After years of concentrating on a specific subject area, psychology students are learning the power of interacting with other fields.

They see how psychological aspects of motivation can be useful in managing human resources and how psychology could make a significant difference in business, design, and other areas as they collaborate with Suffolk faculty in areas other than psychology.

“Students’ interaction with faculty members and professionals across disciplines help them to get a feel for real-world application of psychology concepts and explore their passion and career goals more clearly,” said Psychology Professor Sukanya Ray.

“The main goal is for students to engage in experiential learning and reflection through our interdisciplinary faculty collaboration. This helps students when it comes to teamwork and critical thinking. It also helps them gain skills from professionals across different fields and integrate them with creative approaches on their projects,” she said.

Connecting with designers

Students in Ray’s senior capstone class discover how their knowledge of psychology can have an impact in business, social media, design/architecture, health, and other areas through team explorations of these topics.

One student team interviewed Interior Architecture Professor Sean Solley and Graphic Design Professor Rita Daly for a collaborative project on universal design, which is defined as the creation of products and environments that are accessible to people of all ages, sizes, abilities or disabilities, or cultures.

The students explored relevant literature and integrated expert knowledge to examine the important role of psychology in design and society.

“We took it a step further by learning how design can really be helpful for people with differences,” said Natalia Klos, Class of 2017. She noted as an example that noise should be a consideration when designing for children with autism spectrum disorder.

“The most important thing I learned is that we should start designing with the needs of folks with physical disability in mind and not just for able-bodied people,” she said.

People skills in business

Trevor Bland and his group focused their project on links among social media, psychology, and business as they interviewed marketing and business experts.

“We found out that psychology and business can be applied in many different areas, including human resources, marketing, and communication between company and consumer,” said Bland, Class of 2017.

“Let’s say a consumer called a company representative upset about a certain product that they purchased,” said Bland. “Well, the person acting as the face of the company must rely on the psychological knowledge that they have to handle such a situation.

“The person needs to talk with the consumer in a professional and understanding manner to make the consumer feel comfortable and communicate that the company will do whatever it takes to solve the problem. A big part of psychology is how to deal with people.”

Exposure to other fields through the capstone class helped Bland decide to pursue his graduate study in marketing. He described Ray as “an absolute inspiration for anyone who takes her class or even has a chance to meet her.”

The value of teamwork

For Layal Albakree, Class of 2017, a key takeaway was the experience of working as part of a team. “Doing research, interviewing, compiling all the information, and presenting it—everyone communicated with one another and brought something different to the table,” she said.

Asking the right questions of the right people and working closely with partners are vital to interdisciplinary learning, according to Solley.

“It’s important to build teams and share your skills through collaborative effort,” he said. “By doing so you often learn what makes your own skills special.”

Each team gave a formal class presentation and submitted a project portfolio that included a description of the experience, its impact, and growth areas.

Prepared for next challenge

Ray hopes that students left the capstone class with skills that will help prepare them moving forward.

“I believe in mentoring students to do well in courses while guiding them for their graduate education and/or career choice in the future,” said Ray. “Students in my courses get exposure to a broad range of educational and professional career opportunities through experiential projects.”

Ray’s senior capstone class grew out of an initiative that brings together Suffolk educators from different disciplines to explore the latest research on teaching and learning. The program is facilitated through the University’s Center for Teaching and Scholarly Excellence.