Are you Coming to the Spring Reception?

OLP Spring Reception – Join Us!

Isn’t it amazing that within a student group comprised of mostly distant learners, there is still such a great sense of community in the OLP Department?  That is exactly why we’ve decided to plan this Spring Reception.   It’s a great way for everyone that’s a part of OLP – students, faculty, staff, alumni, supervisors, and prospective students – to celebrate the community we’ve created.  It will be an evening filled with socializing and networking with like-minded individuals in your field, with the opportunity to hear alumna Becky Smith’s presentation entitled “Leveraging Relationships for Career Transition”.   

Although I haven’t met her personally, Becky sounds like an inspirational person and I know I am eager to hear her story.  Networking and building relationships is vital as you move forward in your career, and Becky is going to share how she did this successfully.   And there’s so much more to talk about – that’s why we’ll break off into “hot topic” round table discussions led by the OLP faculty.  What exactly is “hot topic” you ask?  You’ll just have to wait and see!

There are so many reasons why you should join us:  the chance to connect with the OLP community, to hear Becky’s dynamic presentation, to see the beautiful new building, and to take advantage of the free food! J  But mostly – just come and join us for a fun, insightful evening.  You’ll be glad you did!

Julie Polson

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In Memorandum

Our friend and classmate, Donna Conlin, passed away on Monday, February 25. Donna has been battling a serious illness over the last several months; all the while keeping her passion for Coaching and OD in active focus. 

She was a curious and vibrant student, teacher and practitioner of coaching. She proudly packed a power suit, the latest business book, traveling internationally, as late as this past December. Her mission: presenting the benefits of coaching to colleagues and recruiting leadership candidates for the Bose Coaching Practice. She generously supported the work of other organizations, kicking off their own coaching practices by providing encouragement, accepting speaking engagements and sharing best practices. 

Donna was a member of the 2010-11 Coaching Certification class at MSPP. She recognized this academic pursuit as a key accomplishment in her professional capacity of Global Director, Organization Development and Coaching at Bose Corporation. Donna was most at home providing one on one leadership coaching and leading organization and change initiatives. She has made many meaningful and lasting contributions to throughout her career and as a class colleague.

Upon hearing of Donna’s passing a fellow classmate wrote:
” Donna was someone whose intellect, knowledge and experience I admired very much. I, … paid close attention whenever she spoke as I always gleaned something from her comments.”

Her skill, courage and vitality will be missed.

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News about Health Coaching and Executive Coaching Programs

Health Coaching

Health Coaching is a new branch of the coaching profession. Health coaches work with individuals one-on-one to help them set and reach healthy lifestyle goals. As the healthcare industry shifts toward accountable care, preventive approaches to wellness become more important. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 80% of many chronic illnesses could be prevented by lifestyle changes, such as healthy eating and exercise. Health coaches guide people in making significant changes that support wellbeing.

The MSPP Department of Organization and Leadership Psychology is excited to be launching a program to train Health Coaches in the next academic year.  The program runs for six months in a blended format, offering classes in coaching principles and skills as well as psychological principles relevant to coaching, such as adult development and health and wellness.   We are pleased to have already received many inquiries about the program.  More information will be available in the next month.

Update on GCEC

This second semester of the Executive Coaching Program finds all students out in the field coaching leaders in non-profit organizations.  From January through April students work to put into practice all that they learned in their fall classes.  GCEC coaches have always reported that the practicum experience is when everything all of a sudden seems to come together.  Students have excellent insights into the sometimes challenging, sometimes magical process that is coaching.

Here are a few things current students are saying about what they are learning, and how it feels to be finally a “real” coach:

“As a new coach I have experienced a roller coaster of emotions in my first month of trying to make it real. I started with anticipation and anxiety of the unknown. Will I have a good chemistry check, when our meeting is complete, will the potential client say let’s go for it, and will I be a decent enough coach to help my client?”

