June 13, 2011
In late May graduate student Laura Strite ’11 presented her findings at the Work, Stress and Health Conference, an academic conference hosted by the American Psychological Association.
While an undergrad at UT, Laura Strite ’11 wanted to own a Pilates studio. After graduating in 2007 with her psychology degree, she worked for several years teaching fitness classes and working in human resources.
She has returned to UT to earn her MBA and discovered a new passion and future in workplace bullying. Her work culminated in late May with a presentation of her findings at the Work, Stress and Health Conference, an academic conference hosted by the American Psychological Association.
“I never liked research,” Strite said. “But I found that if you’re passionate about what you’re researching, it makes all the difference.”
Last summer Strite paired with Associate Professor Bella Galperin, who specializes in workplace deviance, for an independent study. Galperin mentored Strite as she focused her study on workplace bullying: developing a research question, collecting data and analyzing results.
“Presenting at the conference enriched Laura's academic experience by supplementing her coursework at UT with an experiential approach,” said Galperin, associate director of the TECO Center for Leadership. “That’s what UT is all about.”
Stite, who works full time for leisure travel company TUI Marine, used her lunch hours to do telephone interviews with human resource professionals from throughout Florida. She squeezed in research on her weekends with a growing enthusiasm for her subject.
“Each person I talked with gave me a new list of questions that I wanted to ask the next person,” Strite said. “I couldn’t sleep at night with everything running through my head.”
The general attitude toward bullying is that it doesn’t exist outside school, however Strite said ignoring it creates a hostile work environment. She defined workplace bullying as a situation usually between a person in a position of power and someone who is not. The actions – such as a dirty glare in the lunchroom or harassing emails - must be repetitive in nature and unwanted by the receiver.
“I find it very interesting and would like to branch out, continuing my research to find where the gaps are in defining bullying, identifying it and then in dealing with it,” she said. “I’d eventually like to write training manuals preventing it.”
Strite will complete her MBA in August.
Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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