Jason Phillips, a Wilmington resident who grew up in Somersworth, New Hampshire, addressed his fellow graduates at Salem State University’s College of Arts and Sciences ceremony on the afternoon of May 21. Phillips, who graduated this month with his Master of Science in Industrial Organizational Psychology (MSIO), was selected as the ceremony’s student speaker.
Phillips’ address focused on the distance he once felt as a part-time commuter student, and how he was able to connect with campus and reignite his passion for his chosen academic path thanks to the sense of community he found – and later helped to foster – in the MSIO program. The speech is available at this link and begins at 53:30.
“A community can be hard to find, especially in troubling times,” Phillips told the audience. “But if you start one, that seed can grow into a force for motivation and change. So, I ask you all to be that seed and become the reason for yourself and the people around you.”
Phillips’ interest in industrial organizational psychology began with a course he took while completing his undergraduate degree in psychology at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire.
“I really liked the idea of being able to apply the concepts of scientific research to people’s jobs and in doing so, improve their everyday lives,” said Phillips of choosing to receive his MSIO. “Work can be the defining aspect of a person’s life in America. Being able to make even a small impact on someone’s work life could be huge.”
After multiple semesters commuting to campus while working full time, Phillips began to feel disconnected from the program. That all changed, he said, when he took research methods with MSIO Coordinator and Professor Dia Chatterjee in the spring of 2021.
“Dia reignited my passion for research and was a mentor to me,” said Phillips, whose research project with classmates Larissa deOliveira, Neil Jacobsen, and Kat Vigna, overseen by Chatterjee, was presented at the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology’s (SIOP) annual conference in Seattle, Washington this April.
Phillips also joined the MSIO program’s i-cube research lab and worked with classmates and professors to launch a statistics boot camp for fellow students. As a commuter, he also found connection in the growing virtual communications prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including virtual study groups and a Slack group for MSIO students.
In his address, Phillips thanked Chatterjee; his wife, Christina; and his friends and family for being his reasons for persisting through the MSIO program.
“I invite all of you to think of your reasons for making it here today,” he told the audience. “Whatever they are, however they have changed, you made it and that is significant.”
FULL TEXT: Speech delivered to the College of Arts and Sciences afternoon ceremony by MSIO graduate Jason Phillips on May 21, 2022
A mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. That is how Carl Sagan described the Earth when he looked at the photo taken by Voyager 1 from 4 billion miles away.
Distance impacts our perspective. Whether it’s 4 billion miles of space, or zoom calls for class, or the drive home late at night after a final, or even just 6 feet.
Sometimes the distance isn’t even physical, but nevertheless it can make it harder to see the details. I can personally attest to this.
As a commuter student, I’ve worked 40 hours a week - while taking night classes - for the past 5 years. The distance I experienced was two and a half cohorts outpacing me, three different jobs, and traffic in Salem in October. I felt disconnected, and there were many times where I asked myself: why am I still here? Why am I still trying? What’s the point?
When we zoom out so far, the whole world seems insignificant. And I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. It’s because I was not alone that I am here today in front of you.
I’ve found my reasons are the same as the answer to many questions I had the opportunity to explore in the Industrial - Organizational psychology program: it depends. It depends on the day, the hour, the semester, the class, the zoom call, and most importantly it depends on you. I invite all of you to think of your reasons for making it here today. Whatever they are, however they have changed, you made it and that is significant.
Often, I found my reasons were the people around me. I’d like to thank the faculty, my peers and friends in the I/O program, my mentor, Dia, my lovely wife Christina, and my friends and family for being my reasons more times than they know.
A community can be hard to find, especially in troubling times, but if you start one, that seed can grow into a force for motivation and change. So I ask you all to be that seed and become the reason for yourself and the people around you. Cherish your corner of this pale blue dot and take a stand.