UW-Stout master’s students in applied industrial, organizational psychology prepare to improve the workplace

Program Director Linnell receives national award for research, commitment to supporting next generation of evaluators
Abbey Goers | February 8, 2024

With an understanding of human behavior in the workplace, students in UW-Stout’s M.S. applied industrial/organizational psychology program are preparing to help improve organizations’ productivity, efficiency and more.

Dana Linnell
Dana Linnell / UW-Stout

Industrial and organizational psychologists focus on applying psychology study in the workplace, as opposed to clinical psychologists who focus on mental health and well-being aspects through therapeutic lenses, explained Program Director Dana Linnell.

Students in the M.S. applied I/O psychology program seek to improve organizations across multiple professional lenses, including employee satisfaction, work environments, hiring and training practices, marketing strategies and workplace evaluations.

Graduates have careers in business, human resources, education, evaluation, nonprofits, health care, organizational consulting and development, research analysis and other fields.

They are 100% employed or continuing their education within six months, according to Career Services’ First Destination Report.

Linnell furthers the field of evaluation

Linnell received the Marcia Guttentag Promising New Evaluator Award from the American Evaluation Association for her research and special work in the field of evaluation over the past five years. She was recognized at the AEA annual conference, in Indianapolis.

“It is a true honor to receive this award from AEA and join the phenomenal group of previous recipients,” Linnell told AEA. “My research, blogging, podcasting and service to evaluation have all been an incredible joy, and I am so grateful for everyone who has been on this journey with me.”


Dana Linnell with members of her nominating committee
Dana Linnell, second on the left, with members of the AEA nominating committee / Dana Linnell

Students from UW-Stout competed in the World Evaluation Case Competition as the U.S. representative team in 2020 and 2021, placing fourth in 2021. 

Afterward, Linnell started the AEA Student Evaluation Case Competition to determine the U.S. team going to the World competition. The first AEA competition occurred in summer 2023, and the second is being planned.

Linnell hosts EvaluLand, a podcast that features discussions with experts in the field of evaluation, and serves as associate editor for the American Journal of Evaluation. Her article "What is Evaluation? Perspectives on How Evaluation Differs (or not) from Research” is one of the journal’s top downloaded and cited articles in the past three years and is used in many evaluation courses.

For the article, Linnell surveyed 233 members of the American Evaluation Association and 499 members of the American Educational Research Association. “Most significantly, I found that evaluators think about evaluation differently from nonevaluators, which has important implications for how we communicate evaluation to people outside the profession,” she said.

Linnell is also coordinating a special issue for New Directions for Evaluation on Open Science in Evaluation, with Travis R. Moore, a postdoctoral scholar of systems science and community-based research at Tufts University. The issue will cover how evaluators might use open science practices, such as preprints and open data; and principles, such as transparency and replicability, in their evaluation work.

AEA values excellence in evaluation practice, utilization of evaluation findings, and inclusion and diversity in the evaluation community.

Real-world research prepares students for industry careers

Linnell has taken her expertise in the field into the classroom, with a commitment to supporting the next generation of evaluators in their research and career goals.

Applied psychology students conduct multiple research projects, creating real-world solutions for on-campus and external clients through graduate assistant opportunities and on-campus research centers.

Students Manna Prescher and Kate Sulzle, both of Menomonie, researched “The Story of Research on Evaluation: Continuing a Thorough Investigation on Recent Trends,” co-authored by Linnell and Professor Alicia Stachowski. They were invited to present their poster at the AEA conference.

Manna Prescher and Kate Sulzle
Manna Prescher and Kate Sulzle present their research at the AEA conference / Dana Linnell

“Evaluation is a new and upcoming field. By exploring Research on Evaluation, not only are we able to look at what we have done, but we also are able to determine the future directions of the field,” said Prescher, who has been a member of Linnell’s ROE research team since 2022. “Dana has done a great job as a director and helps students reach their personal goals within the field.”

With an interest in health-related courses, Prescher was able to take electives based on her interests, helping her land her current position as an adolescent health student worker with the Minnesota Department of Health.

She believes the program has prepared her in many ways, building her interpersonal communication skills and theoretical knowledge, as well as her technical skills in statistics software, such as Jamovi and SPSS; and psychometric software, using survey development to help with data analysis, reporting, research and program evaluation. 

“The most important preparation for me is the hands-on work this program offers,” Prescher said. “I have done an evaluation for a real client with a team, conducted occupational health psychology needs assessment for a real client, developed a survey, conducted a selection report, job analysis, worked as a research assistant and more.”

Prescher will graduate in fall 2024 and hopes to work in a research-focused area that makes her feel fulfilled, with a team where she can continue to grow. She is a B.S psychology 2021 alum, with minors in human development and family studies, and women and gender studies.

Applied psychology students reviewing data
Cohort members Kate Sulzle and Khalid Alzahrani discuss research with Linnell / UW-Stout

In another project, the program’s second-year cohort collected data for an evaluation of UW-Stout’s Stoutward Bound program, a living and learning community for first-year students. Their research focused on identifying potential areas of improvement. Survey results indicated the program met the majority of students’ expectations, and recommendations included maintaining the current program structure.

“These findings were valuable for the program, confirming its positive impact on students and their college transition. Additionally, the results offer insights for further considerations and enhancements to the program,” said Mai Khou Xiong, interim director of Multicultural Student Services.

Hallie Krueger, of River Falls, and her cohort researched workplace motivation during their Research Design and Analysis course. They were interested in which factors impact employee motivation, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Knowing what factors impact workplace motivation is important because it allows organizations to implement strategies that can help enhance productivity and employee satisfaction. The pandemic has changed a lot of things, including employees’ motivations,” Krueger said. “Conducting this research ensures that researchers like us and organizations stay up to date with the current trends and needs of employees.”

They presented at UW-Stout’s annual Research Day last spring and have been accepted to present at the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology conference this April, in Chicago. Research Day at UW-Stout will be held on Monday, April 29, in conjunction with Stout’s Spring Showcase.

Krueger will graduate this May. She has accepted a job with UnitedHealth Group’s human resources team.

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