Thoughts and profiles from Avila University’s Institute for Professional Studies professors, students, and graduates.
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- Q&A: Marie Payne MSOD ’18Marie Payne, MSOD ‘18 is Director of Talent Management and Innovation and leads a team of Organizational Development Practitioners at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. She is a certified Change Management Practitioner and holds two leadership coaching certifications from…
- Q&A: Sharon Purnell, MSOD ’08Sharon Purnell is the Chief Human Resources Officer at Streamland Media. Previously, she worked as an HR executive for companies like Verde Associates, Riddell, and UL Corporation. Purnell earned her Master of Science in Organizational Development from Avila in 2008….
[00:00:14] Andy Jett: Good evening, everybody. I want to welcome you to Zoom and Avila University. My name is Dr. Andy Jett, I am the dean of the College of Professional Schools here at Avila University. I’m also director and student advisor for our Master of Science in Organizational Development program. Tonight, we are focused on careers in organizational development, and we have brought together six panelists who have all received their MSO degrees from Avila University. We’re going to talk about how they’ve built their successful careers in OD from what they learned in the program.
We know that there are people on the call who are just thinking about entering the OD field. Some of you are already in the OD field and looking to improve your opportunities. We also have others that have been in the OD field and even through the program and are just looking for opportunities for insights and advice on the OD field as it is today. Our facilitator and panelists will discuss their career journeys and how the MSOD program and the OD industry has impacted them personally and professionally.
As a reminder, as you may have noticed already, we are recording this session. We ask those of you listening in to maintain mute until we have our Q&A session later on tonight. If you have questions, put those questions in the chat box, and I will bring those questions forward as we have our Q&A session time, or I can answer them directly if that’s something I can address.
Let me start with a few introductions. I’ll first introduce Dr. Breann Branch. Currently Breann is the Director of Research and Organizational Change for Culture, Journey, and Critical Social Justice Project, a consulting firm based in Kansas City. She works with government, corporate, education and community organizations to provide evidence-based, transformative change solutions for diversity, equity, and inclusion and accessibility. She also leads their research team and assists organizations with professional development coaching and capacity building. Dr. Branch earned her MSOD from Avila in 2014 and then completed her PhD in Educational Leadership from UMKC in 2020.
Our next panelist is Marie Payne. Marie is a Senior Organizational Development Consultant and Executive Leadership Coach at Children’s Mercy Hospital here in Kansas City. Marie is a certified change management practitioner and holds two leadership coaching certifications from UC Berkeley and the Kansas Leadership Center, as well as an ACC credential from ICF. She has also taught leadership coaching as the OD intervention at Avila University. Marie earned her MSO degree from Avila in 2018.
Next is Sharon Purnell. Sharon is the Chief Human Resources Officer at Streamland Media. Previously, she has worked as an HR executive for companies like Verde Associates, Riddell, and UL Corporation. Sharon earned her MSOD from Avila in 2008. Next is Brandi Riggs. Brandi is a Vice President of Human Resources at McCownGordon Construction. Brandi has worked as an HR professional and executive at UGA Finance and Spencer Reed. Recently, Brandi was awarded the 2021 LEAD Award by the Missouri SHRM Chapter. Brandi is also a member of the Avila University MSOD Advisory Board, and Brandi earned her Avila MSOD in 2006.
Next is Monica Curls. Monica is the Manager of Government Compliance for Terracon, an engineering company based out of Olathe. Prior to joining Terracon, Ms. Curls worked for Black & Veatch and also served as Director of the Kansas City Branch Office or the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office. Monica earned her MSOD in Masters of Management degree from Avila in 2015. Last but not least is Brent Brazell. Brent is currently the Director of Learning and Organizational Development at Presbterian Healthcare Services in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Previous to this role, he has been an HR and Learning Development Executive at several large healthcare corporations. Brent earned his MSOD degree from Avila in 2008. Before we get started, I wanted to quickly do a quick poll for those attending. Let me launch that real quick, if you don’t mind answering those questions for everyone. This gives us a sense of who is on the call with us and who we’ll be talking to this evening.
As you’re doing that, I want to introduce our facilitator for this evening is Marchita Stanton. Marchita is the Lead Faculty Member for the Avila MSOD program and has long been a leader in organizational development. We are grateful to have her here as one of our professional practitioners in the program. I’ll let her to do more of a full introduction of herself here in just a moment. Marchita, are you prepared to begin the process?
[00:05:31] Marchita Stanton: I am prepared, yes. Thank you. Greetings, everyone. I’m happy to see the panelists and everyone who is connected with us. One of the things that I will say to the panelists, you know how I have– Let’s see, OCD over time. [laughs] When you are answering the questions, which are really some great questions, please be sure that you stop after your time. This will come as no surprise to any of the panelists.
It’s really good to see you all, and thank you so much for participating with us, and to all of the guests, I hope that your questions are answered in full. I think you’ve got a great group who will give you the answers you are looking for. We’re going to start off with question number one, starting with Breann, Dr. Branch. Would you please take us on a brief journey of your career path? That is five minutes max. Now, don’t feel like you have to go a full five.
[00:06:42] Breann Branch: Okay, I was like, “That’s a long time.”
[00:06:44] Marchita: No, no, no. [laughs] It’s just the maximum amount of time.
[00:06:49] Breann: I’m sorry, repeat the question one more time.
[00:06:51] Marchita: Sure. Would you please take us on a brief journey of your career path? That is particularly from when you started your MSOD program up to where you are now.
