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ODEA Member School Spotlight: The MPOD Program at Case Western Reserve University

Interview with Patricia Petty, Case Western University 

Each month, Network News will feature one of the academic partners of the OD Network, including ODEA Member Schools and school sponsors of the OD Network Annual Conference. Our special guest this month is Patricia Petty, MSPOD, Associate Director at Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.


Written by Patricia Petty, MSPOD; interview by Marco Cassone, OD Network Board of Trustees


MC: Please give our readers a short overview about the graduate / doctoral programs in OD at Case Western Reserve University.


PP: The Masters in Positive Organization Development and Change Program (MPOD) at Case Western Reserve University is an ongoing, adaptive response to continuing changes in the world, emphasizing strategic focus on relational and human factors, striking a balance between economic well-being, social responsibility, and environmental sustainability. The curriculum remains on the cutting edge of change management, leadership development, organizational transformation, and societal benefit, drawing from strength-based approaches such as appreciative inquiry, positive psychology, positive organizational scholarship, emotionally and socially intelligent leadership, and sustainable enterprises. MPOD uses experiential learning and action research methods in an intensive, applied, and interactive residency-based, cohort design. 


One of the biggest misconceptions about the MPOD program is the substantive OD component in our curriculum.  Since our reputation is mostly based on our faculty research and theories focusing on the human factor in organizations and developing leaders, some overlook key pillars of learning offered in our program, which are positive strategic intervention, organization design and developing consultative and implementation skills. MPOD Faculty and Director, Harlow Cohen, has spent over 35 years as a consultant, and through four different courses in the program, he brings his expertise and experiences directly from the field to the classroom.


MC: Why do students choose the MPOD program and what are some of the biggest challenges they hope to address?


PP: Students who come to our program are looking for specific practitioner skills more than a general advanced degree.  They are looking for tools that help analyze the needs of an organizations, make recommendations for successful organizational performance and how to effectively navigate through transformation initiatives.  The biggest challenge our students face is finding the balance between human development, cultural and structural change to meet the needs for the organization.  Many organizations focus on structural and cultural changes, but have a difficult time valuing the effectiveness of human development.  The most difficult challenge can be the value of intentional change.  The questions I hear most often among our students is, “How do we get leaders, those who have influence in the organization, to value the development of human potential?”   Unless leaders recognize and engage in some kind of intentional change process, they have difficulty understanding the value of and its effectiveness on the success of an organization. 


MC: What are faculty members of your program working on these days?


PP: Our faculty continue to work with organizations throughout the world in their transformation initiatives, staying in tune with what is actually happening in the field and with the organizational challenges of today.  Our Organizational Behavior Department also offers a rigorous doctoral program, where research and theories are tested and tried in the field, and the results reflected back into the classroom through face-to-face conversation, and the availability of recent publications and articles.  We post all of our publications and articles on our website, which enables our students access to the latest discoveries and best practices they can bring back to the field:


MC: Are there any recent accolades for the program or faculty you’d like to share?


PP: Recently, David Cooperrider, PhD, Fairmount Santrol - David L. Cooperrider Professor of Appreciative Inquiry and professor of organizational behavior, was named to Trust Across America-Trust Around the World (TAA-TAW)'s list of 2016 Top Thought Leaders. The awards program is in its sixth year of celebrating professionals who are transforming the way organizations do business.  Our program is quite excited to say that David will be the closing Keynote speaker at the ODNC this October in Atlanta.


MC: What other newsworthy initiatives are underway that impact your program or students?


PP: In January, 2015, our MOD/MPOD Alumni Association was formed.  We have an alumni base of almost 750, and this is the first time in my eighteen years with the program that I see a mobilization of energized alumni dedicated to serving our OD Community.  In addition to creating a collaborative virtual community, they plan to hold an annual gathering at the OD Network Conference each year, for the purpose of connecting with each other, and presenting a personalized career development workshops presented by one of our alums.  


One of the MOD/MPOD Alumni Association’s current initiatives is developing a celebration in honor of the 40th Anniversary of our program.  Our alums from all 26 MOD/MPOD classes together with former and current professors will celebrate the legacy of the program in July.  The theme — “Our Roots, Our Impact, Our Edge” — will explore and celebrate our program’s lasting effects on our work as OD practitioners today and its role in forging new ground.


In addition, and as part of our reflection of forty-years in the field of OD, our alums are currently gathering a compilation of all of publications and contributions not currently captured on our website listing. The plan is to make available through our alumni website, currently under development, a complete list, with the hope that others in the field will connect and/or collaborate with our alums on their specific areas of interest. Look for the complete list on our website this summer.


MC: What personally gives you pride in your work? What’s next for you that is exciting?


PP: On a personal and professional note, I am proud to say I graduated from the MPOD Program in 2015.  I’ve spent so many years talking about the program to others, but only able to share the experience vicariously with our potential candidates.  Now I can truly share with others about the program through personal experience.   I can now knowledgably address the MPOD classroom experience, as well as the challenges of balancing career, family and studies.


I am also going to begin coaching students this summer, which is something I have been hoping to do for quite a while.  It has been somewhat of an organic part of my position as far as I remember, building relationships with both doctoral and masters students in our department, talking about their personal and professional aspirations.  Now I have the educational background and certification to be able to help them understand their leadership competencies, recognizing their strengths, their gaps, and helping them discover ways to develop their ideal self.


MC: Are there any other MPOD program success stories you’d like the Network to know about?


PP: In both my position as Association Director and as a program alum, I am proud to be one of the initial forces behind the development of our MOD/MPOD Alumni Association.  One of my program assignments addressed the challenges facing volunteer organizations, and discovering the key components of their success.  I must say that considering the outside pressures of work-life balance, our association steering committee members have been able to devote their time and efforts in a way that I believe will have a lasting impact on our MOD/MPOD Alumni and Student Community.  I saw the energy and connection play out at our 2015 ODNC, and anticipate an even more energized group at the upcoming conference in Atlanta. 


MC: And lastly, are there any final reflections you’d like to share with Network News readers?


PP: I remain humbled, yet proud of the opportunities my position provides to develop relationships with so many accomplished, caring individuals that truly have a desire to make a difference in the world.  I believe our educational impact is changing this world in so many ways – not just in the overall organizational development realm, but through changing human beings. Our students give me feedback consistently about how our program not only gives them the much needed expertise for their consultative skills, but also becomes a personally transformational experience for them.  The impact of which is immeasurable. In the stressful times dealing with logistical aspects of an academic program, I continue to remind myself of what an amazing field of contribution this is, and of our real objective in helping to develop world-class agents of change.  I believe we are surrounded by some of the best this world has to offer!


MC: Thank you, Patricia Petty, for your generosity sharing about Case Western Reserve University!


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