Dr. Michelle Todd, Assistant Professor in the School of Leadership and Human Resource Development at Louisiana State University (LSU), was named Fellow in the Louisiana Discovery, Integration, and Application program, part of the National Sea Grant Program.
The Louisiana Sea Grant is a non-profit organization that funds coastal and sustainability research and projects in Louisiana. According to officials, the Louisiana Discovery, Integration, and Application program (LaDIA) strives to highlight leadership for the Louisiana coast area and to promote stewardship of the state’s coastal resources through a combination of research, education and outreach.
LaDIA Fellows receive training from national experts in science communication and outreach, as well as broaden their knowledge of coastal concerns, say officials. The Louisiana Sea Grant, based at Louisiana State University, is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Sea Grant Program, a network made up of 34 Sea Grant programs located in each of the coastal and Great Lakes states and Puerto Rico. LSU was designated the nation’s thirteenth Sea Grant College in 1978.
The Times asked Dr. Todd to tell us about the LaDIA Fellows and Louisiana Sea Grant Program.
“From what I have learned,” she said, “traditionally LaDIA Fellows Louisiana Sea Grant’s efforts have mostly come from a hard science (e.g., biology, marine science, engineering) space, but they have begun to value and integrate social sciences like psychology and anthropology,” Dr. Todd said. “A lot of knowledge and expertise about building hurricane-sustainable structures and remaining resilient in Louisiana’s tumultuous weather can be
gained from the coastal Louisiana indigenous communities. Currently, there are projects that include interviewing and learning from indigenous tribes,” she said.
“Additionally, more investment is being placed in Louisiana communities to teach Louisianans how to be weather-aware, prepared, and resilient,” said Dr. Todd. “I am
currently working on a grant proposal that will investigate the most effective methods
for bringing together and leading community groups to solve coastal/environmental
community problems,” she said.
“For example, if a community is interested in bettering its recycling program or its hurricane-preparedness, we will work with them to facilitate those group meetings,
including providing methods for structuring those meetings, communication strategies,
planning tools, leadership development, etc.,” Dr. Todd said. “We plan to do this with multiple communities and to collect data to assess which methods are most effective in solving community coastal problems.”
Training received as part of the program helps support innovative solutions to the
coastal challenges facing the Mississippi River Delta and coastal systems worldwide, according to officials. The LaDIA Fellows program offers a one-year fellowship to highly talented tenure track faculty from institutions of higher education in Louisiana. A candidate’s selection is based on their innovative research and how it is relevant to Louisiana’s coast.
What other activities is Dr. Todd engaged in currently?
“I met a colleague,” she explained, “Dr. Anurag Mandalika, who I have been working with on Agricultural issues in Louisiana. Most recently, he and Dr. Deborah Goldgaber applied for a grant from LSU’s Center for Collaborative Knowledge to sponsor a Faculty Research Seminar on Ethics of AI, Automation, and Agriculture. The grant was just funded, and the scholars mentioned above, along with me and a few other interdisciplinary researchers across LSU, will begin meeting monthly to discuss the ethical issues that impact the agriculture industry as it becomes more automated, as well as potential solutions to these problems,” Dr. Todd said.
“A major issue is that as the agriculture industry becomes more automated, many Louisianans and migrant workers have lost or will lose their jobs,” she said. “Successful automation requires knowledge capture and transfer from skilled workers, while potentially harming these same workers in the future. Some of the questions we are looking into are,
‘What sorts of policies and procedures ought to be in place for conducting research in these areas? How can experts at LSU inform and affect policy in these areas? What sort of ethical and professional frameworks ought to guide us in these areas?’”
What are her ideas on how to improve retention of the agricultural industry workers?
“Dr. Anurag Mandalika and I have specifically been discussing potential methods for improving the retention of agricultural workers agricultural industry workers,” Dr. Todd
said. “We are currently outlining a grant proposal on ways to better train leaders of agricultural companies on how to prepare their workers for increased automation, including providing their workers with cross-training of multiple skills so that workers may be better prepared to take on other jobs in the company if their current job becomes obsolete due to automation.”