[00:07:04] Breann: Okay, awesome. Thank you for having me, thank you for the question. I’m so honored to be here with the panelists and with the program members and the dean in school. Thank you so much. I think I was one of the youngest people in my class, I always just felt super inadequate, “I don’t think I should be in grad school. I’m only 23 years old,” but I was in an organization where I was miserable, I didn’t like it, it was not for me. I entered the program because school was familiar to me. I just graduated from Harvard University, I moved from California to the middle of the country. Getting in a program like this seemed like all my natural abilities and talents came together.
While I was in that job I did not like, I did most of my program, but I finished it in a job that turned my career. I became an office assistant at University of Missouri, Kansas City in the School of Education. I was in a special department, where although I was an office assistant, I was cultivated by professors, and they’re like, “You’re really smart. Why are you in this role?” I’m like, “Because my last job was horrible.” They’re like, “You just finished your master’s, you need to get into a PhD program.” I’m like, “Okay.” [laughs] I was really encouraged to push all my fears aside and go for what I wanted to do. To me, a lot of times, I don’t know what I want to do, but I’ll pick something and do it to the fullest.
I was fortunate because I worked there. I was able to get my tuition paid for, and I got into starting my PhD program. Five years after I finished it in 2020, that helped me get to my next position, which was at UCLA in the School of Engineering. There’s a new program called Women in Engineering, and I was able to lead their diversity program because there’s not a lot of women in engineering and certainly not a lot of women of color in engineering.
We did a lot of new trainings, probably basic trainings in diversity, as far as implicit bias and things like that, as far as gender. When everything happened with the murder of George Floyd, we were able to be brave and to bridge to doing racial diversity. I started some programs there. Due to the pandemic, I did move, and I did not want to commute, so I left that position, and I was recruited to work for a small consulting firm in Kansas City who was started by a good friend of mine who used to work for me in that office assistant job.
She has now the president of this company, and she hired me as the director. I am super fortunate. I’m super blessed, and everything has really come in a full circle, and because of the MSOD program and this degree is why she hired me in this role because people in her team have expertise in counseling, in mental health, in equity, in diversity. I have that too, but she specifically hired me for organization development, which is literally where I am physically now at a client site. We’re having a healing session right now with some leaders in Oregon government.
We’re trying to help their diversity team come together after a breakdown. She specifically hired me to do the OD work on this part of this team. My background is qualitative research in education leadership. I lead the research team as well, but as far as the OD part of it, that’s literally why I’m in this role now. I’m able to work from home, and I get to travel, and it’s been such a blessing. I think I did it in five minutes.
[00:11:12] Marchita: Thank you. Thank you so much, Brianne. Marie, the same question, would you please take us on a brief journey of your career path? Five minutes, max.
[00:11:23] Marie Payne: Yes. Thank you. Hello, everyone. Like Dr. Jett said, my name is Marie Payne. I’m a senior Organizational Development practitioner at Children’s Mercy, and I’m also an executive coach there. Marchita, your question was my career path since going through the MSOD program, but that’s been a pretty short path for me since I just graduated in 2018. But currently, like I said, I’m working at Children’s Mercy as an OD practitioner.
I’m actually joined on this call by one of my partners, Kristen Stein. We both currently work for medical administration. We are the first two individuals in our organization who are trialing a decentralized approach to OD work. Her and I are both embedded within the portion of the organization that we support. We support our physician in chief and our physicians’ enterprise and our ambulatory practices and just doing OD work there rather than housed in HR departments like we worked prior.
It’s an experiment, we’re learning a lot, and it’s been successful so far. We started that in August. Prior to that, though, I was a respiratory therapist. I was a respiratory therapist for 10 years. I have a bachelor’s degree from KU in that. I told myself as soon as my youngest child started sleeping through the night that I was going to go back to school. My career in respiratory grew, I held various titles to different responsibilities, but I learned really early on that I not only had love for caring for patients and families, but I also had a passion for serving our employees.
Through my 10 years in the RT department, I was getting to try on new responsibilities and roles where I was getting to practice that, whether it be through learning and development and coaching. When my little guys started slipping through the nights, I literally did a Google search. What could I do to go back to school, to get a master’s degree, to be able to still work within the organization that I love, serving the patients and the families that I love, but also being able to have that macro-level perspective, learn about the organization from a whole new perspective, but still serving our employees?
Google brought me to organizational development, and it turns out my company had a department to do that. I was able to connect with some mentors. I was able to do some career shadowing, and I decided, “You know what, this is for me.” One thing that was awesome about Avila was that I could enroll literally in like two weeks and get started. I just really rolled right into it, not really 100% certain what I was going to do or what I was going to do with it. Here I am now with a profession, and I’ve been in this position for about four years now, and I’m loving every minute of it. I think that’s me and how I got here.
[00:14:14] Marchita: Okay. Thank you. Sharon, let us hear from you the same question, please take us on a brief journey of your career path.
[00:14:28] Sharon Purnell: Sure. Hi everybody again, thank you so much for inviting me here. I’m super excited to be here. I am Sharon Purnell and I am currently the Chief Human Resources Officer at Streamland Media. What has brought me to where I am today? Gosh, when I was in the OD program, I think what really resonated with me is really understanding the why of how people get to where they are.
