing for two decades without ever knowing how she suffered under her father’s abhorrent dominance.

A friend sent me this link this month:

I read the entire thing, riveted by the image of Alaa Salah standing up for her beliefs and appreciative of the twitter thread explaining the context and symbolism surrounding a conflict about which I am embarrassed to be so ignorant.

This past weekend I attended the memorial for Professor L. Lee Knefelkamp, also known as Dr K, who died in September 2018, five years after she retired from the Social-Organizational Psychology faculty here at TC. Dr. K’s scholarly contributions are legion. She was a brilliant scholar, a master teacher, and a generous mentor and colleague. She was a former Dean, Program Director, Senior Scholar, one of the founders of the Eisenhower Leader Development Program (ELDP), and a full tenured professor with a long, illustrious career. Her impact and imprint on thousands is indisputable. She certainly had gobs of power and authority. Yet, at her memorial, Laura Fisher, 2013 TC MA graduate and former OHDCC president said, “I remember Dr. K’s humility most of all. She always told us not to take notes on what she said, but to take notes on what we said to each other, our fellow students in the classroom, because that was where we would learn the most. And she was right.” With all her professional accolades and titles, Dr. K was remembered for her humility.

All of you also have power and authority, in different amounts and in different contexts with varying impact, yes, but you all have it. There is power and authority in your education, training, wisdom and knowledge, your experiences at work and at home, your interpersonal skills, your core values, and in your willingness to learn together and to teach each other. I urge you to think about your own power and authority, how you use it, where you might be at risk of abusing it, how you might wield it for good. And, I hope you will try to exercise it with humility. With gratitude to Dr. K, I am going to try to do the same.


Warm regards,

Sarah Brazaitis, PhD
MA Program Director


Current Student Profile

Craig Aman is a captain in the U.S. Army and a full-time student in the Social-Organizational Psychology M.A. Program. He is one of 24 military service members part of this year's Eisenhower Leader Development Program (ELDP). Craig is passionate about leveraging our most valuable asset of human capital and has stated the coursework and deliberate reflection designed into the program have been pivotal in his development.

Prior to joining the Organizational Psychology team, Craig has served in various roles as a Medical Service Corps Officer, including time in Washington State, Virginia, North Carolina, and a deployment to Iraq. Whether he was in command of 82 medical personnel charged with providing tactical medical care and evacuation as part of a 4,500 paratrooper Army unit, managing a small staff coordinating inter-theater personnel and logistics movements, or navigating covert operations in staff meetings, Craig has observed countless interactions and artifacts that speak directly to the value one gains from the tenets and theories presented in this program.

Craig is most thankful for the direct and indirect lessons he has absorbed from Dr. Burke, the critical insights gained from Dr. Church's course which he has directly applied to the Army's strategic talent management task force, and most importantly, the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from his colleagues.

Following this program, Craig will be assigned to the United States Military Academy at West Point as a Tactical Officer overseeing a 120-Cadet company. In this position, he will coach, mentor, and set an environment to assist in West Point's mission to commission leaders of character for service to the nation as second lieutenants in the Army.

Craig's wife, Alison, is also an active duty Army officer who is completing her master's degree through Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). In addition to his studies, Craig enjoys spending time with Alison and their three children (with a fourth on the way), painting, gardening, backpacking, hiking, and listening to audiobooks.

Alumni Profile

Alexandra Rivera is a proud graduate of the 2010 MA class who could not have imagined the opportunities that followed after her TC days. She is currently an AVP of Learning & Development at OppenheimerFunds, where she has spent the last two years providing L&D opportunities for the Legal, Risk and Compliance functions and broader change and talent development initiatives for the firm.

After graduating from Teachers College, Alex moved to Arizona and became a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Specialist. While not exactly the job she had in mind after graduating from the MA program, finding a "relevant" job in a new city with no professional connections was a humbling experience. However, she quickly learned that with the right manager invested in your growth, development and contributions, a seemingly irrelevant job can still move your career forward.

After two years in Arizona, Alex moved back to New York where she spent over four years in the Organizational Development and Learning team at NYU Langone Health System as a Training Specialist and later as an Organizational Development Specialist, primarily focused on small group interventions and change management. Alex left NYU to pursue other opportunities and coincidentally now works alongside a fellow TC alum.

Today, Alex is leading efforts to help employees manage the changes associated with the firm's recent acquisition by Invesco. She will be joining the combined firm in May as a People Development Consultant.

Alex lives in Brooklyn in a multicultural and multi-generational home with her husband, mother, and her twin daughters. She enjoys dancing with her girls in the living room, the occasional date night, and running in Prospect Park.

Alex loves building connections with fellow TC students and alumni. Don't hesitate to connect with her on LinkedIn.

Recommended Readings

Miserable at work? Tasked with helping others who are miserable at work? This article suggests finding happiness in your job might not be as hard as you think.

As always, with all these recommendations, don't hesitate to let me know what you think and/or to offer your own suggestions for possible inclusion in upcoming newsletters. I welcome your input.