Aug 6, 2014 | Atlanta, GA
Elnora Kelly is a Ph.D. student in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at Georgia Tech. Recently, the Office of Graduate Studies had the opportunity to learn more about Kelly and her time at Tech. Here's what she said.
What led you to choose Georgia Tech for graduate school?
I started out in Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology at Old Dominion University where I earned my bachelor’s degree. I subsequently earned a Master of Public Administration and spent some time doing consulting and coaching for government organizations. While doing that, I realized that I wanted to be able to branch out and effect change in both the public and private sectors, which would require a Ph.D. I wanted a program where I could get experience with both the science and practice sides of my discipline — and Georgia Tech offered that. For example, I have the opportunity to work with many renowned professors at Tech. Beyond campus, Atlanta is an area where there are many great companies offering opportunities for practical experience.
Tell us a little bit about your research.
My research is grounded in interactionism, the view that behavior is a joint product of individuals’ personality, abilities, and the situations they experience. A study I’m working on right now requires people to go out with their iPhones or other handheld devices and respond to surveys five times a day, telling me about their work experiences and environment. My goal is to better understand how those experiences change throughout workdays and workweeks. I hope to use my results to better understand what leads people to participate in voluntary behaviors such as helping with things they are not required to work on or sabotaging projects at work.
What are the top three reasons you’d recommend Tech to other graduate students?
Participating in a community of scholars with diverse perspectives is the most attractive feature of graduate study here. For example, I study I-O psychology, but work and study alongside students in other areas of psychology, as well as those in other disciplines like management. I relish collaborating with such a wide variety of scientists. The second reason is the professional and social environment of Atlanta. The city is great for practical career experience, but there is always something fun to do with your spare time — spare time is rare for graduate students, but you will have some eventually, I promise! The supports available for students at Tech are also quite helpful. For example, my classmates and I have taken elective courses offered by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to better prepare for an academic career.
What advice do you have for students who are applying to Tech?
Get as much research experience as possible before you apply! It is nice to have good grades and test scores, but none of that compares with actually having research experience in your field. Moreover, research experience, tells potential advisors that you are serious, and it gives you an opportunity to make sure this is the discipline to which you really want to devote many years of your life.
What are a few things every graduate student should do while at Tech?
Get teaching experience! I know that not everyone wants to be a professor, but you may end up discovering that you really enjoy teaching and developing undergraduates. Work on your resume and/or curriculum vitae (the academic equivalent of a resume) early, so that you are ready for the job market when it is time to begin your job search. It can be overwhelming to pull together all of your application materials in a short time while working on other projects! Build relationships with your professors and classmates. Sure, you’ll be in classes with them, but take the time to really get to know them. After all, these people will be your colleagues for the rest of your career.