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Pepperdine | Graziadio Business School

About Dr. Miriam Lacey


I'm Miriam Lacey, professor of applied behavioral science, and I've been with the Master's in Organization Development program for 29 years. 

My roles in MSOD, there've been a variety. I started off being one of the support staff until I learned and understood the program, I was thesis advising for a few years, at which time I was given Session 1, which was self awareness and intrapersonal skills, learning about yourself, and the way you view the world. It also included at the time how others impacted you and your personal style, and  learning about how you impacted other people. What seems to attract them to you, and what seemed to push them away from you. So, trying to construct a bridge of feedback between one student in the program and the rest of the cohort.

After that, I was given, in addition to Session 1, I was given Session 2, for Learning Group Formation, and team building and group dynamics. Was a pleasure to do that for several years, and then we internationalized the program and decided to go to three different countries and I was given one of those countries to develop.

First, the curriculum is developed, and then we did it in Monterrey, Mexico. We transferred it to Sainte-Adèle, in French Quebec, and then lo and behold, we decided that wasn't quite hard enough. When we went to Mexico, too many of our students spoke Spanish, not as much of a stretch as we wanted. We went to Quebec, too many of them spoke English, and so we polled the alumni that had been to those places and said, “Would you be willing to spend two, $300 more and have the experience in France?” And that's when we started going to Lyon.

When I started MSOD, it represented a complete change in my life. I had been corporate for, I guess 12 years by then. Having had a variety of internal jobs, the last of which was being Chief of Staff for one of the presidents of Weyerhaeuser, the paper company. I had sent one of the people working for me to the MSOD program. The director at the time was Walt Ross, and he really enjoyed the student’s' work, it was a socio-technical systems thesis, and the student received honors for his research, which made me interesting to Walt Ross, because we'd never met.

I was not on the Pepperdine faculty at the time. Since I had a PhD and the student was living remotely, they asked me if I would be willing to direct his research, I said yes, and suddenly I was on the screen of MSOD. Walt Ross invited me to do some work with him, had me come do some guest spots in MSOD, and I first started in Rho, and was a full-time by Sigma, which was the following year.

I never looked back. My life completely changed from being married to my clients in corporate America without my time being my own to becoming an academic, where I could really focus on the education and development work that I really thrived doing, and the exposure to the MSOD faculty at the time was very growthful. We had Walt Ross, Dave Hitchin, Pat Williams, and Dave Jamieson at the time, was really terrific and I grew by leaps and bounds.

I was running a variety of groups for the program, and directing research for several years. The program impacted me professionally, as I've just described; but it also had a profound impact on me, personally, where I had colleagues that I could learn and grow with who would support me in my efforts to grow and change and develop, as well as challenge me when it looked like perhaps my ideas were off, or they had a question with something.

So, the discussion and dialogue was really fabulous, and this has continued on, even as the faculty has completely rotated through. We have a whole new crop now, and it is one of the personal and professional pleasures of my life to be involved with the students and the faculty at Pepperdine University.

Okay. When I think about a legacy in the MSOD program, I have to think over many years and try to figure out what kind of thread runs through it. I think I can say that I think my contribution has to be around, I would say, reality seeking. Very high performance ethic and that's really important to me that we have academic rigor, and we are trying to be conscientious, and that we're also very practical in our orientation.

A number of threads or themes in OD can be considered soft skills and we can get oriented so that the entire program becomes one of social responsibility and community development. I think it's important to remember that our foundations are in organizations, companies.

We should not be afraid of manufacturing of technology, of working with engineers and accountants. It doesn't always just have to be the people who have an affinity with OD. I think we have practical skills around making things better, faster, cheaper. I think we have human skills around design of work so that people enjoy what they're doing or at least satisfied and don't mind going to work. When we're really good at what we do, they like going to work.

I think the performance ethic, whether it be individual students, whether it be the characteristics of the thesis or whether it be the performance of individuals and organizations, I think having that interest in excelling is important. It's an inelegant process. I'm sure I have failed many times, but that doesn't mean we should give up the fight.

When asked the question, what is the contribution I would like to make? I would like to keep honing my skills around where is the intersection of performance excellence, and compassion. Where do they meet? What situations is it important to just let go of? What situations are important to push?

I'm trying to hone this in myself and I would enjoy having fellows along this journey that will help me and in whom I can also help as we explore ideas and options about how to make that possible.

It's almost incomprehensible to figure out where the two intersect and meet, but I do believe that we hit sweet spot every once in a while. I would like to figure out how to define that sweet spot, how to seek it out and how to find it more often.