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Getting to Know SIOP’s Award Winners

Garett Howardson and Liberty Munson

This is the second installment of the Getting to Know SIOP’s Award Winners. The first installment, found here [http://0-www-siop-org.library.alliant.edu/tip/july16/aw.aspx], profiled the work of Nathan T. Carter (University of Georgia), Dev K. Dalal (University at Albany, SUNY), Anthony S. Boyce (Aon Hewitt), Matthew S. O’Connell (Select International, Inc.), Mei-Chuan Kung (Select International, Inc.), and Kristin Delgado (Select International, Inc.) winning not one but two SIOP awards: The Hogan Award for Personality and Work Performance and The Jeanneret Award for Excellence in the Study of Individual or Group Assessment. In this second and latest installment, we profile Dr.Nathan Ainspan for his Raymond A. Katzell-award-winning work with service members and veterans of the U.S. military.


The Raymond A. Katzell Award

The Raymond A. Katzell award remembers the namesake’s strong scientist–practitioner advocacy throughout his 27-year faculty tenure at New York University. A student of motivation and job satisfaction, productivity enhancement interventions and discrimination in employment testing, Dr. Katzell’s scholarly expertise was amply applied to the practice of I-O psychology. His public outreach extended beyond his research, however, into leadership roles within several psychological organizations, including his roles as SIOP Fellow, past president, and recipient of SIOP’s Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award. In addition to his SIOP roles, Dr. Katzell was a fellow of APA and APS. Clearly, Raymond A. Katzell’s work was far-reaching and benefitted greatly society.

Indeed, it was with this impact in mind that also SIOP Fellow Kitty Katzell established the Raymond A. Katzell award, which recognizes individuals exemplifying her husband’s characteristics and work. More specifically, the Raymond A. Katzell Award in I-O psychology recognizes “a SIOP member who, in a major way, has shown to the general public the importance of work done by I-O psychology for addressing social issues, that is, research that makes a difference for people” (http://0-www-siop-org.library.alliant.edu/SIOPAwards/katzell_award.aspx).

The Awardee History

Since the award’s 2009 inception, six SIOP members other than Dr. Ainspan have been honored for their society-benefiting, scientist–practitioner work. These recipients and their award-winning works are:

2009: Edward E. Lawler, III for, in addition to his extensive contributions to the scientific literature, communicating effectively this and related research to the general public. Among the titles bestowed upon Dr. Lawler for his public-facing work are one of the top six management gurus (BusinessWeek), one of human resource’s most influential people (Human Resource Executive), and one of the century’s top 25 visionaries shaping the modern workforce (Workforce Magazine). Dr. Lawler is a regular contributor to several additional media outlets including the Financial Times, Investor’s Business Daily, News & World Report, and Forbes Magazine. http://0-www-siop-org.library.alliant.edu/tip/july09/24awards.aspx

2011: Alice H. Eagly for her impactful prosocial research on gender dynamics in organizational settings, particularly with respect to women leaders. Dr. Eagly’s research has earned her several accolades, not the least of which is the title of SIOP Fellow. She has also earned the 2009 Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the APA. In addition to her scholarly recognitions, Dr. Eagly has gained significant public recognition for her book Through the Labyrinth: the Truth About How Women Become Leaders, the research foundation of which was summarized in a 2007 Harvard Business Review article earning finalist honors and eventual second place for the McKinsey Award. Dr. Eagly’s work has also been featured in USA Today, Sacramento Bee, Wall Street Journal, Charlotte Observer, and APA Monitor.  http://0-www-siop-org.library.alliant.edu/foundation/katzell11.aspx

2012: Piers Steel for his work on procrastination, which, culminating in the public-facing book The Procrastination Equation, has received recognition in several impactful popular press outlets, including the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Toronto Globe and Mail, and Chicago Tribune. http://0-www-siop-org.library.alliant.edu/Foundation/katzell12.aspx

2013: William C. Byham for his highly communicable leadership works, including 23 books, over 200 monographs and articles, and hundreds of public presentations. Two of his works, however, have been particularly impactful: Zapp! and HeroZ. http://0-www-siop-org.library.alliant.edu/Foundation/katzell13.aspx

2014: Benjamin Dattner for his work advancing public awareness of I-O psychology through, for example, regular appearances on NPR, quotations in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review, appearances on national television outlets, his book The Blame Game, and his many years of service on the SIOP Visibility Committee. http://0-www-siop-org.library.alliant.edu/Foundation/katzell14.aspx

2015: Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic for expert psychometric work providing high quality and publically accessible self-awareness assessment tools, in addition to his wide-reaching publications in the Harvard Business Review and Scientific American and numerous other publications via social media, television, and radio. 