I think a lot of times my background was in just human resources and really adhering to the labor laws and the employment law, but the Organizational Development program really allowed me to understand a little bit of the why people were the way that they were. It wasn’t always so black and white. I think that since I graduated, I moved into different roles. I relocated up to Phoenix. I was at Honeywell Aerospace and was in some progressive roles there, relocated out to Atlanta. I was in a role with Underwriters Laboratories. I as nature director there.
Then, I was the head of HR at a company called Rideau Sports. I think that for me, what I really feel is a key differentiator for me that’s progressed me through my career was that not only do I have the ability to be tactical on the HR side, but I’m really able to be more of a strategic partner as well to flex between those. I think that’s what a lot of my business leaders really appreciate about my approach is that I look for solutions. I look for abilities to, “Okay, you want to get here, and there’s six different ways to get there. Let’s find the best approach for your organization.”
I learned all of that from the OD program of really understanding how to do an intervention, how to really sit down and create that contract with them. Where do they want to go? How do they want to get there? It’s not a one-size-fits-all. It’s really listening to the needs of the business and partnering with your business leaders and creating that source for them. I learned all of that from Marchita and the program.
[00:16:46] Marchita: Okay. Thank you, Sharon. Brandi, you are next. Would you please share with us your journey?
[00:16:56] Brandi Riggs: Absolutely. Good evening, everyone. Thank you for joining. I’m also so honored to be here with this group. My journey has definitely not been a straight path. It’s been full of twists and turns. While I was in the OD program at Avila, I was actually in a sales leadership role, and I truly loved what I was doing. I was able to apply many of the concepts from the OD program to the day-to-day leadership of my team and to the challenges that we face daily with our clients.
But along that road, I learned that it really wasn’t the love of sales that drove me in my career. It really was the people leadership and the training aspect of it and the problem-solving. I took a step back to really think about what was going to be important for me in my career. I identified really that my calling was truly on the people side of the business. I learned so much about that as part of the MSOD program. At that point, I explored various options and ended up taking an opportunity in executive recruiting, which for me was a perfect bridge from my sales experience into the world of human resources.
After spending a little bit over a year doing that, because of the MSOD program, I was able to take my HR certification exam, passed, and accepted my first HR role. At that time, I was in an HR department of one for a financial services company. During that time there, I joined the board for the society for human resources our local chapter and that’s where ultimately I met my current leader. Her and I were always exchanging notes and learning from one another.
At that point, I had spent my entire HR career working alone and I knew I had a lot to learn. Eventually, she recruited me to her team here at McCownGordon Construction, and that’s where I’ve had an opportunity to learn and grow every day since then. I echo what Sharon said, the MSOD program has helped me to be a true strategic business partner to our organization and really focus on the problems that our business faces, and the solution to those problems are people.
I really can use the interventions, the strategic thinking models that the MSOD program provided me. I should step back and say, I probably annoyed the team at Avila that was putting together the MSOD program because when all of that was in the works for the first time, I was finishing up my undergraduate degree and caught wind that Avila was looking at creating this program.
I really needed it to be ready for when I graduated with my undergrad degree. About, I guess, seven to six out, I started calling the department every month and say, “When is this program getting off the ground? Is it going to be done by the time I’m ready?” Sure enough, it was. It was perfect timing, and I’m just so grateful to everyone that was involved in putting the program in place, including Marchita.
[00:20:19] Marchita: Thank you for, and the Monica Curlw. Let us hear from you.
[00:20:26] Monica Curls: Thank you so much for inviting me to participate. I feel very humbled to be amongst all of you. My name is Monica Curls. My career journey was definitely different in that I didn’t come into the OD program untll I was already 18 years out from graduating from undergrad, so I wasn’t even really thinking about going for a master’s degree program, but I was actually at Marchita’s birthday party that year, and she was talking about organizational development, psychology, and I was like, “I don’t even know what that is. What do you do again?”
She got me interested, and she was like, “Well, just take the one class, and then if you do well there,” because I was very paranoid about going back to school. I barely graduated from undergrad, and so I did not know if I was going to have the focus in order to start that late back into an education program. I ended up graduating actually with two degrees, I got my MSOD, and I got a Master’s in Arts in Management, with an emphasis in project management. I got to walk across the stage with two degrees, so I definitely was able to get back into the idea of learning.
Definitely appreciate Marchita for that. What I’ve done since then is I actually got a new job, I guess two months after I got my degree. I think the way I was able to talk as it related to OD was what helped to seal it, seal the position for me. Like I said, I’m a manager of government compliance for an engineering firm, and I think the fact that this was a new position for the organization is so it hadn’t, there wasn’t anyone else who had been in that role, and I was really going to have to be developing a department.
When they were asking me about what kind of strategies would you use, and I was really focusing on how important it is to bring people along, especially in an engineering field that can get very technical. Even now, so often, I’m the only one in the room reminding people, “This is a culture shift. We need to think about how this affects our employee, how does this affect the people around?” I’m always the one remembering that. Just the other day, I was in a performance discussion with my boss, and she was like, “I really like how you talk about that. You’re always are the one that remembers the people are involved.” I was like, “Yes, that’s what I’ve learned from my OD journey.”
That’s definitely what I’ve gotten from that experience, but especially just continuing my love of learning, and so I’ve just recently got a certificate in diversity and inclusion from Cornell University, their online program. I couldn’t quite get my money together for Atlas program yet. [laughs] That’ll come next, but yes, just continuing to always look for opportunities to grow and develop. I think that’s definitely been my journey since getting the degree.
