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Darla Moore School of Business

Ph.D. student researches identities, their impact in the workplace

July 13, 2020

Moore School Ph.D. student Christina Hymer has been interested in human resources and organizational behavior since she was an undergraduate student and began researching the disconnect repatriates can feel among their various identities when they return home from an international assignment.

“During my sophomore year at Cornell University, I took an intro to human resources course that piqued my interest in management issues,” said Hymer, who is working toward her Ph.D. in business administration. “After one class on international human resources, I left the room with so many questions. I partnered with the professor for that course to conduct research on repatriates and through that process, discovered how much I enjoyed learning about the theories and data that drive organizational practices and policies.”

Having earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial and labor relations in 2008 from Cornell, Hymer worked for Deloitte Consulting as a human capital consultant for four years before deciding to pursue a doctoral degree in business management, specifically organizational behavior and human resources.

“I decided to attend the Moore School for my Ph.D. because the faculty here are top-notch,” Hymer said. “Beyond that, they are approachable and genuinely care about the development and success of Ph.D. students. I was also attracted to the collegial culture among faculty and students. After my visit, I knew that South Carolina was a place that I would have the resources and support necessary to reach my academic goals.”

Anticipating graduating from the Moore School in May 2021, Hymer has started work on her dissertation research.

“My dissertation is focused on identity threat – that is, perceived harm towards the value, meanings or enactment of an identity,” she said. “In particular, I am interested in how individuals manage threats across their repertoire of identities. I have long been interested in how individuals manage both personal and professional challenges in the workplace.”

How workers face such challenges has implications for their attitudes and behaviors at work, as well as outcomes that are important to their organizations.

Hymer was recognized in spring 2020 for the relevance and strength of her research with the Promising Researcher award. Given annually by the Moore School, the award acknowledges a doctoral student who is on an early trajectory toward a successful career as a researcher, said Marcelo Frias, director of the Moore School’s doctoral programs.

In her dissertation, Hymer examines identity threat involving current and future identities, as well as identity threat involving personal and professional identities. Hymer believes that because individuals are inherently multidimensional, researchers need to account for the complexity of individuals’ multiple identities when studying identity threats.

“While most identity threat research focuses on identity threat involving a single identity, employers are increasingly recognizing and encouraging employees to bring their various identities with them to work,” Hymer said. “As a result, it is important for researchers to have a comprehensive understanding of how identity threat is experienced among multiple identities.”

Having felt an overwhelming amount of support for her research from the Moore School’s management faculty, Hymer said that her experience in the Ph.D. program has been “excellent.”

“I tell prospective students this all the time: all of the resources are here for you to succeed and reach your goals, but it is up to you to take advantage of them,” she said.

Working to hone her research and analytic skills for the remainder of her time at the Moore School, Hymer said she hopes to obtain a tenure-track position at a top research institution once she graduates.

-Erin Mooney


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