Categories
News

Muir Matches Measure provides visual representation of job burnout

There are visual measures to quantify job satisfaction and measure pain, such as the Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale posted in doctors’ offices and hospitals.

However, there were no visual measures to track job burnout, so Notre Dame professor Cindy Muir (Zapata) set out to create a short-term measure to assess employees’ feelings about burnout. 

The Muir Matches Measure is a validated visual measure of job burnout created by Muir and published with Charles Calderwood, a psychology professor at Virginia Tech, and Dorian Boncoeur, an assistant professor for the Mendoza College of Business.

According to Muir, visual measures are powerful because they allow people to quickly assess their feelings.

“The idea for [the measure] hit me as I stared at an image of matches burned at different levels during a presentation,” she said. 

Long surveys are time-consuming, especially for those experiencing job burnout, so Muir wanted to create a quick and regular way to assess burnout by using a visual that is easily recognizable: burning matches. The scale of matches burning down allows people to pinpoint how they are feeling. 

Calderwood explained that job burnout is a challenge that arises from insufficient recovery.

“Recovery is how people keep themselves replenished and occupationally healthy over time,” he said. 

Within burnout literature, the time scale of burnout has progressed to include both feelings over a long time and daily fluctuations.

“You have burnout that is a chronic strain reaction or a longer-term syndrome, but you also see the symptoms of burnout vary from day-to-day in terms of how exhausted you feel or how disconnected from your work you feel,” Calderwood explained. 

The paper published by Muir and her coauthors confirmed that the visual scale of the matches burning down corresponds with existing measures of job burnout. They validated the scale by looking at different instruction sets and ways of defining burnout. 

Calderwood said that, when launching the tool, the group had to grapple with the misalignment between how people refer to burnout in everyday language in comparison to how burnout may be referred to by an academic or defined in a dictionary. 

“‘Burnout’ is something that’s become a term in our everyday language. People say that they’re ‘burned out,’ but they can mean different things by that,” Calderwood said. “The disconnect between the everyday understanding of burnout and how it’s defined academically was a challenge I’m not sure we anticipated when the project started.” 

Licenses to the measure can be purchased by companies and employees, according to Muir.

“It is my hope that companies use [the tool] in their climate surveys to check in on their employees,” Muir said. “They might use it to track trends over time or to see how a large-scale change initiative has impacted their employees.”

Calderwood said the tool will be important for employees in high-stress occupations, including nursing and teaching, which have previously experienced high burnout rates. 

The measure can also be downloaded online for personal use after completing a short survey. Muir said the data collected will be used to gain a better understanding of burnout levels in different industries and occupations, which will be used in future research. 

While the Muir Matches Measure allows people to identify if they are feeling burned out at their job, the next step is taking that information from the visual and learning how to deal with burnout.

“I am now working on how to best advise people to use their self-assessment to make changes that can help reduce their job burnout,” Muir said.

Contact Caroline Collins at ccolli23@nd.edu

Categories
News

BiotechND launches science majors into industry

When junior biology student Maeve Murdock, BiotechND founder and president, transferred to Notre Dame in the fall of 2021, she found a gaping hole in the University’s career development planning for undergraduates in the sciences.

While Notre Dame advises sending science majors to medical school or postgraduate research, at Xavier University, where Murdock studied her first year of college, and Northwestern University, where Murdock spent summer 2022 as a research intern, she said there is a much greater awareness of the job possibilities in the $2.9 trillion U. S. biotech industry.

“Notre Dame really, really pushes sciences for pre-med, and they don’t really tell you about any other options. If I say I’m a bio major, people [assume I’m] pre-med, because people don’t even know what the other options would be here,” Murdock said. “Notre Dame is behind that they didn’t have a biotech club. This is a big thing that’s been going on the last 20 years.”

Murdock founded the Biotech Club of Notre Dame (BiotechND), alongside vice president Jack Meyer, to alleviate this discrepancy and to educate and inform Notre Dame science undergrads of career opportunities in biotech.

The club defines biotech as “the integration of natural sciences and engineering in order to achieve the application of organisms, cells and molecules for products and services in industry.” The three main sectors of biotechnology are agricultural, biomedical and environmental.

Murdock added that anyone with an interest in biotech can join the club, whether they’re looking for more of a “hands-on science” or business role.

“Some [opportunities in biotech] are more finance-related or marketing and sales-related, but there’s also many where you’re applying your science background in a business way,” Murdock said. “At the end of the day, these are all companies that need to be making money. It’s not just people from a science background, you can learn on the spot.”

Although the group is technically not a Student Activities Office (SAO)-approved club until next semester, BiotechND held their first-ever meeting, “Introduction to Biotech,” on Nov. 29 in Duncan 512. Murdock said it was a long time coming.

“Starting a club at Notre Dame was a really tedious, bureaucratic process that takes an entire semester, and [SAO] turns down probably two-thirds of the clubs that try,” she said. “You need to have a whole team and all these prospective members. You have to write a 10-page club constitution, make an event list for your first year and for future years, make a budget for your first year and for future years, have an officer list and have a mentor.”

