New online master's degree in psychology of leadership sees its first graduates

Carla Guzman is one of the first graduates of the master's degree program in psychology of leadership offered online through Penn State World Campus. Credit: Steve Tressler / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Toronto-based human resources professional Nirmin El Haj wants to be a consultant who focuses on leadership development, organizational analysis and diversity training. Carla Guzman, a business development manager in Philadelphia, wants to work in a director capacity.

Both women chose a master’s degree program offered online through Penn State World Campus to help them work toward their goals. The two are among the first graduates of the degree program, the master of professional studies in psychology of leadership.

They will receive their degrees during Penn State’s Graduate School commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 17.

“Jobs nowadays are more about thinking and decision-making and less about manual work,” said Guzman, who works for a packaging company. “So I wanted to have the right skills to manage those types of jobs.”

The degree program, which opened to its first students in the summer of 2015, is designed to help employees understand individuals and social situations in work settings where more effective leadership can make an impact. It was offered online as a convenient way for people who are working to be able to go back to school.

Guzman balanced her job and family responsibilities while taking three courses each semester to complete the degree in about a year and a half. She did her homework after her two children, ages 3 and 4, went to bed or on the weekends, when her husband took the kids to give her peace and quiet.

El Haj works for a security services firm in Greater Toronto where her duties are in recruiting and training, and she said she applied her studies to her job. A course on motivation taught her what to look for when an employee’s job performance is low, and the course on conflict resolution was one she could apply to her daily life.

For her final project in the program, El Haj studied employee turnover at her company. She developed a questionnaire to learn more about why employees left, and she came up with ideas for retaining the workers, such as creating more job titles. She also started a leadership-training program.

Guzman also saw benefits at work. The coursework gave her insights into understanding her supervisor’s leadership style, and she adapted herself to make the most of their working relationship. For her final project, she studied how to reduce the gender gap.

To celebrate their achievements, Guzman and El Haj will come to Penn State with their families so the people who helped them realize their goals can share in the experience.

“My graduation is a milestone for the entire family,” Guzman said. “It’s important to set an example.”

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information about online learning.

Nirmin El Haj traveled from Toronto to attend Penn State's fall commencement ceremony on Dec. 17. She graduated with a master's degree in psychology of leadership, which is offered online through Penn State World Campus. Credit: Steve Tressler / Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated December 19, 2016