William HendrixMeet William Hendrix

Professor Emeritus of Management
Clemson University

What inspired you to pursue your PhD in I-O psychology?

After graduating from East Carolina University I entered the Air Force. I checked throughout each year to see if there were master degrees being sponsored by the Air Force. After a few years there was an offering of a master’s program within the Department of Psychological Sciences at Purdue in Human Factors. I applied for it and was selected to attend the program at Purdue.  The human factors program was basically the same as the industrial psychology except the human factors program required additional courses in anatomy and physiology as well as one course in human factors. During this time is when I developed a strong interest in industrial psychology. The Air Force required one to leave after obtaining one’s master’s degree and return for a job assignment. I was fortunate to be selected to go to the Air Force Academy and join the faculty within the Department of Psychology and Leadership. It was a great job and later while in a second assignment performing human factors staff work I applied for and was selected for the industrial psychology doctoral program that was advertised by the Air Force. The Air Force wanted me to go for the doctoral program at Bowling Green. I expressed my desire to return to Purdue and was told if I could be accepted at Purdue then I could enter Purdue’s program.

What drew you to Purdue specifically for your graduate studies?

The Air Force had a contract with Purdue for the human factors program so that was why I entered Purdue’s program. During this time I formed a bond with Purdue so I asked the Air Force to allow me to return to Purdue for the doctorial program.

What was Purdue like when you were a graduate student? 

As an Air Force officer it was a tough time with lots of Vietnam protests. It was different than today where the military is shown respect by most of our country. Back then you might be threatened and harmed if in uniform. Within the Department of Psychological Sciences none of this occurred. We all respected each other as students as did the faculty. It was a time where some of the faculty were truly leaders within the field. These included Joe Tiffin, E. J. McCormick, B. J Winer (statistics). Also my classmates were the best, smart and hard working and I felt then and still feel it a privilege to have been a classmate of theirs. Of course, PAGSIP was active and it provided events where we could get together off campus with faculty and learn from their experiences. I’m a jazz fan and Purdue brought to campus some really outstanding performers. The annual Purdue Christmas Show in the Elliot Hall of Music was always first rate.

What are some of your fondest memories from your time at Purdue?

Being accepted back in the industrial psychology program and graduating was two of the best. Others included my association with other graduate students and professors, completing my dissertation, informally getting together with other graduate students, and Purdue football.

How did your research interests grow, develop, and shift during your time in graduate school? 

The head of my graduate committee was Art Dudycha. Art was involved in multiple cue probability learning. So it was logical for me to build on his research interest. The greatest research interests were actually after I left Purdue and was assigned to the Air Force Human Resources Laboratory. I was fortunate to work with some really special people and projects.

Was there someone who had a particularly large impact on you (e.g., a mentor) during your time at Purdue? If so, how did they influence you?

Art Dudycha probably had the greatest impact. He provided excellent advice and was very supportive. Just by having classes and interacting with professors like Joe Tiffin, E. J. McCormick, B. J. Winer, and N. M. Downie had a significant impact on me. Their knowledge and personal history examples were in many cases priceless. 

How would you say your personal background and life experiences impacted your research and career?

My personal background when I graduated from Purdue with my Ph.D. was to a large extent a function of my prior experience in the Air Force. That background provided me with knowledge of Air Force operations, goals, and areas in need of research.

What would you say has been your secret to a successful career? 

In terms of success, especially academic success, I consider some of my classmates having more successful careers than mine. Mine was different than those who upon graduation who joined faculty at various universities. Since I was in the Air Force during the early part of my career, I was involved in applied research projects at the Air Force Human Resources Laboratory. These were important projects that impacted air force operations but didn’t lead to publication in academic journals. Later I had the opportunity to perform research leading to publication in academic journals when I joined the Air Force’s graduate school, Air Force Institute of Technology, and later on the faculty at Clemson University: so I don’t think there is a secret in whatever success I’ve had it is due to working with great people on truly meaningful projects that made a difference.

Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently in your career?