[00:23:47] Marchita: Oh, wonderful, Monica. I taught in Cornell’s program- [crosstalk]
[00:23:52] Monica: Oh, did you? [crosstalk] Awesome.
[00:23:52] Marchita: -from years ago, yes. [laughs] Thank you, Monica. Brent, let us hear from you.
[00:24:00] Brent Brazell: Oh, gosh. Thank you, Marchita. I think that it is so nice to be here with some people that I have a lot of affection for that I haven’t seen for a while. Some of you I’ve seen more recently, but I’m really glad to be here. As other people have said, it’s such an honor. For me, even in my undergraduate, I graduated– I won’t tell you what year because it will date me. But I graduated from my undergraduate with a degree in psychology and sociology, but I had a minor in industrial psychology, which was kind of OD.
I had a passion for it and I always wanted to go and get a degree in either industrial psychology or organizational development. However, after I graduated from my undergraduate, I moved back to Kansas City, and there’s family issues and those kinds of things I couldn’t leave. There was not a program in Kansas city. If you can imagine that, there wasn’t a program to go get your degree in Organizational Development. I got my first master’s in social work, which has benefited me more than I can say, but I started working in mental health, and I worked– I actually, I get to talk to people who probably know what this means.
I worked at Truman Medical Centers forever and was in the behavioral health program there and then somewhere down the line, somebody– actually, I do remember the event. We brought in seven habits of highly effective people, which is going to date me, too. I got to engage with HR folks, and HR said, Hey, why don’t you come over and work for us and train you really do this well.” I said, “Sure, let’s do that.” Because if you all know me, if there’s a door that opens, I’m walking through it, because it’s just you never know what’s going to happen, and so I did.
I quickly learned. I’m like, “Boy, I’m over my head with this HR stuff. I don’t know systems, I don’t know organization theory, that kind of thing.” I remember, gosh I wish I would have gone and gotten my degree in OD when I had the opportunity. Then, I’m driving home one day, and I– boy, all these things date me, Marchita. I changed, I was taking the CD out of my player in my car, and the radio came on, and there was, “Hey, come learn about the OD program at Avila.”
I was like many of you guys said, “Sign me up. I’m ready to go.” I think Brandi and Sharon and I were like one of the first 30 people in the program. It was just like, “This is where I’m supposed to be. This is where I was supposed to be.” The first session, it was an informational session. It was a weekend session, was with Marchita, and she ignited a passion in me about this work. I’m like, “This is it. I’m going to sign up, and I’m going to take on a lot more debt to get a second master’s degree,” but I’m still glad I did because I would not have been where I’m at. I’ve had the opportunity to work in healthcare for a long time. Actually, it’s my 30th year.
I keep telling people that this year, because I’ve been around– and when I tell people why we need to do change management and why we need to think about the people. I’ve been around for 30 years in healthcare, and I’ve seen so many initiatives come and go. I believe that we have the ability based on applying what I’ve learned in this program to make a difference and not have this just be another initiative that just came and went and didn’t do what it needed to do for the organization or for our patients, so I’ve had a few forays into other industries. I–
[00:27:34] Sharon: Is everybody else still there?
[00:27:37] Marchita: Yes. I was wondering if I were the only one who froze or had everyone freeze. Brent, can you hear us?
[00:27:50] Sharon: He’ll come back.
[00:27:54] Marchita: Okay, so while we’re waiting for Brent to come back, and when he does come back, then we will just go back to let him finish in order to try and stay on the aggressive agenda. I’m going to go to the next question and then, like I said, we’ll let Brent finish when he returns with us. The second question for Breann Branch– we’re starting with you, Dr. Branch. What did you learn in your MSOD program that most impacted your personal and professional life? That’s what did you learn in the OD program that most impacted your personal and professional life?
[00:28:46] Breann: Well, I think Brent is back.
[00:28:48] Marchita: Okay. Branch.
[00:28:53] Brent: Yes. Sorry. This is the dangers of working remotely and talking to people remotely, so apologize that my service cut out for a minute, but I would just say, I have a passion for working in healthcare. I don’t get excited about working anywhere else, and that’s my timer. Sorry, I’m done, Marchita. I was actually timing myself.
I took it seriously, so but I have a passion for healthcare, and I’m so glad that I could get to continue to work. Now, I get to work with a team of OD people that are so fabulous and remind me of so much of the people that are– I had them the program and it’s a really great team I have right now. So I had to be got to be here tonight. Thank you.
[00:29:31] Marchita: Thank you, Brent. Sorry that you got disconnected. Breann, [crosstalk] do you need for me to repeat the question?
[00:29:38] Breann: No. One class, or I don’t know if it was an entire class, but it’s just a feeling. It’s something that I remembered is I’m with you, Ms. Marchita, and your class, and I never encountered diversity work ever. I’m a black person. I’m a black woman. I took a sociology class in 12th grade and learned about society, but I never learned about diversity. We did the privilege walk exercise, and it was just eye-opening. I was like, “What?” It just made everything so clear just about racial disparities and gender disparities.
I think I wrote a whole dissertation on African-American millennials, female millennials. From that, we did generation work. I have a whole chapter on generations in the workplace. That’s all from your class and the books you re– That privilege walk exercise was literally a match to my entire personal growth and professional growth in diversity work. It’s just been like a blessing to just think back on this.