Raymond A. Katzell Award Winning Work of Dr. Nathan Ainspan

Dr. Ainspan is currently a research psychologist at the Department of Defense in the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Transition to Veterans Program Office.

In his role, Dr. Ainspan is part of an interagency effort to better prepare U.S. service members for civilian life; for example, helping translate military skill sets into civilian competencies. More specifically, Dr. Ainspan works to support and substantiate the DoD’s efforts in the military-to-civilian transition arena with research and best practices, as well as provide research-based recommendations for the Transition Assistance Program that every eligible service member participates in as they prepare to leave the military.

Despite Dr. Ainspan’s relatively short 4-year tenure in this current role, his work improving service members’ personal and work lives transcends nearly 2 decades.

Approximately 12 years ago, Nathan met Dr. Walter Penk, his then-future mentor, coauthor and coeditor on much of the work for which Dr. Ainspan received this award. Dr. Penk’s pioneering vision was to use employment as a treatment for posttraumatic stress disorders. The prevailing consensus at the time was that service members should be as mentally fit as possible before entering the workforce. Dr. Penk’s work inverted this paradigm and demonstrated, through empirical evidence, that employment itself was an effective posttraumatic stress treatment.

Nathan joined Dr. Penk on an 8-year journey extolling the virtues of employment for veterans’ transitions to civilian life.   

A Transformative Experience 

After graduating with a PhD in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University, Dr. Ainspan eventually found his way to the greater Washington, DC area working for the U.S. Department of Labor as a research analyst. His work focused on helping private organizations understand the bottom-line importance of a diverse and inclusive workplace, of which people with disabilities are an important part.

During an emergency evacuation planning exercise, Ainspan was instructed to ask any fellow coworkers who might require assistance how he might help them in the event of an emergency. Therefore, Dr. Ainspan appropriately asked his cubical neighbor—a Vietnam veteran injured in the war and a wheelchair user—how he could help assist in an emergency evacuation. Grabbing his wheelchair, Dr. Ainspan’s colleague spun around, testing the weight of his computer monitor, and stated that he would throw the monitor through the window to create an immediate emergency exit. His colleague continued to say that Dr. Ainspan could then help by breaking away the remaining glass and pushing the wheelchair through the newly created exit.

It was only after a deadening pause that the situation became clear. Dr. Ainspan had assumed his colleague—a combat-experienced veteran of the Vietnam war—would require assistance in the event of an emergency. In reality, Dr. Ainspan realized that the reverse would be true and that the person most likely to receive help in an emergency would be him. His disabled colleague was the one who possessed a unique, irreplaceable, and highly enabling skillset acquired through years of military experience.

It was this message that was to fuel Drs. Ainspan and Penk’s future work including several SIOP conference presentations. The 21st Annual SIOP Conference held 2006 in Dallas, Texas, however, was perhaps the most impactful.

Continuing the Work

Arriving in Dallas, Dr. Ainspan prepared for his 2006 SIOP conference presentation armed with a simple message: Veterans already possess many of the individual characteristics organizations prize. In fact, the U.S. government purposefully invests millions of taxpayer dollars to ensure this is precisely the case. Better tapping into this talent pool, said Dr. Ainspan, was a critical problem for I-O psychology. Well received, Dr. Ainspan’s work continued at subsequent SIOP conferences and even expanded into APA full-day continuing education sessions, which had been offered for five contiguous APA conferences. Based on this work. Dr. Ainspan has edited three books, including the 2012 When the Warrior Returns: Making the Transition Home. More recently, Dr. Ainspan has also edited the 2016 Handbook of Psychosocial Interventions for Veterans and Service Members: A Guide for the Non-Military Mental Health Clinician. He is currently in the process of editing a book (with many SIOP members contributing chapters) written for HR leaders and I-O psychologists on how to hire and retain veterans in civilian companies.

