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New Mexico State University

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New department head mixes psychology with business

Date: 05/01/2012

Steven Elias has been head of the management department at the College of Business for almost a year, yet there are still many unpacked boxes behind his desk. The father of twins is busy juggling family life and a new, demanding position.

This is a head and shoulders photo of Steven Elias, sitting at a desk with a book in front of him.
Steven Elias, head of the management department in the NMSU College of Business, is also the father of twins. Juggling family life and his job keeps him busy, but he plans to remain active in his academic research, too. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

"It has been a major adjustment," Elias said. "The greatest achievement is being able to go from faculty to department head with 4-year-old twins at home."

Before being appointed to his current position, Elias was an associate professor for four years. He specializes in influence in the workplace, occupational self-efficacy, organizational commitment and social power.

"In the past I could go home for lunch in between classes and play with the kids and come back ? not worry about e-mails in the evening ? and now it's far busier to schedule," he said. "It's been a challenge, but I think it has gone pretty well, being able to balance the home life and being here."

Elias explained that his role has changed. Before, as an associate professor, he was responsible for teaching and doing research. Now, he is teaching one course in organizational behavior, attending weekly meetings, creating a schedule and managing a budget.

And, to top it all up, he has a book coming out early next year titled "Deviant Behavior in the Workplace."

"It blends psychology and management," he said. "Because there is a lot of psychology in deviant behavior and there is a lot of psychology in management."

Originally from New Jersey, Elias' research and interests have led him many places before he came to Las Cruces in 2008.

"I did my undergraduate degree in psychology. I have a master's degree in psychology and Ph.D. in applied social science," he said.

So, what is a psychology major doing in the Business College?

"I found I was doing research in organizational behavior or social psychology in the workplace. It got to where I was doing more management research than psychology research," Elias explained. "At some point I made the decision to leave psychology and move over to the management department to be able to collaborate on research."

His extensive research on psychology in the workplace has proven valuable now that he is an administrator.

"I don't know how you could do this job without applying those things," he said. "You can't ignore knowing the pros and cons of using influence tactics when you respond to 15 faculty, 15 doctoral students and administrative staff."

Aside from the faculty, graduate students and staff, there are 700 undergraduate students in the management department.

He said one of his immediate goals is "making sure the department is heading in the right direction within the college's strategic plan."

"I think a big goal right now is having faculty be accessible to students. Our dean is really keen that students feel welcomed and attended to, making sure faculty is around to interact with them, advise them, help them in their classes and see that they're performing well," he said.

Another goal is to expand the faculty to accommodate a bigger graduate program.

"In the management department, we have a very successful Ph.D. program. Focusing on growing the graduate program will be a big part of my responsibilities," he added.

As a personal goal, Elias said he would like to remain an effective department head while remaining active in his research.

"That would be a great accomplishment. I think it is difficult for a department head to really attend to the college and the university and maintain a high level of research," he said.

Written by Angela Simental

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