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Faculty Member Creates Research and Practitioner Lab to Bridge the Employability Gap

December 13, 2023
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Stephanie Tavarez A’11, ‘13, M’15 spent part of this calendar year on an important project that could have highly valuable repercussions for many who seek to truly understand workplace dynamics. 

An assistant professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences who earned three degrees from UHart and a PhD from Capella University, Tavarez founded a research and practitioner lab called SHINE, which stands for Shaping Human Interaction, Nurturing Diversity, and Enhancing Employability. The goal of its staff researchers is to unify theoretical insights on employability with real-world applications. 

This past summer, Tavarez and her SHINE Lab colleagues worked on an exclusive consulting project in conjunction with a non-profit organization called InclusionBridge, dedicated to empowering students with an interest in data science. SHINE provided the group with free essential skills education and training. 

“SHINE was motivated by an ambition to bridge the employability gap,” says Tavarez. “Our research delves deep into the nuances of human interaction, aiming to produce pragmatic solutions that advocate for diversity and equip individuals with tools to enhance their employability beyond just the academic space.” 

The 10-member SHINE team, composed of both alumni and current graduate MSOP students, played a pivotal role in crafting, delivering, and assessing a program by InclusionBridge called College Advantage, tailored for high school and college students with an emphasis on nurturing soft skills such as emotional intelligence, improving communication, fostering psychological safety, and understanding workplace culture. 

Tavarez, who has a master’s degree in organizational psychology and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the College of Arts and Sciences, and an associate degree in liberal arts from UHart’s Hillyer College, is also exceedingly pleased to be teaching at her alma mater. “I chose the University of Hartford for a variety of reasons,” she shares. “For one thing, I wanted the real campus experience. But one of the most important reasons was the flexibility it offered regarding selecting a major. I appreciated the opportunity to explore different academic fields without feeling pressured to make an immediate decision about my major. This allowed me to discover my true interests and passions over time.” 

Knowing of Tavarez’s background and the combined expertise of the SHINE researchers, InclusionBridge itself came up with the idea for the collaboration. In was in many ways a win-win, as InclusionBridge received the benefits of SHINE concepts and instruction, as the SHINE team had a golden opportunity to apply their organization psychology skills while helping students enhance their understanding of employability. 

“We're very fortunate to be able to collaborate with many individuals and organizations, including noteworthy partners like InclusionBridge and RISE Lab at Brown University,” Tavarez says, adding that they are now actively recruiting current graduate students from UHart’s online STEM-designated Master of Science in Organizational Psychology program. For Tavarez and her busy group, the future of enhanced employability seems destined to shine.  

SHINE was motivated by an ambition to bridge the employability gap. Our research delves deep into the nuances of human interaction, aiming to produce pragmatic solutions that advocate for diversity and equip individuals with tools to enhance their employability beyond just the academic space.

Stephanie Tavarez, University of Hartford's SHINE Lab

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Mary Ingarra