Murdock admitted that the lack of SAO approval is “frustrating.” The club has yet to receive access to crucial perks including a bank account, a real email address and easy access reserving event space on campus. In the interim, BiotechND hasn’t wasted any time, counting on creative solutions like partnering with the Center for Career Development to get the ball rolling.

“We have a joke that we’re the prospective biotech club of Notre Dame,” Murdock said. “Chris Washko is the [representative] at the Career Center working with Biotech. He has a lot of contacts and he’ll be working with us closely. He was super excited for us to do the first meeting, and he reserved that big room for us, which was great.”

One of the club’s goals is to facilitate networking between undergrads in different colleges with alumni and industry representatives in the biotech field. BiotechND already has plans for a networking trip to Chicago in 2023.

Murdock dispelled the myth that biotech only exists in places like Silicon Valley.

“We went to the dean of the College of Science to request money for a career trip to Chicago next fall. We’ll do a day trip where we visit three biotech companies, and students can network and see what it would be like to work there,” she said. “There’s a ton going on in Chicago now. We have too many good options to choose from.”

Notre Dame junior Emily Chudy, a neuroscience major, joined the BiotechND leadership this fall as secretary. She has enjoyed getting to know her fellow officers and feeling more involved.

“Up until this year, I worked on leadership for a different club. We had one big event a year, but other than that I felt like we weren’t really doing that much,” Chudy said. “[BiotechND] feels more hands-on. We get along well as a team, which is pretty awesome … The little things like that make a difference.”

Chudy started off as pre-med but decided that she’d rather not go to grad school immediately after Notre Dame, hoping to work for a few years before earning another degree.

“I’m still a little burnt out from studying to be completely honest,” she said. “As a STEM major not wanting to go to graduate school, [Notre Dame] doesn’t give you any options and they don’t really give you any resources. If you look at the neuroscience newsletter, it’s all about, ‘Here are these post-grad opportunities for research,’ or it’s like, ‘How can we help you for grad school?’”

Through her BiotechND leadership position, Chudy will educate underclassmen about biotech industry positions open to students such as investor relations, fundraising and equity research. Chudy interned as a biotech equity researcher last summer.

“Many people hate equity research because it’s researching about gas and oil, but I was working for a group that specifically focused on central nervous system drugs,” she said. “I’m interested in the business side because that’s a little bit more of a social role.”

Contact Peter Breen at pbreen2@nd.edu.

Categories
News

University drops science-business major

The science-business major, an interdisciplinary program that included aspects of the curricula from both the Mendoza College of Business and the College of Science, will no longer be available to those who have not already declared the major beginning in fall 2023.

Interdisciplinary majors are intended to allow students to gain from studying in more than one of Notre Dame’s six colleges. The science-business major had been offered by the University for around 40 years, allowing students to delve into the world of business while also preparing them for a career in healthcare. 

The major intended to qualify the student to enter an MBA program, as well as healthcare professional education such as medical school, dental school, public health or health care administration. The curriculum of the major was varied, allowing students to get the full experience of an interdisciplinary study.

“The major serves a group of students who seek careers in STEM-aligned fields like consulting, the petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries and healthcare administration. It also serves some preprofessional students who want to gain valuable expertise in the business of running their own practices once they finish medical or dental school,” said Dan Gezelter, associate dean for undergraduate studies, in an email.  “Our science-business graduates have also gone on to law school, graduate school, the nonprofit sector, directly into careers in industry and have even built their own businesses.”

John Nash, a junior in the science-business major, said that the program served his interests in both areas.

“I really liked the major, I think it’s a really good combination of two things that I really care about,” Nash said. “And I wanted to have an experience with both because I feel it’s always good to have a multidisciplinary course load.”

In its place, the College of Business will offer a minor of five courses on the foundation of business, open to students in the College of Science. The minor will provide students a foundational education in business while allowing them to still pursue a career in healthcare.

“The science-business major provides an excellent education on the foundations of business, but restructuring as a primary science major plus the new minor will make this education more broadly available to students with a primary interest in one of the main scientific disciplines,” Gezelter said in an email.  

Nash said he doesn’t believe the minor will foster the same sense of community as the major. 

“There isn’t a course for science-business kids. You take science classes and you take business classes, so I understand where they’re coming from,” Nash said. “I don’t necessarily think it would be too different, but it is nice to kind of meet other kids in the science-business program and know that we all kind of have similar interests. So I definitely think that kind of community would go away.”

Geltzer said that the change will resolve the administrative challenges of a cross-college program.

“Relying on two different colleges to provide the required classes for a major is always a challenge,” Gezelter said in an email. “The College of Business wants to oversee their own academic programs and their own classes and wants to offer a distinct credential for Notre Dame students.”

Gezelter said that the program’s interdisciplinary hiring potential would not end with the major.

“The science-business name helped recruiters find students who had a broad interdisciplinary training in science as well as a firm foundation in business,” Gezelter said in an email. “That recruiting edge may be missing for future classes, but the top-notch training in the sciences and in business will remain for students who combine one of the new minors with a primary major in science.”

