The Charger Blog

Industrial/Organizational Psychology Grad Student Says Program Has Been ‘Life Changing’

From her internship at a leading aerospace company to the connections she’s made with her classmates and professors, Alanna Dukas ’23 M.A. says enrolling in the University’s graduate program in industrial/organizational psychology was “one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

March 24, 2023

By Jackie Hennessey, Contributing Writer

Alanna Dukas ’23 M.A.
Alanna Dukas ’23 M.A.

After Alanna Dukas ’23 M.A. received three different internship offers in two days, the first call she made was to “Professor Mo.”

That was Maurice “Mo” Cayer, Ph.D., distinguished lecturer in psychology and coordinator of the University’s M.S. program in Human Resources.

“I took his Performance Management class during the first semester I was at the University,” says Dukas, who will receive her Master of Arts in Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology in May. “It had me hooked. Dr. Mo has a way of teaching that’s very conversational and discussion based. He takes theory and asks us to put it to work on a business example. He brings such a breadth and depth of real-world experience to his teaching. He’s had a lasting impact on me.”

'My introduction to the business side of life’

When the three internship offers came her way, she discussed her choices with Dr. Cayer. Dukas chose Collins Aerospace in Windsor Locks, Conn. She works remotely supporting Collins’s PrIME (Professional Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering) early careers rotational program for engineers. She has helped develop a learning/training program for early career engineers.

One key focus was on leadership training and, in particular, cross functional communication. “The goal is for the engineers to be able to communicate well with manufacturing machine operators as well as executive directors,” she explains.

She worked closely with Dr. Mo, who encouraged her to research what engineers need to learn to be successful in the first five years of their career. Creating the learning program involved a great deal of research and detailed work. “The training couldn’t be one size fits all but had to meet the needs of different engineers,” she says.

She says the internship experience has been invaluable. “I love the engineers and my coworkers are some of the most intelligent, positive people I’ve ever met,” she says, noting that she’s met many University alumni who are part of the Collins Aerospace team.

From her earliest days, Dukas knew she was headed for a career in business. She literally grew up in the field. “I was raised by two business owners,” she says. Her parents owned two tanning salons in the Fort Meyers, Florida area. “From a really young age I was sitting in on staff meetings, reading resumes, and counting the cash drawers. That was my introduction to the business side of life.”

‘I can help them’

In high school, Dukas took part in a dual enrollment program, graduating high school with an associate degree, then studying philosophy and psychology at Florida Gulf Coast University.

“I was really interested in the intersectionality of business and psychology,” she explains. “I liked the science and research aspect of psychology and knowing you could influence business outcomes from an evidence, data-based perspective.”

She was also drawn to the field of industrial and organizational psychology because it centered on people and on finding innovative ways to build and foster a productive and engaged workforce.

She began working in the insurance industry, but a course in industrial/organizational psychology sparked her interest. When she talked with a Florida Gulf Coast professor about graduate programs, the professor spoke highly of Eric Marcus, Ph.D., a distinguished lecturer in the University’s I/O Psychology program. Her professor encouraged her to apply.

She did and was awarded a graduate assistantship. In her first year, she helped plan social events for the students in the program. This year, because of health challenges, Dukas received special permission to take her courses remotely from Florida. Her role as a graduate assistant has shifted to “talking with students who are interested in the program and making sure students who are in program have all their questions answered and know what classes to take. I’m a really strong researcher, so if someone needs assistance finding a niche piece of research, I can also help them with that.”

‘One of the best decisions I’ve ever made’

With graduation on the horizon, Dukas is interviewing for talent management positions and is excited about all the possibilities ahead. “My strengths lie in influence and strategy. That’s what this field is. It’s getting people on board with your strategy and figuring out what is the best way to attract and retain great employees.”

Dukas says that choosing the University’s I/O Psychology master’s degree program has been “life changing.

“The students in my cohort, the professors, the amazing alumni – these are people who will be in my life forever,” she says. “Everything I’ve learned, the work experience…it has been life changing.”

Choosing the program, she adds, “was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.”