“The first learning [I’ve had] is how important it is to enter each coaching session in the right state. When I’ve stepped back and focused my attention on the importance of this practicum (and my desire to use it as best I can for a learning opportunity), my anxiety has run wild. For example, at a moment in my chemistry check, I stopped for a sec to ask myself if I was focusing enough on relationship building, which prompted hesitation and a few nervous responses. To counter this, during the times in which I’ve relaxed, focused on my coachee, led with my curiosity, and tried to be present, all anxiety has vanished and my confidence has come back immediately. This demonstrated to me how important it is to try to start with this perspective and focus every time.”

“I believe that I’m learning to take responsibility for creating the best coaching experience that I can. The phrase “creating a container” has become less a concept and more an emerging practice. For example, I believe that I’m observing that the casual conversation that sometimes precedes the meeting can affect the coaching conversation. Even pleasantries may be opportunities to be open, generous, curious, and to otherwise characterize values that can make coaching effective.”

“It’s frighteningly easy for me to ascend the ladder in inference and make up a story about why this client seems less enthusiastic than I had hoped. However, here I have to decide to be the thermostat and not the thermometer. I think it’s important to cultivate awareness of what I need in myself, both so I can address it (elsewhere) and so I don’t thrust it upon my client. As thermostat, I can bring an energy to the coaching engagement and increase the possibility that the client will gain more from coaching than he thought possible. That’s a critical part of coaching as I see it.”


Michele Vitti

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News from MAOP

First and foremost I want to congratulate the MAOP Online Only class of 2013!  They started the 10-month MAOP program in May of 2012 and just completed their last course, comprehensive exams, field placements, and capstone projects/theses! Phew – that’s a lot. Congratulations to MSPP’s first online only graduates!

In other news we are having a department wide reception/open house on March 27th.  The purpose of the reception is to connect as a community and introduce the best of our community to those applying to join us.  I am very happy that MAOP Alumna Becky Smith will be our keynote speaker. Becky distinguished her self during her tenure as a student by her excellent scholarship and balanced approach to casework and interpersonal communications. Becky’s presentation will detail how she very successfully changed careers by leveraging her degree and the connections she made in the Boston community.  She is known for her engaging and disarming presentations, which I am sure you will enjoy.  Additionally we will be offering the chance to hear about the latest developments in our ever-growing OLP department from our Department Head Dr. Erik Gregory and a chance to connect with current students, field site supervisors and potential students in round table discussions.  Also, and of course, there will be good eats.  I hope you can join us at 6pm on the 27th at our new campus.

Alumna Jackie DeJean will be presenting this July to the XXXIII International Congress on Law and Mental Health  in Amsterdam. Her presentation is titled: Diversity and Higher Education: Exploring Therapeutic Jurisprudence as an Organizational Development StrategyShe has successfully leveraged her capstone work and will now be sharing a topic she is passionate about on the international stage.  Congratulations and break a leg Jackie!

Dana DeNault and Caitlyn O’Loughlin are our OLP Alumni Alliance Co-Chairs. They are looking for new members and leaders to join the Alliance. If you have an interest in taking a leadership role to continue theirs and the Alliance Board’s fine work in building our fledgling alumni organization, please let us know.  The Alumni Alliance focuses on bringing professional practice and learning opportunities to our alums. OLP Alums are welcome from all degree and certificate programs. If you are interested in joining (which is free) please contact

If you have achievements, good news, etc. that you would like to share with the community, please let us know for inclusion in the next newsletter.  I hope to see you on the 27th!

Very best,

Dr. Stanley

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A Letter from the Department Director

Dear Members of the MSPP Organizational and Leadership Psychology Community:

After a tough winter in Boston, we who are based in the area are eager to welcome spring.  With spring comes an opportunity to join together and welcome the time of renewal.  For those of you in the area, we would like to invite you to OLP’s Spring Reception on March 27th from 6 to 9pm at our new building.  This is an opportunity for the OLP community to come together to recognize our students, staff, faculty, alumni, and field placement supervisors.  For details and registration, please visit:

Finally, please use this forum as your community.  Send us updates on your work or life; share with the community opportunities for academic enrichment; stay in touch with colleagues; and provide support for all of us to move out of our default status and into disequilibrium (that is tolerable of course).