Nash said he has been able to advance his career through his science-business major.

“I’m actually interning at DaVita healthcare next summer, which is a healthcare consulting firm that works in kidney care,” Nash said. “And they said that my major, science-business, really stood out to them because it’s not something a lot of other universities offer and they thought it was super unique and really played into what their company is all about.”

The science-business major as students once knew it is unlikely to return to Notre Dame, but Gezelter said there is hope for a new major with similar tenets.

“Once we have approval to sunset the major, it is not likely to come back,” Gezelter said in an email. “The science dean’s office is currently looking at options for a new interdisciplinary science major that will share many of the strengths of the Science-Business major.”

Categories
Viewpoint

Business is not a game

“In recent years, we have grown accustomed to the use of games as models for understanding institutional behavior,” observes Peter French, Director of the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics at Arizona State University. The business as a game metaphor has undeniably become ubiquitous in the language and culture of business. Even though this linguistic device can be useful in clarifying multiple business concepts like competition, hierarchical structures and goal achievement, the business as a game metaphor is not always morally neutral and can be quite ethically problematic. In fact, I largely believe that this metaphor also sets up a flagrant fallacy. 

The business as a game metaphor overlooks a critical difference between the tenor and vehicle of the metaphor. While games are quite self-contained, business cannot be a self-contained activity as it connects deeply to the rest of society. A game is quite simply an isolated bubble that people can voluntarily choose to enter knowing what rules apply there, and more often than not people take part in games for personal enjoyment. More importantly, if one doesn’t like or doesn’t agree with the rules of the game, he or she has the power to just sit the game out. But opting out of the economic system is not as easy. Business and commerce are undeniable parts of everyone’s life. There is not as much voluntarism associated with it because opting out means completely isolating oneself and opting for a radical disconnect from modern corporate practices. 

Another important consideration is how using the business as a game metaphor dramatically trivializes what’s really at stake. In any game, from poker to football, almost always, the only stakeholders that will be heavily affected by the outcome of the game are the players themselves who chose to be there and understood the cost and risks of the game. In business, however, the narrative is much more complex. With the business as a game metaphor, it is easy to forget that, in the process of seeking victory or outmaneuvering an opponent, business actually has much greater stakes than most people’s conception of games. These higher stakes can heavily impact the health, safety and quality of life of numerous constituencies. Take, for instance, the Bhopal disaster. A couple of misguided decisions by a single corporation’s officials resulted in 40 tons of toxic gas being spewed from the factory and scorching the lives of thousands of people outside these walls. Thirty-seven years after the incident, the 70-acre site in Bhopal has remained mostly unchanged and still contains hundreds of tons of contaminated waste that continue to put the health of nearby villagers in grave danger. Businesses are “fully situated in the realm of humanity” and affect a much broader spectrum of real, complex human lives than a game ever could.  

Another concern is that the business as a game metaphor falsely paints the nature of business as temporary. Games cannot be never-ending; they have clear beginnings, middles and ends. Business practices, however, can not be so clearly delineated. Professionals in a corporate community may focus on short-term wins, but the success of a positive quarterly return may have been achieved at the expense of other social or ethical interests. Game-like, short-term thinking that’s rewarded in the marketplace is not always in the best interest of the larger community or even the corporation’s own long-term interests. Business activity has no clear end, yet the game metaphor artificially implies that a conclusion exists. 

Moving forward, a critical downfall of the business as a game metaphor is that it attempts to separate moral spheres by implying that there exists a different set of ethics for business than the set of ethics practiced in everyday social life. By making the morality of business self-referential, like the rules of a game, corporations become less morally accountable to sources of normative ethics in society. Once business is nominally understood as an institution made up of a separate class of “business professionals” who are less morally accountable than everyone else, the overlay of a strong metaphoric understanding that business is a game actually solidifies the differentiation and the compartmentalization of moral spheres

All in all, this deep dive into the structural differences between business and games has revealed that the business as a game metaphor can be ethically problematic if not completely inadequate. Games are fun, have intelligible rules, and hold out the promise of glorious victory. But as businesses attempt to communicate their identity through visions and mission statements, ethically aligned practices will demand more than what normally constitutes game playing. As the French philosopher Roger Caillois comments in his work, “Man, Plan, and Games,” “The true problem starts here. For it must not be forgotten that adults themselves continue to play complicated, varied, and sometimes dangerous games, which are still viewed as games. Although fate and life may involve one in comparable activities, nevertheless play differs from these even when the player takes life less seriously than the game to which he is addicted. For the game remains separate, closed off, and in principle, without any important repercussions on the stability and continuity of collective and institutional existence.” 

Krista Akiki is a senior majoring in business analytics and minoring in computing and digital technologies. She grew up in Beirut, Lebanon and moved back to the U.S. to pursue her undergraduate degree. She loves learning new languages, traveling and of course trying new foods. She craves adventure and new experiences and hopes to share these with readers through her writing. She can be reached at kakiki@nd.edu or @kristalourdesakiki via Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.