At the College of Arts, Sciences & Education, we’re training the next generation of changemakers. Our faculty and students are constantly making new discoveries which lead to new publications and solutions. We took a closer look at not only the research, but the people who make it all happen. This is one in a series we’ve titled, Up Close.
Dr. Jose F. Rodriguez never thought he would earn a Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, but life has a funny way of working out.
His academic journey began in 2001 when he started his Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies and Psychology at the University of Miami. As an undergraduate, Rodriguez made a point of getting involved. From conducting research with faculty to exploring a variety of courses to working his way up to news director of the campus radio station, he developed a holistic perspective on his education from the beginning.
By the end of his undergraduate degree, Rodriguez was hooked on university life. He began to pursue a master’s degree in higher education/enrollment management. During his program, he landed a job as an academic advisor for the University of Miami’s Department of Psychology.
Four years later, with both degrees in hand, Rodriguez was ready for the next step. He joined Florida International University as an academic advisor within the College of Business. He approached his new role with a mindset that echoed his undergraduate philosophy.
“One of the things I decided to do differently at FIU that I didn’t do at UM [as a staff member] was step outside of my office,” said Rodriguez. “I think that is one of the things that helped me in terms of my career trajectory throughout my time at FIU. It was the classic who you know type of thing.”
This led him to multiple roles within the University, including director of advising services for the School of Communication + Journalism. However, the ‘aha!’ moment didn’t come until a student he was advising mentioned the PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology.
“When he left my office, I turned around and looked up the program. Low and behold, there was a [vaguely] familiar name there: Dr. Valentina Bruk-Lee,” Rodriguez said.
Realizing their research interests aligned, Rodriguez sent an email to Bruk-Lee introducing himself and asking if they could get together to discuss the program. Upon meeting Bruk-Lee, Rodriguez knew she looked familiar, but could not pinpoint how he knew her. They started talking and realized they were both alums of the same University of Miami master’s program.
That’s when Rodriguez knew, it was time to go back to school. “My GRE scores had expired. I had to retake the test. My saving grace was that in undergrad, since I thought I wanted to go into a PhD program, I was really involved in research.”
Industrial psychology primarily focuses on the psychology of selection. The field concentrates on increasing workplace productivity and related issues such as the physical and mental well-being of employees.
With years of higher education experience under his belt, Rodriguez dove right in: “How do you select the right employee for the right position? We look at things like job analysis. That [was] my job as a PhD [student], to really analyze everyone else’s job.”
Organizational psychology examines how workers function in an organization and in turn how the organization functions in society. Rodriguez’s dissertation focused on how staff perceived stressors in their life.
By 2015, Rodriguez had worked his way up to assistant dean of the Honors College all while pursuing his doctoral degree. Though he enjoyed his role in administration, he was ready to focus on his research. He approached the Honors College dean about moving from staff to faculty. In the summer of 2016, he became an instructor which gave him the time he needed to complete his dissertation.
“I discovered I wasn’t that interested in administration anymore. I was really finding my calling in the classroom and being around students,” he said.
For Rodriguez, the change was not difficult: “By the time I transitioned from administrator to faculty and was all but dissertation, I want to say it was about six to eight weeks I took off and was like okay here we go.”
He spent the summer back in California, where he focused on writing. He would devote four days to his dissertation then take three days off while his mentor had a chapter for revision.
Rodriguez couldn’t have gotten through this process without some mental days: “I would work anywhere between 10-12 hours for no more than four days in a row. I would go out for a hike one day or go for a jog. Before you know it, it’s over.”
His research focused on how employees perceive job demands and resources at work.
“Specifically, I looked at perceptions of access and use of the organization’s formal and informal communication channels as a resource to help reduce the perceived demands of conflict due to misunderstanding of organizational policies that could lead to experiences of burnout,” said Rodriguez.
In the spring of 2018, he graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. He continues to teach courses for the Honors College such as “Treating the Person, Not Only the Disease” and “Inventing America”.
“Treating the Person, Not Only the Disease” attempts to expose students to the undergirding mechanisms of health and wellbeing. “Inventing America” which has since evolved from his original “Who’s American Anyway?” explores some of the core tenets of Americanism and the foundations of our republic.
When thinking about what’s next, Rodriguez says, “I hope in 10 years to be continuing to do what I love to do, and right now that’s teaching.”