Please submit any information, updates, or insights to Charles Allen at



Erik M. Gregory, PhD

Program Director and Chair, Organizational and Leadership Psychology

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New Addition to Department Updates

Please see the introduction provided by faculty member Karen Hruska in the Department Updates section.


Karen Hruska MA, LMHC, Faculty, Higher Education Student Personnel Administration-NEW

When Dr. Gregory approached me to teach in MSPP’s new Higher Education Student Personal Administration Program (HESPA) I was thrilled.  It was an opportunity for me to combine several of my areas of passion and expertise: psychology, teaching and working in student affairs.

Masters and PhD programs in Higher Education Administration are relatively new.  In the past, student affairs administrators were often individuals who had been promoted within their institutions to higher level positions with out much formal training in the field. As the landscape of higher education is changing, and  the profile of today’s 21st century learner has changed, it is clear that in order for institutions to survive and better meet the needs of students we need more education and training based on best practices and research.  More educated and specialized student affairs professionals can help institutions address the issues institutions are facing.  This innovative master’s degree program explores complex industry issues such as student demographics, financial concerns, legal and policy requirements, technology and competitive forces.  All against the back drop of the importance of understanding college student development.

I have just finished teaching my first course with the current cohort of HESPA students. This cohort is a diverse and sophisticated group of adult learners from across the US. Many of the students already hold positions within academia and have returned to get further education to advance their careers and to help them to contribute to the mission of their institutions. The students are working in community colleges, 4-year colleges and universities—both public and private.  There are also students who are “career changers” who have always wanted to work within academia and are seeking to fulfill that goal.  The students are doing a wide variety of field placements within their current institutions and outside of their institutions. Their projects are focused on developing new programs and initiatives as well as creating policy and making recommendations for strategic development of both curricular and co-curricular initiatives.

The program is intensive for both students and faculty as the course are 6 weeks long with no break in-between courses. The students are inspiring to watch as they hold down jobs and also complete rigorous assignments. An integral component of the program is examining real-world case studies to gain a better understanding of institutional best practices. Students complete the program within one year.

I have a passion for developmental psychology and in particular college student development. Through sharing their own experiences, as well as understanding relevant research and theories, it is rewarding to watch students become more sophisticated.  Whether we are looking at millennial students or adult learners there are maps that can help us guide students in their intellectual, career and identity development. There are ways to design curricular and co-curricular programs that foster cognitive development and to increase in self authorship and critical thinking.

Other courses focus on the business of being a university, identifying specific strategies and approaches for building inquiry and application pools, improving retention, targeting specific populations and positioning the institution in the market.

At the core of all MSPP programs is a commitment to social justice and the ethical provision of quality services. I have no doubt that within this group of students there will be future heads of colleges and universities and other administrators who have learned how to lead effectively and compassionately through this program.

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Faculty Spotlight: Davis Wimberly – Applied Psychology in Higher Education Student Personnel Administration (MA) Program

The Folderol Follies


            The rumblings of the crowd quiet as the spotlight shines on the clarinet, starting low and mellow, gradually building to a shrill. The bass of the tuba rattles the seats from the front to the back of the venue as Ben cues my entrance. A couple taps on the cowbell, the woodblock, a few simple plucks on the ukulele—just enough to add color to the tango. After the crescendo, we settle on a gentle pulse.  The stage is set, as our ladies take their positions.

            The symbols crash! Stage lights go up, and out pops Firefly, our 3-foot 3-inch Midget of Mischief being chased across the stage by Adrian of Oracle Dance Troupe in boy shorts, a black corset, and garter belt. Firefly stole her scarf and is flaunting this capture to the crowd, and secure in her triumph she stops midstage to blow a fireball. The band rushes though Raymond Scott’s Powerhouse—a song best know as the “assembly line music” of Looney Tunes. It screams mayhem, and it is all part of our plan. We were the Folderol Follies, a modern extravaganza. Music. Dance.  Burlesque. Acrobatics. Amazement. 

