Meet a Psychology Spartan: Jacob Bradburn

September 5, 2022 - Shelly DeJong

MSU Alum Jacob Bradburn Looks Directly at the Camera Smiling

Jacob Bradburn earned a PhD in Organizational Psychology in 2020. Shortly before graduating, he began working for Ford Motor Company as a People Scientist. Jacob sat down with us recently to talk about his time at MSU, what a People Scientist does, and how his program prepared him to make a difference in the workplace.


Jacob, what drew you to psychology?

What drew me to psychology initially was the desire to learn more about what it means to be a person and how we work. When I learned about organizational psychology specifically, I found it really fascinating. We spend 40 plus hours a week at work typically and it has such an impact on our experience. There's a lot that we can learn from psychology and how we can apply it to organizations to make the work experience better. It's a cool way of doing psychology in an applied setting to help improve this big part of people's lives.


Can you tell us about your current job?

Currently, I'm at Ford Motor Company among the People Analytics Team as a Senior People Scientist. So, I help the organization collect, analyze, interpret, and pull insights from data to better understand our workforce and improve the employee experience.

We do a lot of survey work, interviews, and focus groups to help understand how things are going. We use HR metrics to try and understand our workforce as well as analyzing this data within our systems. We use a variety of different tools and techniques to understand the workforce better and help improve the employee experience. It's cool when you work on a project and see positive changes within the workforce when you measure things. There's been a couple instances where we've worked on a project and saw the needle move, which is really rewarding. Especially since Ford Motor Company is such a large company. By being able to help its employees, we’re also able to have a social reach across the company and to the customers as well.

Tell us about your time at MSU.

I can’t say enough great things about my advisor, Dr. Ann Marie Ryan. She really gave me a lot of guidance in terms of developing the skills I needed to succeed. I also learned a lot from the other professors and from the other grad students. It was a really good experience to be in that environment.

My professors did a really great job of not just teaching us the important things we need to know from the research and textbooks, but also taking it one step further and helping us apply it in real world organizations and environments. To learn the theory and how to apply it to the real world was extremely helpful. I walked away with the understanding of why but also with the skillset and experience to apply it.

What makes you proud to be like an MSU Social Scientist?

What makes me really proud to be an MSU Social Scientist is seeing the impact MSU professors, former students, and current students are having on the world in such a positive way. You can look at some of the cutting-edge research published and a lot of it is from MSU professors and students. The collective impact from MSU is really inspiring. In the applied world, we’re talking about affecting real organizations and real people. Businesses have so much power to change the world for good. When we help organizations be better, treat their employees better, and understand their employees better there is so much potential.

Do you have any advice for graduate students as they're kind of starting out?

Grad school is really a choose your own adventure type of environment. Lean into the things that you really enjoy. Seek out those experiences of doing research or applied projects or other things on campus that you really want to be investing your time into. And really own your experience as a grad student instead of passively doing what you think you should be doing. Be your own captain on the ocean of what grad school is.

Do you have anything that you'd like to add like that?

Looking back at my time at MSU, I was really privileged to work with such great research mentors, to have such a great cohort of other students, and to have so many opportunities that really set me up to be successful when I left grad school. I'm deeply thankful for everyone who helped me develop as a social scientist practitioner.