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From the Classroom to the Community

December 11, 2015

Portrait: Psychology Graduate Students

Portrait: Psychology Graduate Students
Photo by Jack Swift, CLAgency student

It’s sometimes difficult to see the applicability of coursework while we’re in the classroom. A textbook can, at times, feel worlds apart from the situations outside the university. The Department of Psychology is working to bridge the gap from classroom to community.

As part of PSY 5707: Personnel Psychology, Graduate Students Brenda Ellis, Win Matsuda, Mariah Moore, Ori Shewach, Tetsuhiro Yamada, and Martin Yu worked with the fire department of the Rosemount community. Their project, “Recruitment, Staffing, and Retention Strategies for the Rosemount Volunteer Fire Department,” is a great example of how psychology can be applied to the real world. Professors Deniz Ones and John Campbell provided professional instruction for the course and project.

Rosemount is a small city in Dakota County, MN. The City of Rosemount Fire Department reached out to Mike Greco, director of the University’s Resilient Communities Project, with the request for assistance in identifying strategies and approaches to better attract, recruit, and retain volunteer firefighters.

To help address this multi-dimensional problem, the graduate students performed extensive literature reviews. Along with looking at the available literature regarding staffing decisions and recruitment practices, the team also took a more local focus and researched the practices of other Minnesota volunteer fire departments to understand how these practices fit within this specific context.

The cohort of graduate students identified 20 strategies to address the challenges faced by the Rosemount Volunteer Fire Department. They are confident that these strategies can be applied to several organizations as well. Based on the successful application of psychological methods and knowledge, the City of Victoria, MN is also utilizing the potential of PSY 5707 for its own volunteer fire department.

Brenda Ellis cites that the program was of great benefit to her education. “In academia, we are surrounded by jargon and esoteric ideas, but we have to communicate these ideas in way that consumers will understand. The experience of having to communicate with a client was immensely valuable.”

“I most appreciated the opportunity to be mentored by our professor in an applied setting rather than an academic setting,” said Win Matsuda. “Working on this project afforded us the freedom to be independent, original, and innovative.”

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.