That question, I’m like, “Oh, my God. That’s what happen.” I remember taking that step or not taking that step, and just feeling the impact of looking at my peer’s faces, and just feeling in the room, and how you facilitated that energy, and then we did brief exercise. Literally, I do that. This is what I do now, and it’s just full circle that I am the one now in the master seat and doing the things that we did in class. I’m eternally grateful for that experience.
[00:31:33] Marchita: Wow. Thank you for that, Breann. Marie, the same question. What did you learn in your MSOD program that most impacted your personal and professional life?
[00:31:48] Marie: I think the most impactful thing from the program was probably learning about the power of connection, and that would be with my classmates that have now become peers. Some of them are colleagues that I work with. Even those who have gone on to careers in other organizations, I call on them regularly. We do [unintelligible 00:32:11] exercises, we share best practices. What are we doing in our organization? What are you trying in their organizations, and continuing to learn through those individuals. Also, the connection that I had with some of the faculty members.
Like Dr. Branch, I was going to share a story that I had an experience with Dr. Stanton. I told you guys that I was a respiratory therapist as I was going through this program, and I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with this degree yet. Right before I graduated– I graduated in August I believe, and it was February of that year. I hadn’t even done my practicum yet. A position opened in my organization in organizational development. I was like, “I’m going to apply. I’m going to apply. I’m going to see if I can get this.” I remember not having a whole lot of confidence that I shared with Marchita that I was applying.
She’s like, “Come on in. Come to my office, and we’re going to do a practice interview.” I came to Marchita’s office, and she did a test interview with me. I will never forget she asked the question of what experience do you have that prepares you for this position? I said, “Well, I don’t have any experience in organizational development.” I started to continue on with my answer, and she stopped me and coached me in that moment of how to answer, and how I did have the experience in that how so much of what I have done in my previous career or profession was transferable, and was just added [unintelligible 00:33:44] to what I was learning in this program.
I went into that interview. I nailed it. I got the job. I think a great part to Marchita helping me prepare for that interview. Honestly, I think the connections that you make are one of the most impactful things that I have been gifted with by going through this program.
[00:34:07] Marchita: Thank you, Marie. To those of you who are listening and wondering why we have this question in here, it’s because this is a critical part of the program, your personal and professional growth. This esteemed group of panelists hopefully will encourage you and have you thinking about just an added reason to either stick with the program or to join the program. Thank you, Marie. Sharon, same question. What did you learn in your MSOD program that most impacted your personal and professional life?
[00:34:46] Sharon: Sure. I think for me, outside of the relationships that I built– because I really do feel like I really built a friendship family going through this program, and we were so connected. I think, Brent, we spent so many evenings like until midnight sometimes going through all of this stuff. I think there’s a couple of things. One is it really does help you recognize all the different [unintelligible 00:35:12] of work and how it’s all connected through organizational development.
We can all have little pieces and pockets that come to the table. I think, really, the thing that resonates with me the most is thinking back to learning about Johari window. If you really think about the Johari window and that black box on that bottom, what you don’t know and what other people don’t know. It’s really focusing on in organizational development that we are life-long learners. It’s constantly bringing light to that black box of constantly continuing to learn. Learn what you don’t know about yourself, ask questions, ask of others.
“What can I do differently? How can I come to this situation differently and continue to learn?” I think that has been the most impactful for me. Every single opportunity or position that I go to, that’s what I always go with, like, “What do I know about myself? What do I know and others know? What do I not know that others do? What is that black box, and how do I continue to bring light to it?” I think that’s been the most both professionally and personally that’s really help me through this program.
[00:36:28] Marchita: Great. Thank you, Sharon. Brandi, same question.
[00:36:32] Brandi: Everything everyone’s talking about is just taking me back through all these great memories from the program. I think the most impactful part of the program for me was truly the exposure to the OD practitioners that were facilitating the program. Marchita, you were absolutely one of those key ingredients. I can remember just listening. We’re going through an exercise or talking about a concept. They would just bring our textbooks to life. I remember thinking over and over, “Wow, I haven’t thought about something in the way that they did.”
I intentionally use the word facilitators because they weren’t out there just teaching. They were facilitating this process of us learning from each other, learning the concepts from them. I think from a competency standpoint, things that I use every single day are really the systemic thinking that I learned a lot about through the program, which really helps me to solve complex problems by understanding relationship that exist in systems and how they interact, and then the change management piece.
We all work in environments, which have to adapt quickly and constantly in order to be successful. Just being able to manage through change effectively is critical in organizational success. To manage through that change, you really have to understand people. I feel like those are really the key takeaways that I took from the program.
[00:38:14] Marchita: Thank you, Brandi. Monica, same question.
[00:38:21] Monica: I think for me, the biggest thing that I got out of the program was the fact that I could go back to school. Like I said, I was really nervous about the commitment that was involved, and would I be able to read everything that I had to read that week? Just getting back involved in a program with content that I was really interested in I think was just so important, obviously. Then, just with each class, it just continued to build my confidence. I think a lot of times, people [unintelligible 00:38:58] say, “It’s easy if you just go from your undergrad, go right into grad school.”
“That’s going to be the easiest path. Don’t wait.” The fact that I waited 18 years between that was why I was so nervous about it, but I think the professors were wonderful and very engaging. The content was very engaging, and so necessary. Everything I was doing, I just saw– It helps you see how everything around you is broken because once you started learning these concepts– Particularly at the time, I was going through the program, I was at a different engineering company.
