Leading By Example: Fellow Alumnae Connect as Colleagues at Beth Israel Lahey Health

stacy boss and abigail eaves

Stacy Boss (left), Abby Eaves (right)

Given their individual life and career trajectories, Stacy Boss PsyD and Abby Eaves PsyD should have crossed paths in any number of locales—from London’s Heathrow Airport to One Wells Avenue or the Panera Bread on Highland. Instead, the pair of William James College alumnae (both graduates of the William James College PsyD in Leadership Psychology, in June 2021 and December 2022, respectively) connected only recently thanks to a tremendous workplace opportunity and a wee bit of serendipity. 

“I was seeking to fill a specialist position in Organization Effectiveness and Change at Beth Israel Lahey Health (BILH),” said Director Stacy Boss, who sought an experienced candidate keen on advancing in the organization development/effectiveness/behavioral space. Eaves, who spotted the job posting on LinkedIn after OLP Department Chair Suzanne Devlin, PhD, tipped her off, had already interviewed with a partnering BILH group in workforce planning—an arena that, while ultimately not the right fit, resulted in Eaves being highly recommended for the opening on Boss’ team. As word spread of the two graduates being in conversation, a groundswell of support erupted from campus and ended in a clear consensus: The pair would not only enjoy working together, but they would also complement one another’s strengths quite well. “[Abby] had already wowed enough people in her interviews and discussions that I didn’t really have a choice,” joked Boss of her new colleague—hired in October 2023, just five months into her own tenure—pointing to a powerful partnership that’s been gaining steam ever since. 

“We pursued very different paths,” explained Boss, who—despite nine years working toward a PhD in Organization Behavior and Change through Storytelling while living in Scotland, which she successfully defended—was discouraged from completing her PhD (or pursuing academia) when she unexpectedly lost her supervisor. “It was a bitter pill to swallow,” recalled Boss, who, considering her extensive background in change management, vowed to come back to the concept of behavior in organizations. The OLP PsyD program at William James presented her a unique opportunity to join a growing discipline within psychology—something she had not considered prior. Already employed in the field of organizational development (working for various global organizations undergoing change), Boss sought a practical approach to complement her theoretical basis. Her return to the classroom was a gift. 

“I love learning,” said Boss, pointing to a growing interest in leadership piqued by the William James doctoral program. While in Glasgow, she taught classes in organizational culture, change, structure and behavior at University of Strathclyde; once stateside, she eventually returned to the lecture hall at Bentley University in Waltham where she is an adjunct faculty member— teaching again coupled with research, keeps her vibrant and engaged. 

“Change, in the majority of cases, is perceived as top-down work, and my focus areas have been on how to support the individuals, teams and departments within an organization; almost as a liaison or advocate for stakeholders,” she explained, underscoring that, from a change perspective, it’s a tiered approach. As such, Boss emphasizes the distinction between her degree (OLP) and her field (organization development, behavior and people change management): “Yes, it’s important to understand why a leader is doing things the way they're doing them but equally important is the impact on the stakeholders, individuals and teams within the organization,” explained Boss. 

Eaves commenced her coursework at William James in January 2019. “I found myself on an unexpected career path,” said the native of Wales who sought to pursue personnel psychology (an iteration of organizational psychology) in London after earning her undergraduate degree. Keen on experiencing the adventure of living and working in America, Eaves was recruited by a nonprofit and got caught up in the fun of living abroad which included earning her MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and becoming a therapist. Following some twists and turns along the way, she landed an administrative role at a nonprofit (overseeing the social services and well-being of those in her organization’s care), an environment in which she got turned onto the idea of workplace psychology.

 “I was really fascinated by it all—from understanding team dynamics and helping people grow and develop to figuring out the best leadership approaches—which inspired me to go back to school and do something new,” said Eaves who, while contemplating business school, found a program that, in retrospect, was the answer she’d been looking for all along.

“The doctoral program in OLP at William James married all my interests together, and the rest is history,” she shared. After earning her degree, Eaves—who had established a robust therapy and coaching practice—took some breathing room in order to work on projects with other consultants and develop her own niche. 

Since October 2023, Eaves and Boss have been collaborating to better understand all things associated with leadership—from the simple fact that organizations need effective leaders now more than ever to the myriad complexities surrounding the influences of an individual’s leadership style on their teams and colleagues.  Like their employer (a nonprofit coordinated healthcare system that brings together academic medical centers and teaching hospitals—comprising 4,800 physicians and 38,000 employees—in a shared mission to expand access to care), Boss and Eaves are achieving more together than they could have separately. In their day-to-day work at BILH, the pair is tasked with not only understanding that individuals are inherently designed to respond to stimuli in a constantly changing environment but that their behavior also has ripple effects. 

Despite disparate paths, Boss and Eaves share important common ground: Gratitude for having been connected, as adults, to the learning community at William James. “Finding subject matter that really interests me, and having conversations with other learners who are just as passionate, has been really stimulating,” said Eaves of an educational experience that, considering the peers and professors who helped her along the way, remains both unrivaled and ongoing.

“Each individual has a thing that is driving them, and every day [Abby and I] try to understand what causes people to act [as they do], especially when their behavior is incongruent with what needs to happen in an organization,” said Boss, before Eaves chimed in.

“It’s working with individuals to understand their psychology, [and] how it’s showing up in the workplace,” she explained, underscoring that the individual’s own behavior is constantly showing up in their leadership role and, by extension, “affecting their teams and reverberating through the entire system.”

In the end, it all boils down to options. “If the team is experiencing a power issue, we brainstorm approaches to better engage with the dynamics present,” said Boss, citing invaluable tools of the trade learned at William James. 

“What we've learned in the Leadership Psychology doctorate, we can use as additional arrows in the quiver,” she says, pointing to their unique, complementary skill sets—found at the intersection of a clinical background and behavioral assessment perspective albeit in a corporate environment.

If Boss has learned anything in her journey, it’s to work on being truly self-aware. “You’re going to make mistakes, and stumble along the way, but [in the end] it’s about listening to yourself and being [cognizant] of not only what drives you, but also what brings you the most joy in the work that you do,” she said, emphasizing that the work is neither one-dimensional nor poised to yield cookie-cutter results. Getting feedback along the way, without fear of what others have to say, is an excellent way to measure impact and grow. 

Considering humans are adaptive by nature, Eaves is quick to underscore that the idea of career monogamy is not only unnatural but also antithetical in many ways. “Remain open to who you are as you grow, evolve, and develop through your lifespan—lean into that,” says Eaves who encourages folks to be honest about who they are and what motivates them. In short, it’s not about choosing one pot or the other—doing well for the world or being financially stable. “These things may not be truly exclusive anymore,” says Eaves who distills it down to the basics: “Know who you are, know what kind of life you want to live, and be open to all the different possibilities that come along that can get you where you want to go.”