Sareil “Reil” Brookins (she/her) is a current IO MPS student and the Human Resources Coordinator and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator at the College of Information Studies (iSchool) at UMD. 


What made you want to pursue a career in IO Psychology?

I had never heard of IO until the end of 2019 or so. I was at a previous job at a USM institution, and had finally decided to utilize my tuition remission benefits. I think I had typed in “psychology graduate programs UMD” and this IO program came up. I thought, what is this? What does IO even mean? It took me all of 10 minutes to understand that this is something I had been doing without even knowing it, that this degree could sharpen my skills and knowledge. I also thought it would be awesome to get a degree in something that I am very interested in. It was at that moment that I decided an IO degree is what I would go for. IO really aligns with Human Resources and Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, the role I currently hold, and I thought that this was an optimal time to study it. I've already been practicing certain talent development elements in addition to retention and outreach, so it only made sense that I pursue my career in IO.


Why did you choose UMD’s program for your studies?   

I decided on the UMD program in part because I work here, and that comes with the perks of free education but also because this program is the closest and most affordable option for me. Something that drew me to this one is that there are student highlights that I could read and resonate with. I felt I needed that kind of information about the program to know what to expect, and see people who look like me do it too. It felt more inviting and less intimidating to see so much detail about the program just from viewing the site, talking with Niki, and previous students. I knew what I was stepping into, which alleviated a fear I had about not knowing what I was getting into when choosing a grad school.


Are there particular courses or projects during your time in the IO MPS that stand out?

I really appreciate the autonomy I have in picking topics I want to explore with each project. For example, in Business of Evaluation (PSYC 653), we were asked what our interests are, and the instructor, Meg, grouped us based on our shared interests. The group I was in were all interested in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging, specifically in the workplace. So being able to conduct a survey, analyze the results, provide background research to gain stakeholder buy-in, and present the data as if we were presenting to a company – that was one of the best projects that stood out to me. Being able to use the results from our survey not just to provide surface level numbers, but to do intentional analyses, testing, and correlations to tell a story was an incredible experience. This all really helped me finally understand that I am a math person, or at least can be.

Another project was the Final Project for Analytical Thinking 1 (PSYC 652). We picked any dataset that exists on the internet and analyzed it. I luckily had found a dataset that provided information on gender and race in movies, or really the lack of that diversity. Through this project, I hypothetically told the Hollywood Critics Association (HCA) “y'all need to do better when it comes to gender and racial diversity”. So this is probably my current favorite project, because I chose what dataset to analyze.

In our Talent & Development (PSYC 655), we got to pick any topic we wanted to teach the class about. My group chose Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace, which is something I've been training and facilitating on for years. It was nice to be in a group and facilitate a space where I could lead different activities – some were written, some were group work, some were self-reflection. This project stands out to me since I felt I was really in my element.


What skills did you learn at UMD that will help you in your career?

To start, sharpening my talent & development skills will help me within my career. But the biggest new skills are “R” coding and analyses. I had not considered myself as a data analyst, but now that I have completed these courses, I’m thinking, you know what? I would absolutely consider it, because it's something new and worth getting better at.


What is a fun fact about you that no one would guess? 

I absolutely love to do karaoke. I do karaoke nearly every Thursday in DC. This doesn't necessarily mean I can sing like Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston, but I really enjoy it. I also recently learned how to twin juggle too, so that’s a new fun fact about myself I can finally share.


Or what's one item you can't live without?

Something I can't live without is my fur baby, Twinkie. I've had her since I was 17, and she's pretty much my kid. I could live without my phone and everything else, but Twinkie? No way, she has kept me stable and been a huge support for me.


What is the best piece of advice or feedback that you have ever received? 

I can’t necessarily provide one best piece of advice, more so the best pieces of advice I have carried throughout my life.

Something that my grandpa told my dad, which my dad passed on to me, was that “life is not complicated, people complicate life”. This perspective helps me to take a step back and reflect on moments when I am overwhelmed and understand if the situation at hand is something in my control or not. Another piece of advice my dad has always told me is to “feel the fear and do it anyway”. There have been plenty of moments in my life where I have genuinely been fearful of negative “what if” outcomes, but doing it anyway has gotten me to where I am today. Last, but not least, I learned this quote in college: “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?” This helps me in moments when I question whether or not I should say or do something.

All three of these pieces of advice are in the back of my mind each day – I can apply them in almost any space or situation.

A woman is smiling at the camera. She has short curly hair and white dangling earrings. Her shirt is blue and black.