Looking Forward

To be sure, Dr. Ainspan’s work with service members has benefitted society at large and is well deserving of the Raymond A. Katzell award. Such work, however, is far from done. Indeed, it is his current TVPO work that Dr. Ainspan believes will expand veterans’ workforce roles even further. One specific focus within this work is, for example, helping service members to better articulate their actual knowledge and skills. Why, one might ask, is this not something service members currently do? As Dr. Ainspan reminds us, such knowledge and skills are not unique in the military; it is expected that everyone have these characteristics. Indeed, the U.S. military’s goal is to make such knowledge and skills second nature. Asking a service member to describe such knowledge and skills would, therefore, be akin to asking a fish to describe water.

Through his TVPO work, however, Dr. Ainspan hopes such miscommunications will become a thing of the past. One recent example of such work commissioned by the TVPO was the collaboration between Dr. Ainspan (the primary point of contact) and fellow SIOP member and RAND researcher Dr. Chaitra Hardison. In broader conjunction with a research project commissioned by TVPO to the RAND Corporation, Drs. Ainspan, Hardison, and other colleagues worked to measure and translate the nontechnical but essential skills (e.g., communication) service members acquire in the military. Ideally, such research would help ease communication between private organizations and military service members. Although such advancements take time, Dr. Ainspan encourages us all to recognize the highly unique knowledge and skills acquired through highly unique military experiences.

On a Lighter Note

He, who laughs most, learns best. – John Cleese

It might surprise you to learn that John Cleese, the famed Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian star, is trained in law and chemistry, holds two master’s degrees, and has even taught courses at Cambridge University. For these reasons and others (e.g., experience teaching human resources), Cornell University considered inviting Cleese to be an honorary faculty member. Wanting to be a part of the application process, Cornell students approached then-Cornell graduate student Dr. Ainspan to write a Cleese’s recommendation letter. Dr. Ainspan had received a copy of the Python actor’s accomplished resume but was nevertheless uncertain what to write. A well-timed midnight screening of Life of Brian, however, provided the necessary inspiration and insight.

Immediately upon arriving home, Dr. Ainspan began the letter that would eventually help secure John Cleese’s role as a visiting Cornell professor of, among other topics, human resources (Dr. Ainspan even got to have lunch and talk to the now Professor Cleese when he first visited the Cornell campus). His visits to the campus as an honorary professor were so well appreciated that when the term of the honorary professorship expired, Cornell immediately offered him a permanent honorary position with the faculty, which he maintains nearly 20 years later. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dr. Ainspan’s response when asked for a fun personal fact is simple and consistent. “I helped the guy from Monty Pythonget a teaching job at an Ivy League school.”

Garett Howardson is currently principal work scientist at Tuple Work Sciences, Limited. Most of his work focuses on quantitative, psychometric, and/or computational issues to better understand the psychology of modern, technical work writ-large (e.g., aerospace technicians, computer programmers). 

Garett is also an avid computer geek. In fact, he has a degree in computer science, which he avidly applies to his research and work in pursuit of one deceivingly simple goal: better integrate I-O psychology and the data/computational sciences to understand work. 

Liberty Munson is currently the principal psychometrician and Assessment and Exam Quality lead at Microsoft. She is responsible for ensuring the validity and reliability of Microsoft’s certification and degree programs. Her passion is for finding innovative solutions to business challenges that balance the science of assessment design and development with the realities of budget, time, and schedule constraints.

Liberty loves to bake, hike, backpack, and camp—basically, if the sun is shining you’ll find her enjoying the great outdoors; if not, she’s in her kitchen tweaking some recipe just to see what happens. She has also been actively involved in editing The Microsoft Cookbook to raise money for a local charity, FareStart, as part of Microsoft’s Give Campaign. Also, she just got a new mini schnauzer puppy, Apex!

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