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Goracke Builds Master’s Program Around Inclusive Culture

JoDee Goracke

JoDee Goracke is passionate about the field of industrial and organizational psychology, and believes that extending the field to a wide variety of individuals can only make it better.

As an assistant professor and program director of the Bellevue University Master of Science in Industrial and Organizational Psychology since its beginnings in 2015, inclusion and diversity are at the center of her efforts to build a one-of-kind degree program.

“In my experience, higher education, and graduate school in particular, can be incredibly exclusive,” said Goracke, who holds a bachelor’s degree in cognitive psychology and a master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology, otherwise known as I/O

“I felt that Bellevue University had a genuine mission to extend rigorous academic programs in an inclusive way. I am passionate about opening the field of I/O to individuals to participate and grow this area of knowledge and practice.”

Unique Program Applies to Countless Roles, Cultures

Since I/O studies employee behavior in the workplace, its graduates serve in a wide variety of roles and industries.

”The career path is really varied, as the way I/O prepares you is incredibly applicable in any department, but some common careers we see are jobs in human resources, leadership development, training, external consulting, and data analysis.” Goracke herself worked in data science and analysis at a Fortune 500 company and various academic research centers prior to joining the university.

“We cover all required content for master's programs in I/O as outlined by The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, like selection, leadership, motivation, and psychometrics, but where I think the program is unique is that we facilitate two major applied projects, which the students are able to design individual topics and methods around,” Goracke said.

Goracke’s dynamic career experience has given her crucial insight into what her students will need to succeed after graduating. “I understand how the applied and academic knowledge needs to be coupled to be successful right out of graduate school,” she said. “I was also a non-traditional graduate student.”

“Knowing that they (students) are taking time away from family, hobbies, work, etc.,pushed me to be incredibly passionate about creating a curriculum and learning experience that sets our students up to be competitive I/O graduates.”

Diversity’s Role in I/O

Goracke said diversity is critical to any field or study, but in the past I/O programs at the graduate level have not proven very diverse.

“Diversity ensures all perspectives are incorporated in the discussion of solutions and approaches, and it ultimately produces the best end product, whatever that might be,” she said.

“While I/O curriculum touches on diversity as a topic, I felt that generally the field of I/O and graduate school access has not been inclusive, which is part of why I joined Bellevue University; I wanted to be part of the change.”

The Bellevue University I/O program incorporates diverse and inclusive practices throughout the student’s progress, starting with items like admissions, orientation and access to faculty, etc. “We acknowledge that our students have a variety of academic backgrounds and we invest a lot of time upfront with students to make them feel prepared and supported to tackle graduate-level coursework,” Goracke said.

Renea Gernant, Assistant Dean of the Bellevue University College of Arts and Sciences, said “Our program is deliberately and unapologetically committed to diversity. Our program not only teaches about diversity issues, but JoDee and her faculty support and encourage a very diverse student population.”

Goracke also continues to grow her own experiences and perspectives. Goracke has been working with Opportunity Education, an innovative high school based on the Bellevue University campus, and also created a design thinking course that has been offered both at Bellevue University and in Tanzania for more than five years.

Goracke was recently named the chair of a subcommittee of The Women's Inclusion Network for Mentoring, which operates under the Society for Industrial/

Organizational Psychology. She has been working with the committee for almost three years, recently launching an online seminar series of expert sessions and mentor pairings.

Engaging Students to Help Them Succeed

Goracke said what really makes the MIOP program stand out is the support every student receives from the beginning of his or her program to the end. “We provide direct access and communication with all instructors in the program and peers through Slack, which truly has created a community and support system for our students,” she said.

In addition to the I/O community on Slack, Goracke provides a live orientation meeting with every new student cohort. During these sessions, she meets those who join, and then continues the new student discussion and support via Slack as they navigate their first courses.

“I really think where I see the biggest success in engagement for students is in their connection with one another as a cohort,” Goracke said. “Students will create study groups, talk with one another outside of their course channels, and there have been so many times that I have heard from students that their peers are what has kept them going, which is what I hoped to facilitate for students.”

MIOP adjunct professor Dr. Leslie Stager agrees that the culture of Bellevue University and the program itself set students up for success in a unique way.

“We give everyone an opportunity to learn,” she said. “There is a very real sense of collaboration, support and camaraderie between faculty and students. The students come first - they drive everything we do.”

MIOP Graduates Lead Through Action

Jeremy Wright of Irving, Texas, is currently studying in the MIOP program, with an expected graduation in spring 2022. He previously received his bachelor’s and MBA degrees at Bellevue University.

“As an alumnus, I know what to expect and have gotten a great investment return with my bachelor's and MBA degrees. In my experience, the programs are catered to working individuals with busy lives; this is important to me as I work full-time with a demanding job,” he said.

Wright said he chose the MIOP because he wanted practical learning he could directly apply, as opposed to a research-based program. ”I have learned more about myself with every assignment,” he said.

To help other interested students make informed decisions, Wright has been sharing about his I/O journey on his YouTube channel. “This program is for you if you are looking to understand people-related issues at work, and learn how to craft effective research-based solutions,” he said. “I would encourage people to enroll if they want to differentiate themselves within the broad field of human resources or even as an organizational leader.”

Gernant said that the leadership skills and diversity weaved throughout the MIOP program go hand in hand. “Professionals in I/O Psychology are often the individuals in an organization who are given responsibility for training colleagues and helping leadership in an organization promote diversity,” she added.

“In the workplace, they are often tasked with anti-racism, sexism, and ageism initiatives. Our students leave this program not only able to talk about diversity, but with a diverse network of colleagues who can help them to better understand the lived experiences of their peers who come from backgrounds different than their own.”

Like Wright and Gernant, Stager agrees that the MIOP experience helps students long after they’ve graduated. “We understand that they must compete for jobs and we want them to be prepared,” she said. “We also give them opportunities to interact with professionals as part of their program. MIOP emphasizes activities to build relationships with professionals in the field so that they are prepared with a network and support system upon graduation.”