Ben Sher, a student in Roosevelt University’s Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology Program, was the first to receive a PhD degree from Roosevelt University when he graduated in 2016.
Sher, 32, made history when he walked across the Auditorium Theatre stage for the degree that made him a doctor and respected expert in the growing field of I-O psychology, which focuses on organizational research, personnel testing and problem-solving related to employees in the workplace.
“I wanted to be a trail blazer at Roosevelt, and I can’t say enough good things about the experiences I’ve had,” said Sher, who initially came to the University in 2008 to pursue a master’s degree in I-O psychology, receiving the graduate degree in 2012, the same year that the University launched its PhD program.
Sher decided to become a student in the inaugural PhD cohort because of his many positive interactions with Roosevelt’s psychology faculty members. “They take the attitude that they are training you to be one of their colleagues,” said Sher, a native of St. Paul, Minn. “As a result, faculty and students greatly respect one another, and that is a great dynamic for success.”
When Sher started in the PhD program, there were five students. Today, the program has 27 students.
“This is a milestone moment for Ben, the I-O Psychology Program, its faculty and its students,” said Adrian Thomas, founding director of the PhD program that is on track to graduate more students next year and to grow in the future.
Sher’s PhD dissertation, entitled “Investigating the Effects of Mortality Salience on Obesity-related Selection Discrimination” explores discrimination that he found to be evident against individuals with obesity in the workplace.
“He used a research design incorporating new technology paradigms that a lot of researchers in the field could learn from and he brought a fresh perspective to the topic,” said Jacqueline Deuling, associate professor in Roosevelt’s I-O psychology program and Sher’s dissertation advisor. “I don’t think we could have a better representative for Roosevelt’s first PhD graduate,” added Deuling. “Everything he’s done has to do with discrimination and selection in the workplace, which are things that fit into the University’s social justice mission.”
With his PhD, Sher expects to have many opportunities in a field that has been growing exponentially, and where starting pay is around $90,000 annually, according to U.S. occupational outlook reports.
“There are a number of routes I can go,” said Sher, who, as a Roosevelt student, had been a consultant for an Atlanta-based consulting firm that has done consulting for several Fortune 500 companies and a writer and editor for www.ioatwork.com, the go-to website for I-O psychologists where new research is regularly made available to practitioners in the field.
Currently considering opportunities in teaching, consulting, as well as opening his own business. Sher said his top priority is to be a good representative for the I-O Psychology Program and the University. “It’s really an honor to be the first,” said Sher, “but I think that there’s a responsibility that goes with it, and that is to be a good representative for the program and the University.”