There was so many instances in the projects that I was working with where I saw the dysfunction. It was just like I see exactly where it went wrong. It’s like, “Okay, we weren’t focused on the people. We were so focused on, let’s build this and let’s engineer this’ that we forgot to take into account the engineers themselves,” and the things that they were going through.
I just kept always thinking about if I were in control of things, this is how we do things differently. I think that’s the biggest thing. Also just taking those concepts into places other than those that are specifically designed for organizational development. I think, yes, it’s very easy– not very easy. I shouldn’t say that, but there are people who’ve gotten it and those are the organizations that have OD departments or organizational effectiveness programs, but there are still a lot of places, whether it’s your church or your membership organization that can still utilize those same concepts and they just haven’t really thought about that in that context.I think that’s the other thing that I’ve just really learned that those skills that I’ve learned related to the organizational development psychology are things that I’m finding that I’m using or at least using to analyze situations all the time.
[00:41:07] Marchita: Brent, oh, you’ve moved over to my right. Brent, what did you learn in your MSLD program that most impacted your personal and professional life? Thank you so much, Monica. Brent.
[00:41:23] Brent: Hi. I just got a message I have an unstable internet connection. I don’t know what that means exactly. Hopefully, I’ll stay with you. I had to pick just one. I struggled with that because I learned so much, but I’ll quickly tell you two. One is the use of self in your work. Marchita is a big proponent of that.
I remember one night, it was a night class and there were some of you that were there and we went through this activity where we were talking about ourselves and how we can bring things to people and being a gay man, I’m like, “I don’t know these people, I’m not telling them about this, not going to share this,” that woman, Marchita, whatever she know I’m not doing it because I was not at a comfortable place for myself. I don’t know Marchita and Sharon if you remember that night, but it was just the most incredibly moving when I finally– because Marchita knew and she was like, “You need to use this. You need to be able to use this in your work.” Kept encouraging me like, “Okay, finally.”
[00:42:25] Brent: Sorry.
[00:42:26] Sharon: I don’t think we had enough tissues that night But I do remember.r.
[00:42:29] Brent: Yes. I finally did. The importance of using yourself and understanding where you are, I think it was after we had done the diversity walk and understanding where you are in that. Then I guess the other thing too that I always remember, and I think this is in life and in my work. Marchita used to talk about, there’s always a big eye and a little eye. You guys remember this that there’s the big eye, which–
[00:42:57] Marchita: Okay. [unintelligible 00:42:57]
[00:42:58] Brent: -[unintelligible 00:42:58] and then there’s a little eye. Am I back?
[00:43:02] Marchita: Yes.
[00:43:04] Brent: The little eye is all the other stuff that comes along that you don’t plan for it, but you better pay attention to. Marchita used to do this very dramatic. There’s a big eye and there’s a little eye, and the little eye always trumps the big guy. I think about that all the time when I’m leading interventions. I think, “What’s the little eye here that I’m missing?” Almost 20 years later, I tell you all I think about that. It’s so important to think about that because there’s so much going on that you need to know. Those are my two, but I could go on for a while, but I’m not going to.
[00:43:39] Monica: Actually, can you repeat the big eye because you were frozen when you were talking about the big eye.
[00:43:43] Brent: Oh, sorry. The big eye is the intervention that you plan, and the little eye is everything else that’s happened and that really it intercepts that big eye and the little eye stuff is more important than the big eye and pay attention and process. I tell people and I coach people that all– Marchita knows this, but I coach my people that report to me all the time on this now. That you need to pay attention to what’s happening because people will just barrel through and do what they plan. You need to pay attention. That’s in life too. The things we plan sometimes don’t work out and you had to plan for those what’s going on with the little eye and how it’s impacting you.
[00:44:22] Marchita: Since you brought us here, Brent, the little eye is the here and now. You may even be collecting data from a client and something comes up and there’s a coaching moment in the here and now. Great job, Brent. I think most of you have pretty much touched on the third answer. Would you please tell the attendees what is most fulfilling about your career in organization development, but because I know there’s a bigger question for the attendees, many of them are wanting to know, “Okay, how do I go out and get employed as an OD practitioner? How do I get involved in the work of OD?”
When I’m working with students in the classroom, I will tell them not necessarily do you have to wait for the big moment of somebody searching you out or you’re applying, but how do you apply what you are learning in the here and now in your organizations, be it training in development, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Having said that to the panelists, what would you say to people who are either considering the degree or are in the program working on the degree and they are really wanting to get into the field of OD? Is that okay to change it up like that, Dr. Jett? Okay.
I think that’s what people want to hear and know about from you. You certainly have pathed out different routes and have been doing the work even if that is not your title right now. You have figured it out and you’re the best ones to let people know. Let’s keep it down to less than five minutes per person so that we can get in there and answer the questions.
[00:46:34] Breann: I’ll go first and I’ll be less than five minutes. I’m called to scripture being ready in season and out of season. That’s where I’m going with this. Basically, I had no idea what I was going to do with my degree. I got into this degree program as an exit to get out of something else. What I fell into was a whole world of opportunities. Although I had a title like office assistant, I had all the workings and all the knowledge and how I ran that department and how you have formal leaders and informal leaders. We learned about that. I was definitely informal leader.
My very next job catapulted me to UCLA associate director. It’s not necessarily about Marchita was saying the title of the job, is applying what you know. The program is super, super important. Also, a lot of people don’t really know what organization development is or change management, or anything like that. You are seen as an expert. You learn all you can and then you’ll be tapped at some point or there’ll be opportunity at some point where you can show all your expertise and all your skills and all your knowledge just like Marie was saying how Marchita helped her to adjust her language to say, “I do have this.” Then she said and they believed her. She got the job.
