Organizational Psychology & Work/Family Integration

Organizational Psychology & Work/Family Integration


December 10, 2014

Mary Hunt is Assistant Professor of Business and Psychology and Internship Coordinator at Ave Maria University. For the five years before coming to AMU, she served as Academic Dean and President of Lexington College in Chicago. Hunt specializes in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and she is doing her doctoral research on questions related to work/family integration. She agreed to an interview in her office on the second floor of the Academic Building.

1. When I was in college, I majored in political science because I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I did three different internships that were law-related in the greater Boston area, and those experiences helped me realize I didn’t want to go into law. I wanted to do something that was more engaging with people. My internship experience is something I love to share with students: Both good and not so good internships can be great for discovering possible future career paths.  I graduated from Wellesley College with a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish, and with a minor in Economics.

2. After I graduated, I took a job in banking and pursued a Master’s in Business Administration part-time. At the time, I was working as a product manager in the marketing department of a division of Citibank. I was asked to lead a side project that explored employee attitudes—that was my first introduction to organizational development. I see that as my first big break and the opening into what became my future path.

3. As I finished my M.B.A. at Washington University, St. Louis, I realized that I wanted to work more directly in a position in organizational behavior. So I made the shift and moved into the field of training and development. While consulting in that field, I taught an evening management course at Lexington College in Chicago. That was my first introduction to higher education, and I really enjoyed it. After teaching one semester, I was offered a fulltime position with the caveat that I would pursue my doctorate. That was my shift from the corporate business world to the academic track. I now have an M.S. and am currently a Ph.D. candidate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

4. One area of interest that developed while I was working in training and development was how people integrate their work and family life. My current research is in the area of how organizations support employees’ efforts to manage work and family responsibilities and choices. I examine questions like: How do non-work social support systems impact life and work satisfaction? I’m in the early stages of my dissertation project.

5. The field of work/family balance (I prefer to use the word “integration”) is garnering a good deal of attention in recent years.  Many are juggling the normal stresses of both family and work life—I’ve experienced it myself. I’m constantly learning from my research about avenues of time and stress management, communication, and so forth.  My work in recent years has explored ways that people develop attitudes, knowledge, and skills that foster and value the home environment.  The past four decades have seen a dramatic shift for women in education and the workplace.  Women are now equally as likely as men to be well-prepared for whatever professional paths they choose.  But this positive change has also been accompanied by a shift of attention away from the home and family.  Women who are extremely competent in their professional worlds often feel ill-prepared to manage home and family.  I am interested in helping them to transfer the management abilities that make them so effective in other domains and adapt those skills within their home and family lives.

6. My favorite piece of writing is also my only significant academic piece: “The Relationship between Work-Family Conflict, Social Support and Performance among Healthcare Workers.”  Parts of this research have been presented at the Academy of Management meeting and at the annual “Work, Stress & Health”conference sponsored by the American Psychological Association.   

7. My favorite course to teach is, not surprisingly, Industrial/Organizational Psychology. Basically, this course looks at how personnel decisions are made in an organization, how people are selected and fit into the right jobs, what motivates people to work, the whole area of leadership and what makes a leader, performance management, how to improve and evaluate job performance, legal issues of fairness and discrimination in the workplace, etc. My favorite parts of the course are the sections on motivation, leadership and job performance.

8. Prior to coming to Ave Maria, I was in academic administrative roles. I was the academic dean and president of Lexington College. While my management experience prepared me well for those roles, I was missing the classroom, the interaction with students, and the opportunity to do research. I had heard many good things about Ave Maria. It is at an exciting point of growth, and the possibility of being a part of that attracted me.

9. My favorite place to eat in Naples is to take a picnic to the beach.

10. When I was young, I wanted to be a writer. It’s funny because different things have come around to give me an opportunity to write. I didn’t know what kind of writer I wanted to be—I just wanted to do something that would enable me to write. So my college decision was between going to Wellesley or the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern. At that point, I made a decision not to pursue journalism. While some people find their professional path early in life, most of us take different turns along the way. I enjoy helping students discover possibilities for their early career paths.

11. The thing I most treasure in my office is this huge window filled with light.

12. My go-to snack food is yogurt. When in doubt, I have yogurt.

13. I’d love to spend a month in the city of Oxford, England. I’ve been there once, for one day, and it’s a very intellectually enriching place to be. It seems livable and relaxing, filled with beautiful architecture and history.

14. My grandfather gave me a book for my 13th birthday. It was a slim, red, pseudo-leather book called The Joy of Words—a collection of quotes under headings like “Wisdom,” “Beauty,” and “Truth.” The quotes were drawn from a whole range of sources, ancient to modern. It’s one of the few things I’ve kept my whole life; I take it with me whenever I move. It’s very much a youthful kind of book, but it introduced me to poets I’d never heard of, ideas I’d never thought at that age.

15. Now, in Ave Maria, I never leave home without an umbrella. That’s a big adjustment for me. 

16. What do I look for in a student? I look for a desire to discover and pursue his or her life calling and to explore how their current learning will prepare them for that calling. I enjoy helping students in that process.

17. My number one piece of advice is: Listen. Listen to others, listen to your own heart and mind, listen to God.

18. My favorite color is green. I find it cheerful, hopeful and very restful.

19. I don’t have a favorite place on campus yet.  I’m open to suggestions…

20. My purse always has pen and paper—often too many.

21. If you want to stimulate your mind, ask questions. Be curious, ask yourself questions, and free write the answers to those questions.