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Two recent graduates from SDSU’s industrial and organizational psychology master’s program are working for the world’s largest online search engine.

San Diego State University alumni can be found all over the world — just Google “SDSU Alumni” and the results will be endless.

Aztecs can even be found behind-the-scenes of the world’s most frequently-visited website — the aforementioned Google.

Payne (left) and LaMons at the Google office in Mountain View, California.

Thanks to the SDSU psychology master’s program in industrial and organizational psychology, Renee Payne (’13) and Kate LaMons(’12) are two Aztecs who have found success at the search engine giant post-graduation. The pair were offered positions at Google immediately following graduation.

Payne, a people programs specialist and LaMons, a metrics analyst, credit SDSU faculty for their success in the industry.

“I loved SDSU’s program — the faculty really pushed students to think through and approach challenges in a thought-provoking way,” LaMons said.

“Studying at SDSU was a really positive experience,” Payne said. “The program was a good balance of academic theory, statistics, data analysis and application to the real world.”

Success through psychology

The SDSU master’s in applied psychology program has two emphases — industrial-organizational psychology and program development, implementation and evaluation.

Both are based on a scientist-practitioner model, meaning graduates learn how to meet the opportunities and challenges faced by researchers working in the field, by participating in the design, conduct, communication and application of results of research while working with practitioners and people in applied settings.

“Our field is based on the notion that the research and science complement the practical application,” said SDSU psychology professor Lisa Kath. “That’s how we advance knowledge about psychology in the workplace.”

With small cohorts — typically five to eight per year — students get hands-on training and plenty of one-on-one time with professors.

LaMons and Payne attribute their achievements to their “outstanding” professors and challenging coursework.

“Professor Kath is an amazing professor,” LaMons said. “She pushed us to really understand statistics and data which is paying off.”

“I loved SDSU’s program — the faculty really pushed students to think through and approach challenges in a thought-provoking way.”

Kate Hattrup‘s research focused on cultural differences, which is something I’m very interested in,” Payne said. “She was instrumental in helping me develop items for survey testing and measurement, and also to understand what research means and how to interpret it.”

Working at Google

Both LaMons and Payne are channeling their passion for the field into their work.

“I came to Google because Google values data,” LaMons said. “Google makes decisions based off of research and data, so I appreciate that the company really values those things, and that I could bring them to the organization.”

As a metrics analyst, LaMons identifies the extent to which programs focused on well-being and presentation skills are performing at. She is in charge of analyzing the impact of learning programs for Googlers, recommending ways to improve program effectiveness and finding new ways to determine program impact.

“My job is to answer the question ‘how can we find the best talent at Google?'” Payne said.

Payne is tasked with improving the interview and selection process for Google hires.

“Being able to apply the knowledge I gained from grad school on a day-to-day basis is great,” she said.

The pair also enjoys working for a company that values work/life harmony.

A cut above the rest

The program boasts an impressive band of alumni. They can be found at Qualcomm, Twitter, SDG&E and HD Supply.

The scope of the program is broad, which translates into numerous job options after graduation. Alumni have gone on to work for corporations or consulting firms in positions involving the development and evaluation of human resources interventions. Examples include personnel selection, training, motivation, job design, quality of work-life interventions and larger-scale organizational change and development efforts.

“We have research-active faculty, but we also want to make sure our students are able to take the research and translate it into real-world applications,” Kath said. “We live in an era of big data, and we make sure our graduates are well-suited to meet the demands of various industries.”

Kath, LaMons and Payne all agree that understanding the importance of industrial psychology is integral in making the workplace synergistic and functional.

“As psychologists interested in this field, our job is to take our skills and use them to advance the knowledge in the workplace,” Kath said. “We push our graduates to do go above and beyond, so they are well-suited for the task.”