From BYU Marriott to the Stars

PROVO, Utah – May 24, 2021 – Since the beginning of time, humanity has looked up to the stars for guidance, navigation, and inspiration. Peter Madsen, a professor of organizational behavior and human resources at the BYU Marriott School of Business, helps people reach for those stars, both literally and figuratively. As a researcher, he’s worked with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to prevent accidents in space exploration, and as a professor, he prepares students to find the jobs of their dreams.

Madsen’s work with NASA focuses on correcting mistakes to help employees be safer on the job. "A recent project I worked on with NASA looked at the consequences of small errors,” he says. “Those small mistakes or small deviations from expectations are called ‘near misses,’ and these near misses could lead to larger issues. I've worked with NASA on continuing to refine its process of learning from near misses so that employees can prevent serious accidents from happening.”

While Madsen’s work has helped NASA successfully explore the galaxy, his interest in employee safety began a little closer to home on earth with his undergraduate studies of chemical engineering. Madsen’s experience dealing with dangerous substances as an engineer led him to an interest in researching what makes some workplaces safer than others. When Madsen saw that many safety protocols at his workplace were set by the management team, he decided to return to school to earn a PhD in order to better determine how managers could keep their employees safe.

After earning his PhD in organizational behavior and industrial relations from the University of California, Berkeley, Madsen came to BYU Marriott in 2006. In the classroom, he teaches students strategies to help organizations reach their lofty goals. One of his classes helps students explore new organizational possibilities through something called “change management.” Madsen explains that change management is about helping organizations adapt to keep up with an ever-evolving business environment, consumer demands, and new technologies. “I teach about discovering work process modifications to help employees embrace change in the organization,” he says.

“I design my change management classes around a big project where students work with clients and focus on something that needs to change in that company,” he continues. “The ability for students to be able to apply their classwork to a real scenario is a meaningful experience for them.”

In many cases, these real-world, in-class experiences are the fuel that help some students achieve great things during their jobs and internships. “Recently, a former student reached out and said he used a framework that I talked about in my class during his internship. He also had a big project related to that framework,” says Madsen. “When the student presented his results at the end of his internship, the managers were so impressed that they offered him a full-time position on the spot. That was ninety-nine percent because of his work and only one percent because of my class, but I was grateful that I had taught him tools to be effective in his job.”

As Madsen helps students launch their careers, he’s grateful to work at BYU Marriott, a place where the stars have aligned to create an ideal environment for learning. “BYU Marriott offers incredible opportunities to interact with employees, professors, and students. All of my colleagues bring amazing credentials and experience to the school, and each of us chose to be at BYU Marriott to further the mission of the university,” he says. “Everyone has a unified vision.”

Peter Madsen
Peter Madsen, professor of organizational behavior and human resources at BYU Marriott.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Kenna Pierce