That’s literally how it happens. It’s really about you mastering the knowledge and practicing it where you are and then also the next level being in those positions that may have the titles or have the job roles, but it’s really about the mastery of knowledge. People will also look at you as the expert and then you have to own it. That’s what I’m learning in this role that I have now. I have come far, but I have a lot more to go. That’s my answer.
[00:48:50] Marchita: Thank you. Thank you, Breann. Marie.
[00:48:55] Marie: Back to what I said earlier, I’d say connection. There are various networking groups. If you’re in the KC Metro Area, there’s the Kansas City OD Network where there’s great opportunities to connect with other people in the Metro Area who are working in this profession or similar professions. Since I’m a coach, I connect with various different networks in the coaching realm, some that are international and then some that are local. We have a Heartland chapter here for the ICF for coaching, and there’s great opportunities there. You just meet and learn and you never know. Sometimes in one of those sessions, someone says, “Hey, I’m hiring for X,” and you’re like, “Oh, me, me.” It’s just a great opportunity to hear about possibilities.
Then I would say from there is practice self-advocacy, toot your own horn sound. Be proud of your accomplishments and celebrate them. No one’s going to celebrate you more than you should celebrate yourself. You got to be out there and selling yourself and then confidence. If you could think about my interview experience, have some confidence because you have the experience, what you’re learning in this program and what you’ll do in the workplace is really not highly specialized in any one area. It’s the understanding of people and how we go through transitions and that you can learn and apply anywhere. Have some confidence you’re more able than you probably give yourself credit.
[00:50:32] Marchita: Sharon,
[00:50:34] Sharon: Oh gosh, really to echo what everybody has said. I think it really does come with the confidence of knowing what you know. I think too, I don’t know where all of the attendees, the roles that they’re currently in, but organizational development doesn’t have to mean that you are in an organizational development role. I think that even in a business role or in a finance role or whatever it might be, there’s a lot of opportunities for organizational development.
Now that you have that hat on is to really identify those and then create the solution and say, “Hey, I’ve now been in these meetings. This is what I’ve heard. I’d like to present maybe this solution, would you allow me to do it?” I would say nine times out of 10, it’s a free resource that the company is going to say, “Yes, please, go do it”.
I also think one of the things perhaps when I was in the program is when I was going through my practicum and we had to go and actually do an intervention at an organization. I was scared out of my mind to ask anybody like, “Can I come and do this for you?” I think now being on the other end, I think organizations who perhaps don’t have the funding sometimes to go and hire this mega consultant to come in and do this, they would be welcomed for you to come and say, “Hey, I’d really like to do this and try it out.”
I think the more experience you get and the more confidence back to what Maria was saying, it all just lines up and it creates that opportunity for you.
[00:52:07] Marchita: Thank you, Sharon. Brandi.
[00:52:10] Brandi: Yes. I’m not sure if I have a lot more to add but organizational development exists everywhere in business. There is a need, there is constant change happening, it’s happening faster and faster all the time. Even though you may not have the OD title, like the other panelists have been talking about, as business leader, as a business contributor, you have an opportunity to identify things that need some effective change management and can insert yourself and help find solutions for your company in whatever role that you’re in.
Look, we’re lucky in this profession that there are more and more OD professional opportunities being added all the time. Businesses are understanding that this is key. Thinking back to when I graduated like Brent mentioned, we couldn’t find an OD program. We were looking at industrial psychology stuff. Avila was, I think the first program in Kansas city to provide that.
When we graduated there weren’t a lot of positions here locally with an OD title. Unless you were going to go out and be a consultant on your own. It was just finding those opportunities within businesses to be doing the OD work without the title. I would say that that’s what I would recommend and to everyone’s point relationships and connections are key. Just the more people that you know, the more likely you are to find that opportunity.
[00:53:43] Marchita: Yes. That networking is so critical. Thank you, Brandi. Monica.
[00:53:50] Monica: Once again everybody has pretty much said what there is to say. I would just definitely echo looking for those opportunities to make a contribution within the organizations you’re already in, even if you’re not in that OD role. That was something I told my boss, “Hey, I got this OD degree. This is what it’s about. How can I use this to help Terracon be better?”
She became my advocate and we have different committees that are looking– actually now we have a department that does, they call the idea lab. They bring together people to solve a problem. They even now the idea lab professionals will come to me and ask questions or have me be on their different programs or projects, even if they’re not directly related to something that is in my wheelhouse because they understand where that’s coming from.
Even when I talked to them about what organizational development meant, they were like, “Oh wait, I haven’t heard about that.” I was like, “Well, let me talk to you about what OD means and how this really needs to be part of what you guys are doing in the idea lab.” Once again they’re taking it from an engineering perspective and it’s like no these are culture shifts. This are people. You’re forgetting the people element of the solution.
Just finding places where they’re not thinking about OD where they need to be and just looking for opportunities, not always being so focused on, I must be an OD practitioner. Don’t just look for that title because any title is going to have some element of change and you’re going to be in the best position to help with that.
[00:55:46] Marchita: Thank you, Monica. Brent.