Along with the LaDIA Fellows Louisiana Sea Grant Program and the ethics seminars, she is also working on her research in creativity. “I have been working with my colleague, Dr. Keith Strasbaugh on a large project investigating the impact that COVID-19 and increased telecommunicating (or complete telework) has had on creativity,” Dr. Todd said. “I am leading a symposium called ‘Novel Approaches to Managing Creativity in Organizations’ at this year’s Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology conference where we discuss some of the findings of this work,” she said.
“The first noteworthy finding is that the extent of telecommuting seems to have no relationship with creative job performance,” Dr. Todd said. “This is good news considering the shift to telecommuting or complete telework environments that are more prevalent in the modern workplace. This result suggests that organizations should not be weary of the CJP [creative job performance] of teleworkers,” she said.
“The next series of findings also seem to support this conclusion. Notably, problem solving, job complexity, and interdependence did not influence the relationship between telecommuting and CJP. This suggests that even with varying levels of problem solving, job
complexity, and dependence on coworkers, varying levels of telecommuting may be just as viable as in-person workplace environments,” said Dr. Todd.
“Social support was the only significant factor impacting telecommuting and CJP, delineating that high social support in increased telecommuting environments is key to increased CJP,” she said.
“When social support is low for people who telecommute more, their CJP appears to suffer. Therefore, organizations and supervisors should provide opportunities for more social support for creative workers who telecommute. Examples may include specified time for
peer-to-peer and subordinate-to-supervisor discussion and developmental feedback.,” she said.
Dr. Todd is currently in the process of publishing this paper, in addition to other work investigating the interaction of emotions, job engagement, and telework on creativity at work, she explained.
“Our first notable finding was that, in general, more positive emotions were reported by participants than negative emotions over the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and these positive emotions predicted greater CJP. Similar to the findings outlined above, this suggests that creativity at work was and is possible despite the stressors induced by the pandemic,” Dr. Todd said.
“However, we also found that negative emotions significantly diminished the relationship between job engagement and creative job performance during the pandemic. These finding stress that positive emotions during the pandemic are key to effective creative work, and
organizations concerned with creativity and innovation may benefit from initiatives to keep spirits high at work,” she said.
“When we examined telework in tandem with emotions and CJP, we found that telework did not significantly affect these relationships. That is, despite different work environments and differing hours of telecommuting, reported emotions were similar. This finding provides further evidence that creativity, along with emotion regulation, may thrive just as well in a telework environment as in a physical office.”
Dr. Todd has published her research in notable peer-reviewed outlets, including The Leadership Quarterly, Accountability in Research, and the Creativity Research Journal, in addition to editing a book, Creativity and Innovation in Organizations, published by Taylor and Francis.
She has conducted research funded by the Army Research Institute, the National Institutes of Health, and the state of Oklahoma. She has also collaborated on research and consulting projects with the U.S. Army, Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Secret Service.
Dr. Todd’s publications include:
Todd, E. M., Higgs, C., & Mumford, M. D. (2022). Effective strategies for creative idea evaluation and feedback: The customer’s always right. Creativity Research Journal, 1-19.
MacLaren, N. G., Yammarino, F. J., Dionne, S. D., Sayama, H., Mumford, M. D., Connelly, S., Martin, R. W., Mulhearn, T. J., Todd, E. M., Kulkarni, A., Cao, Y., & Ruark, G. (2020). Testing the babble hypothesis: Speaking time predicts leader emergence in small groups. The Leadership Quarterly, 31, 101409.
Todd, E. M., Higgs, C. A., & Mumford, M. D. (2019). Bias and bias remediation in creative problem-solving: Managing biases through forecasting. Creativity Research Journal, 31,
1-14. DOI: 10.1080/10400419.2018.1532268
Mumford, M. D., Todd, E. M., & Higgs, C. A. (2018). Eminence and genius in the real-word:Seven critical skills that make possible eminent achievement. Journal of Genius and Eminence, 3, 13-25.
Dr. Todd received her PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology with a minor in Quantitative Psychology from the University of Oklahoma. Her research focuses on creativity, innovation, and leadership in organizations, as well as the development and training of
individuals for creative and leadership roles. She has also published work on ethical decision-making and ethics training.
She is Assistant Professor in the School of Leadership and Human Resource Development, in the College of Human Sciences & Education at Louisiana State University.