            Voix de ville means “voice of the city.” It was a popular form of entertainment in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, where various seemingly unrelated acts would share a bill. There might be a juggler, then an accordionist, followed by a pair of Marx Brothers impersonators slapping each other across the face with frying pans. But now at the turn of the 21st century, our ringleader, Ukulele Loki, was bringing it back. We were breathing life back into a dead art form.

            Firefly is a midget. Not a “short person” or “vertically challenged.” She is a midget. It is how she identified, and what she preferred to be called. Her dwarfism brought her wages—the added bonus of being a midget with the ability to breathe fire made her marketable in show business. She was one of many that graced our stage

            There was The Amazing Alexandria and Adrian, the aerial dancers who dazzled by contorting and twisting like a pretzel while hanging from the ceiling by a tissue or a hoop; and of course the lovely Orchid May, our tantalizing burlesque dancer; and we mustn’t forget Little Miss Petunia, our song and dance, multi-talented beauty.

            It was quite the cast of characters, and somehow I was thrown into the mix. I am a mild mannered man, with a respectable day job. Yet by night, I let my wild side rumble. However, my day job was not traditional and not unrelated; I was a music therapist. Meaning, I used music as a medium to address physical, emotional, social, and cognitive issues with individuals in various healthcare and educational settings.   I was a troubadour on the disabilities scene, travelling from site to site, armed with drums, a guitar, a keyboard, and often a ukulele. A one-man-band on a mission to cure the sick and able the disabled. I couldn’t solve all of their problems, but I could make them more tolerable for a short while. This was my day job.

            By night, I was a member of the Gadabout Orchestra, providing the comedic accents for Petunia’s “Popcorn and Peanuts” intermission routine; the seductive 50s swing for Orchid’s strip tease; the tense, dark, mysterious sounds as Firefly walked (then jumped!) on broken glass; and the energetic finale as all heads stared towards the ceiling at Alexandria’s positions; and we offered timepiece filler music from the 20s and 30s, and our amalgamated originals.

            Our ensemble consisted of tuba, trombone, clarinet, drums, glockenspiel, pedal steal and electric guitar, cello, and the ukulele. Our instrumentation was often misleading, preparing people for a revisit of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, but we were more like Tom Waits trying to harmonize like the Beatles. As one reviewer mentioned, “We reached backward, forward, and into deep pockets of pop weirdness. We were 1920s-music hall meets 1980s-shoegazer, with the dash and recklessness of indie rock.” I truly became a gadabout, constantly seeking the thrill and pleasure of performance. 

            Ukulele Loki’s real name was Aaron Johnson, a name he knew would never bring him serious respect in the circus, vaudeville, or freak show circuits.  And besides, all showmen need a stage name. He wielded this tiny instrument, and he was not ashamed, as he used to say during the show. It was indeed a staple prop in his shtick, so it made perfect sense that he should wear it as his name. 

            Loki made this high-pitched, bright instrument tell the dark stories of loves past. “She loves with a vengeance, like serving a sentence, and settling the score…” he sang. This was no Hawaii-styled imposter strumming “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” This was no Tiny Tim. This was a tortured songsmith using a simple instrument to tell the complex stories of life, love, loss, and humanity. 

            The Gadabout Orchestra was the first serious band in which I had played in quite some time. Before joining, I had become disenchanted by the music business, and wanted to be more than a performer. I wanted to use my music to reach people in powerful ways. I wanted a day job. I became a music therapist. I worked with those on the margins of society. Cerebral Palsy. Alzheimer’s. Schizophrenia. Autism.  Depression.               

            To an outside observer, my day and night lives may have seemed incongruent and downright bizarre—a Jekyll and Hyde. But strangely, my life made sense. There was a connection between displaying the fantastical talents of the Folderol Follies and bringing music to the disabled. I connected with fascinating individuals with underappreciated yet marvelous talents. Fire breathing midgets.  Profoundly disabled teenagers. They all had something to share, and music connected us.

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