[00:55:49] Brent: I’m going to echo-
[00:55:50] Marchita: Is there anything left? [chuckles]
[00:55:52] Brent: There is something left, I think. I think I’m going to echo what Monica said and I’m going to say this and hopefully, Marchita, you won’t slap me the next time you see me. I think we’re better off than we used to be but just understand that most people when you say organizational development to them, they don’t know what that means. You don’t have to be in a role that is titled that and you can influence change. You can do what you’re learning.
Here’s the thing I want to make the connection on. Think about how you present that on your resume. If you are thinking about when you do get that connection and you do get an interview for an actual organization development position, think about how, take notes and keep track of all this stuff because you’ll forget that you did this in this position and it really caused something great to happen for your organization.
Then I guess just don’t ever quit. I tell my team that all the time, that continue to present these issues. I’ve been telling my team that here in Albuquerque for two years that. I’ll say that to you too, continue to do the good work. Now after two years, we had the chief medical officer banging down our door. We have the chief operating officer banging down our door. We don’t have the CEO yet but we’re going to get him next. Just always be considering what you’re doing and using and then think about, “How do I translate that so I can get the job I want.” That’d be what I would say about it.
[00:57:23] Marchita: Thank you. Thank you all so much. I am just sitting here course hearing and learning from you as always. You are definitely a group that I have and will continue to admire and respect. At this time with two minutes left, I’m going to turn it over to Dr. Jett.
[00:57:47] Jett: Well, thank you, Marchita. Thank you panelists, it’s been a great conversation to hear about all of your experiences. One of the questions that came across on the chat was talking about the fact that today is first-generation celebration day. The question is, do any of our panelists identify themselves as first-generation college students when they were going through their programs?
Sharon and Brandi. I think that’s just important for those students out there that might be always concerned about not having had a college experience especially at a graduate level. There’s plenty of programs like Avila’s that can support you. There’s always interesting challenges for students who don’t have those support systems, those that come from a family that has gone through a university setting.
Well, that was really the only other question. There was a question about what the program is about as far as length and time. I’ll talk a little bit about that towards the end. In the last couple of minutes, do any of the panelists have any other ending comments or anything else that wasn’t shared that you’d like to share with the folks that are listening in?
All right. Well I’m going to turn it over to our coordinator of career services, Shawna, would you want to jump in and talk a little bit about career services at Avila.
[00:59:21] Shawna: Sure. Hello everyone. My name is Shawna Pena-Downing. I was a 2012 Avila alumni. Now I am back at Avila as the career services coordinator. This position is brand new. Career services wasn’t a very strong department at Avila even while I was there. Thankfully we were able to get a grant and actually hire someone to fill that role. I’m so happy to be that person to fill that role.
What that means is there is a person that supports you. Someone that will provide resources and someone that can help build portfolios and help guide you into a direction that you’re looking for. We can set goals. We can build our networks. There will be events and workshops to attend. This is up and coming so everything’s going to be fresh and new within the years since I’ve only been in this position six months, but we also keep up with what’s currently happening in the work field and in our career field.
A lot of things are shifting and changing. Conversations are happening that haven’t happened before in maybe even the last two to three years. We definitely put that into account when someone comes into the office looking for either a help getting into a career or help changing a career, or transitional time, or pivoting space. Then we are always available, not on the weekends, but what I mean is during the school year, we are available by phone, email and walk-in. We are also available by scheduling an appointment.
I encourage anyone and everyone no matter where you are at in your life journey, your career journey, to come and chat. I’m a people person and I love just getting to know people and helping them ask questions and challenge themselves and work smarter not harder.
[01:01:30] Jett: Thank you, Shawna. I appreciate your time. We’re very excited to have Shawna on board because we know adult students and graduate students need that support and she’s here to do that for us. I also wanted to share with everybody just short fast facts portion. [unintelligible 01:01:49] a file out there on chat for those attending if you pull down those highlights of the MSOD program.
The program is delivered in eight-week modules. We are doing everything online but it’s online through an asynchronous environment. You do meet each week with your faculty members so that you still have those connections and build that network but we’re trying to be cognizant of where we are at in 2021 and people needing to be able to be at home or be at work and be away and try to be competitive in that forum.
We have some really strong concentrations within MSOD program, our Strategic Human Resources concentrations is approved by SHRM. We’re excited about that relationship with SHRM. Our leadership coaching is one of the few certified through ICF and so we’re excited about all of the amazing students that come through our leadership coaching program, we have executive leadership, development, workplace instructional design, inclusion and belonging, which is our new program and we’re really excited about how successful it’s been in the short term here.
We have a psychology concentration that’s new and then we also change management which we’re hoping to get it certified through ACMP soon. We’re always looking at making sure that whatever we’re putting either in the core MSOD courses or into our concentrations that we’re tying into what’s going on in the workforce, what are those industry best practices and making sure that when you do leave the program, you have the skills and knowledge to be a really impactful as many of the panelists talked about.
You can make a difference regardless of industry, regardless of job title. These skills that you’re learning in this program will help you be impactful [unintelligible 01:03:35]. I just appreciate everybody being here tonight. I thank all of our panelists again for being here. You are amazing representations of the program that we have here. I especially want to thank Marchita, she is beloved by all and we thank her so much for being our facilitator this evening.
For those of you attending, if you have questions, please feel free to reach out to me via LinkedIn or email or give me a call here at the university and we can address whatever questions you might have. Thank you all very much and have a good evening.
[01:04:11] Sharon: Thank you, everybody. Bye.
[01:04:12] Brandi: Thank you. Bye.
[01:04:21] [END OF AUDIO]
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