Master of Organization Development program celebrates decades of success; hosts Best Practices in Leading Change Conference


Back in the 1970’s, BGSU was on the cutting edge by launching a Master of Organization Development (MOD) program, one of the first master’s degree programs of its kind in the U.S. The program today continues to maintain recognition as one of the most prestigious organization development graduate programs in the world.

After more than 40 years, the College of Business celebrated the success of this program with the 2016 BGSU MOD Best Practices in Leading Change Conference, hosted by the MOD program in the Department of Management and the Office of Graduate and Executive Programs in Business.

The Leading Change conference drew more than 130 MOD alumni, business professionals, and current and past faculty members, who heard keen insights from keynote speakers - Dr. Richard Boyatzis, Distinguished University Professor at Case Western Reserve University, and Dr. Gene Poor, Hamilton Endowed Professor of Entrepreneurship at BGSU.

Dr. Deborah A. O’Neil, director of the MOD program, gave the conference’s opening remarks by referencing the words of BGSU Professor Emeritus of Management, Glenn Varney, who founded this innovative program. Varney stated in his article, A Short History of the Master of Organization Development: 1974-1996, “Change was the ‘order of the day’ in the late nineteen sixties and early nineteen seventies…. the combined needs being forced upon organizations from societal changes required organizational leaders to be more aware, more responsive, and more able to bring about change.”

Dr. O’Neil stated, “I believe his words are as relevant today as they were when Dr. Varney received approval from BGSU and the Ohio Board of Regents to create the MOD program in 1974 and welcomed the first class of 14 students in 1975.”

The morning keynote was Dr. Boyatzis whose presentation was entitled “Leading and Coaching for Sustained, Desired Change: Why Relationships, Compassion and Hope Matter.” He inspired the audience by reminding them that those in the field of OD are “the social conscience of our organizations – we help our organizations activate their human capital.”

Following Dr. Boyatzis’ presentation, MOD 2016 alums - Erin Hachtel, Anna Lynott, Tammy Newhouse, Brian Schramke and Julie Shope - facilitated a collaborative session they designed that focused on hope, compassion and mindfulness and asked participants to record what they were inspired to do, be, or change today.

During the afternoon, attendees were given the difficult task of choosing between concurrent sessions.

  • Lori Gabel, MOD 2015, HR Talent Engagement Leader at Westfield Insurance, discussed organization-wide change efforts.
  • Bob Anderson, MOD 1986, Founder, Chairman and Chief Development Officer of The Leadership Circle, focused on the need to change our perspective on leadership, noting that “our current problems can’t be solved by the consciousness that created them”.
  • Derrick Barton, MOD 1994, provided an experience that helped attendees know how to engage their employees in order to deliver results to their organizations.    
  • Jake Jacobs, author, blogger and consultant, described his work in Charleston, SC, with citizens and law enforcement and demonstrated how real healing comes from real listening..

BGSU entrepreneurship professor, Dr. Poor, closed out the day by looking into the future of the workplace, including the use of robots and artificial intelligence.  He challenged the attendees to think about the future of organizations and the skills that would be required to remain relevant.   

“While we are here to celebrate the past, we are equally invested in designing the future,” stated Dr. O’Neil. “Issues of organization development, leadership development, and human development are more important than ever in these tumultuous times with incredible advances in technology and ways of working.

She added, “We are proud to be educating the next generation of change leaders who will continue to serve the world in meaningful and important ways. We look forward to collaborating with all of you to continue to make that vision a reality.”

MOD 2014 alumnus Chris Simon graphically recorded the opening and closing keynote sessions to visually capture the presentations.

To learn more about the Master of Organization Development program, please contact the Office of Graduate and Executive Programs in Business at

Updated: 12/01/2017 10:59PM