Dear Organizational Psychology MA Students, 

 
It's been a minute. I miss you.
 
A colleague at INSEAD, the Organizational Behavior Professor Gianpiero Petriglieri, recently tweeted, "It is easier being in each other's presence, or in each other's absence, than in the constant presence of each other's absence." I couldn't agree more.
 
I hope you and yours are holding up okay in these unprecedented and deeply challenging times. My heart goes out to those of you who are coping with illness and loss and to those who are stuck far from home and loved ones. I know there is a lot to grieve. I am grieving too. I am also trying hard to hold on to silver linings, times of joy, surprising opportunities, and finding new meaning and shared purpose.
 
Naturally, I have been thinking a lot about group dynamics, specifically about how the most successful groups get their work done, and done well, but also pay attention to how the work is done and who does it. In the most accomplished groups, members are attuned both to the talents and to the needs of each other. In the difficult days we're living in, I believe it's important to work to the highest standard we can muster, and to be as creative, innovative, nimble and proficient as we can. At the same time, it's essential to be compassionate, humane, and caring-to notice and attend to what those around us might need and to respond with kindness and generosity-at work, at home, in our community and in our world.
 
I have been thinking of the Chilean Mining Disaster and the 33 miners who were trapped underground for over two months in 2010. In my Group Dynamics course, I sometimes teach the Case of the Chilean Miners using B.A.R.T. - boundaries, authority, role and task - as the organizing framework because the miners used their own version of BART to survive. They established boundaries around separate spaces underground for work, relaxation, hygiene, and prayer. They formed a pragmatic leadership hierarchy and created differentiated roles and clear, specific daily tasks. They supported each other by, among many things, keeping their collective work commitments. The miners were on the brink of death before rescuers were able to establish contact with them and send them the supplies they desperately needed and eventually bring them out of the mine. (The miners' rescue was an exemplary feat of intergroup cooperation, by the way.) The miners' predicament could have become an underground version of Lord of the Flies. But instead, under extreme duress and the ever-present prospect of death, the miners were exceedingly caring with each other. A decade later, they remain a revelation to me of perseverance, resilience, and cooperation.
 
You, our students in Social-Organizational Psychology, are also constant examples of perseverance and resilience. I hear your stories of challenge daily, and I am awed by your persistence in studying, working, preparing and participating fully in class, standing for election to serve our community on the OHDCC leadership team, volunteering in your communities, and taking care of your loved ones and each other. I hope you all remember that as students in the S-OP program you are uniquely positioned to respond to this current context with ideas and skills on how to work together across boundaries, how to navigate continuous change, how to forge opportunities from crisis, how to thrive on a virtual team, how to follow (and lead) the science and use evidence-based practice to be essential change leaders in a world that has turned upside down. The world needs you and all of us in Org Psych to work to our highest capacity and with the utmost compassion.
 
We are not being affected by COVID-19 equally. There are deep fissures in our society and among us that render the most vulnerable even more exposed to the health and economic ravages of this virus. The poor, the old, immigrants, communities of color, the uninsured-these are just some who are disproportionately suffering. In group dynamics we talk a lot about interdependence and interrelatedness-of team members, of groups in organizations and organizations in their environments. Our interdependence has never been clearer to me. We belong to each other. There is no us and them, only us. We can utilize our education and skills to work on solutions to these critical systemic issues made even more apparent during this pandemic. Our mandate is clear-we must take care of each other. 
 
Please know I speak for all my faculty and staff colleagues when I tell you that we are with you and we are here for you. Please reach out to any of us if you need advising, if you have challenges or questions in navigating our new world at TC, if you need resources for support or additional help, or if you just want to check in to say hello and to be reminded that you are not alone.
 
We are all thinking of you and sending you our best wishes.
 

Warm regards,

Sarah Brazaitis, PhD
MA Program Director

 

Current Student Profile

 

Demi Williams is a part-time first-year student in the Social-Organizational Psychology MA Program. Originally from Athens, Greece, Demi moved to New York to pursue a BA in Theatre Arts at Hunter College, CUNY. At Hunter, she launched a theatre Production Company with a group of classmates. While she loved the creative process, she naturally assumed (and enjoyed) the role of organizer, mediator, and mentor, ultimately focusing on the business aspect of the theatre company.
 
After a few years, Demi transitioned to the corporate world to pursue a career in human resources, where she has been fortunate to broaden her career and portfolio by working in different industries -- from small privately-owned institutions to global organizations -- in early childhood education, marketing, gaming technology, shipping logistics, and now in higher education.

 

Demi has always been fascinated by the human interactions that form the foundation of success for any project she has been a part of, whether in the arts or the corporate world.  Wanting to understand the theoretical foundation of organizational behavior, Demi enrolled in the social-organizational psychology program and is deeply honored to be part of the TC community. As a proud employee of Columbia University, Demi is eager to apply her education to the role and give back to this community.

 

Demi enjoys cooking, travelling, discovering new hiking trails with her dog, and the great art world of NYC.
 

Feel free to connect with Demi via email or LinkedIn.

 Alumni Profile

 

Jay Sharma is an alumna of the Social-Organizational Psychology MA program (class of 2016). She is also a proud former Vice President of our student organization OHDCC (2015-2016).
 
Jay is a currently a senior consultant with PwC's Financial Services People & Organization practice in New York City. Prior to working for PwC, Jay supported Culture Change and Diversity & Inclusion as a consultant at the NeuroLeadership Institute. She has also supported several large-scale change initiatives at Verizon in New Jersey and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in NYC. She joined Teachers College in 2013 while spearheading several talent management projects as a recruitment and L&D consultant at UNICEF.
 
Jay has a Brain-Based Coaching certification and is passionate about improving business results by adopting a humanistic approach towards organizational challenges. She was recently selected as a game-changer at PwC, and continuously strives to enhance the human experience while responding to client challenges and designing business solutions.
 
As a student at TC, Jay's favorite classes were Group Dynamics, Intercultural Communication, Conflict Resolution, and Executive Coaching. She takes immense pride in being a Columbia alumna, and continues to be a strong advocate for building and strengthening the Teachers College alumni community.
 
You can learn more about Jay or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Recommended Readings

It's not just you, Zoom exhaustion is real. This article offers strategies for coping with the fatigue of constant on-line interactions.
 
This video has useful suggestions for how to show up well in the virtual space.
 
And, for those of us living in the epicenter, this article is a reminder of NYC's inimitable spirit.
 
As with all of these recommendations, feel free to let me know what you think and/or to offer your own suggestions for possible inclusion in upcoming newsletters. I welcome your input.