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Kiera PenpeciKiera Penpeci

New Jersey
University of Massachusetts
Leadership Psychology PsyD
Class of 2020

Being a 2016 graduate of the Masters in Organizational Psychology program (MAOP), and now a student in the Leadership Psychology PsyD program, I would say that I finally found my psychology mecca. I am originally from New Jersey, where my path started as a part-time undergrad and almost serendipitously landed me here.

Right out of high school, I climbed the corporate ranks in retail, and I LOVED my job. I was the ultimate engaged employee who was completely sold on the product and the mission. My friends didn’t understand why I liked that place so much, and I wasn’t sure why either. This intrigued me. I became curious about the mysterious corporate office and what they did behind the scenes to motivate me to treat the store like it was my own. Right before starting part-time at a local community college, I made the connection between Organization Development and my experience in retail. Soon thereafter, I was on a mission toward a master’s degree in the field that I could use to help workplaces give employees experiences like I had.

I say this was serendipitous because the field of OD is growing, but it is still small. Because of that, there is not an abundance of programs available. When I decided to move to Boston with my then fiancé, the first thing I considered was how I would continue my education while here. When I found William James College and what is offered to MAOP students, I couldn’t believe my luck. First, I never lost my work ethic and drive for experience when I started college, so I was working full-time while attending school. This was unnegotiable to me, therefore, the ‘blended’ course offering fit my needs. When it came to a flexible program, I also feared that this would be one of those “online colleges” that had the stigma of being unengaging and illegitimate because of the little physical classroom learning experienced. There is no inkling of that idea left because in just a year, I had learned so much about myself. I would say that I got much more than I bargained for because I found myself a better student than I have ever been and my curiosity and creativity was harnessed through the practicum aspect of the curriculum. My greatest accomplishment has not been what I have gained from the textbooks, the professors and their lectures; What I am most gratified with is the product of having thrown all caution to the wind, and letting myself grow as a whole. I know myself better. These programs challenge you in a way that you may discover how to become your best self, so that you can then go do your best work.

The best advice that I can share came from a realization I had after graduating from the MAOP, while deciding that I wanted to keep going toward my doctorate at William James College. It is that it is important to enjoy the process. Yes- it is hard to earn a graduate degree, especially when you have other major responsibilities, but once you have decided to dedicate your time to this future accomplishment, you should soak it up. This is by devouring the material, getting to know your cohort better, and being as mentally and emotionally open to new ideas, people and experiences. Then you will have not only become an expert in the field, but you will have learned to work with all types of people more successfully, made new friends, and will graduate without feeling like you are missing a chunk out of your life.