A Conversation with Katrina Merlini, MA Organizational Leadership Program Chair

Katrina Merlini, Assistant Professor of Industrial-Organizational Psychology and program chair for the 100% online Master’s in Organizational Leadership program, knows how important it is for students to gain skills they can apply to their lives.

“These organizational leadership skills that they’re learning can be applied in various situations – not necessarily only in organizations, but also in communities, in church, in your own home life, so they’re very broad-based skills that individuals can use throughout their lives. Mainly they’re using them to try to advance their career paths, but they can also use them in all walks of life.”

We talked to Merlini about the program as well as teaching in an online environment.

Why should a student pursue a Master’s in Organizational Leadership?

A student should pursue a Master’s in Organizational Leadership to learn how to be a more effective leader, and that can be an informal leader or a formal leader. What organizations need right now are those folks with leadership skills to help take them to the top, and this degree will provide those skills.

What key takeaways do you expect students to gain from this program?

Students will learn what it takes to be an effective organizational leader in terms of their interpersonal skills, their communication skills, how to motivate employees, how to gain buy-in for their ideas, how to negotiate, and how to lead in a global environment. They are not just learning about what organizational leaders do and the skills that it takes to become an organizational leader, but they’re also developing those skills themselves and planning ways to enhance and build upon their skills over time.

In addition to that, they’ll learn about the systems and structures of an organization and the dynamics that come into play that organizational leaders must deal with.

Briefly describe the professional background/experience of your students.

We have students from all walks of life. We have some who are at entry-level positions, some mid-level managers, and some even higher up as executive leaders. We also have some students who are straight out of undergrad. And of course we have some folks who are unemployed and are looking to this degree to go into a new career path.

What types of career paths can students pursue with this degree?

A student can pursue any type of career path with this degree. It’s really meant for anyone in any field who wants to advance in their careers. So they can be in all different walks of life. For example, we have some folks in the HR department, some folks in the military, some folks who are right out of undergrad who are trying to look for new jobs with this leadership skillset. It really will help someone advance in their career in whatever career path they’re in.

How do you keep students engaged in a 100% online program?

With the online program, we keep students engaged by taking a real learner-centered approach. We make students active participants in what they’re learning and we let them apply what they’re learning in ways that make sense to them and applying it to their own experiences in the workplace.

How do you incorporate your professional experience as a research analyst and a human resources analyst into your teaching?

I incorporate my professional experience into my teaching because I’m really used to taking science-based evidence and applying it to real-world scenarios, and students need that translation and examples of how you take this literature and all this information and really apply it to their work/life experiences. So that’s something I have a lot of experience doing myself.

For example, students will learn how to be transformational leaders, and there’s so much research-based evidence on how to do that and why it’s effective – but, students aren’t always going to be reading those types of scientific article that come out in our fields, so being able to take what’s most important and translate that to the students in a way that’s digestible to them and applicable for them is something that I have a lot of experience in doing.

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