Not really. There were a series of job choices during my career. At times I wondered what my future would have been like had I chosen one other than the one I did pick. One of those was to join a space program in the Pentagon. I asked a friend of mine who worked on this program what it involved and he told me he couldn’t tell me anything about it due to it being classified, but that it was the most rewarding job he had ever had.

You have a very diverse career, with experience in both research and applied settings. Of all the work you did, what did you find to be the most fulfilling as an I-O Psychologist?

Three were really special because they made a significant contribution and also because I had a great deal of freedom in the research associated with them. One was the Person-Job-Match system. This involved the development of a computer based assignment system for assigning all new Air Force recruits to jobs.

The second one was developing a survey-based instrument called the Organizational Assessment Package (OAP) that was used throughout the Air Force by Air Force consultants to assess strengths and weaknesses within organizational units.

A third one was in an area that required me to develop knowledge about character and moral development. I was hired by the Air Force Academy’s Center for Character Development due to my survey development skills to develop a method for assessing if their character development programs for cadets were making a difference. Two instruments were developed one assessed individuals’ character-related values and the other was a rating scale used to rate individuals’ supervisors on character-related scales. This rating scale was eventually used in an Air Force survey administered to all Air Force personnel resulting in over 300,000 individuals taking it.

What were some of your favorite projects throughout your career?

Those listed above were three of my favorite projects but serving as the Head, Department of Organizational Science at the Air Force Institute of Technology and as Chair, Department of Management at Clemson University were very rewarding.

Based on your experience, what advice do you have for managing one’s career?

Key is being active in managing your career. Keeping abreast of the changes within the field is a must but being willing to look for better job and research opportunities is desirable. Partnering in research with leaders within the field is valuable in developing your reputation and abilities. 

Throughout your career, I am sure you have witnessed many changes within the field of I-O Psychology. Are there any changes that you think have been particularly beneficial and/or detrimental?

There has been a broadening of areas that are now a part of I-O psychology. Certainly more emphasis has been developed on the organizational side but also on areas dealing with legal, cross-cultural, diversity, workplace psychological health, and organizational learning issues.

What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges to our field today?

The business environment is constantly changing. Changes in technology are having a significant impact on the way organizations operate. Amazon provides fast home delivery and it appears that drone delivery will be in the near future. Internet shopping has changed the organizational product delivery process and the production processes have been changing with robotics being used in many of the production steps. I-O psychology will have to assist organizations in adapting to these new environments with different cultures and with special skills needed by personnel.

What do you see the role of I-O psychologists being moving forward in today’s society? 

The world of work is dynamic and ever changing. I-O psychology should continue to perform research that will assist organizations in adapting to these changes. I think at times I-O psychology loses site of the goals that are important to organizations survival. These goals include profit for many organizations and efficiency and effectiveness are important to all. At times we are involved in research that is better left to other fields. A couple of these I feel deal with of social and political issues.

What types of experiences would you recommend that students pursue during graduate school?

Develop strong quantitative and research skills. If graduate school research projects are available take advantage of them.  If you are planning on an academic career getting published before graduation will be helpful in getting an offer from a first-rate university. This is especially true if you co-author with leaders in I-O psychology.

What advice would you give to graduate students struggling between staying in academia and going applied? What are some important things to consider?

Both can be very rewarding. On the applied side you have tangible results from many of your projects. These can be very valuable for your organization and making a difference is truly satisfying. However, unless you obtain your Ph.D. you will not be nearly as desirable as those who have, so your job opportunities will be limited.

On the academic side you have an environment where you can expand the knowledge in the field that will benefit not only our knowledge but have payoff for organizations.

What advice do you have for graduate students just starting out in the field?

It depends on if one is on an academic or applied career path. If on an academic path, partner with those who are doing leading edge research. Build a strong research track. Keep an eye out for new academic job opportunities.

If you are pursuing an applied career track be sure to keep your quantitative skills up to date. Keep up with research coming out of universities that might be useful for your organization. Look for organizations that have a solid history of maintaining a solid I-O department or group.

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