Gary Metcalf, Human Science

Photograph of Gary Metcalf

Gary Metcalf

Organizational Systems Faculty
Human Science 2000

Gary Metcalf received his master's degree in clinical social work, and began his career working with families who had adolescent children.

Later he started to work on corporate employee assistance programs – and found the issues that families and corporations faced to be almost identical.

"Both had everything to do with social settings," Gary said. "You can't work with teenagers without understanding how their schools work, their peer groups act, and their families function. Corporations tend to take a very individual emphasis: if there's an employee who's not working then it must be the individual who's dysfunctional. But in fact the same kind of social issues are usually in effect: very often there are parts of the companies that are themselves dysfunctional or toxic, and the employees are just trying to deal with it and make sense of it."

He wanted to study this similarity between family life and corporate America more closely, so he began looking at PhD programs: the Organizational Development officer at a company he was working for recommended Saybrook. Gary liked the flexibility Saybrook offered, so he applied. His first year, he realized that "finding Saybrook was a real serendipity with what I was looking for."

"When I went to Saybrook it helped me find the language and the concepts to understand those issues I'd been working with," he said. "As my wife explains it, I didn't just get an education, I got a transformation. It let me expand and explore not just my ideas but myself, it opened up new ways of thinking that let me think differently. The courses, the information, this was helpful – but it was more the permission to explore new ideas and new ways of approaching things that was of real value for me."

Since graduating in 2000 he's been a successful independent consultant and researcher: he consults for global companies like IKEA; he served as President of the International Society for the Systems Sciences and is a Vice President of the International Federation for Systems Research; he teaches part-time at a joint US-Indian MBA program in Bangalore, India.

But he says the work that most interests him is the classes he holds at the Federal Executive Institute of the U.S. government, where he trains the top levels of the federal civil service.

"Working with them is always really fascinating because they are facing issues that have really big consequences all the time," Gary said. "The levels of problems going on all around them are probably much bigger than the American public realizes."

Despite all these commitments, he also serves on the Saybrook Organizational Systems faculty – because Saybrook is a place he wants to keep connected with.

"Saybrook is an environment that creates very exciting possibilities for people, but it was never set up specifically as a training institute," he says. "It's an environment for thoughts, even if you have no idea at first how they're going to be applied. That's very valuable. When I work with students who are wrestling through the issues, it gives me one more chance to wrestle those issues too, and be clear about what we're trying to accomplish."