Katie O'Dowd


Project Director, Research & Development

What is your role and function at WPS? 

I am a Project Director, which means I am responsible for overseeing the creation of tests here at WPS, from the initial phases of author relations and item development through research design, data analysis, manual writing, and product support.

What issues or needs are you an advocate for inside the company?

In any role I’ve held, either professionally or personally, I do my best to promote the importance of compassion, transparency, innovation, and efficiency. I also love working with younger people and sharing my experiences, hoping that they learn to never get in their own way in pursuit of their dreams.

How long have you been at WPS?

I started at WPS June 5, 2017.

Where are you from? Where did you grow up?

My current and childhood hometown is the same as WPS’s location—Torrance! I was an army brat and moved around a few times as a young child until my family, who is also originally from Torrance, settled back here just in time for me to attend school in the South Bay. I continued to move around a bit and eventually settled into the Torrance schools in fifth grade.

What are three personal things about you people probably wouldn’t know?

1)   My husband and I love to karaoke. On a nice day, we will bike down to our favorite dive bar on the Redondo Pier to sing on the karaoke stage for as long as they will allow us. We also have microphones, an amp, and our YouTube channel of songs set up in our living room. Sometimes we will play our guitars and really embarrass our kids.

2)   I can move my ears.

3)   I can’t say people don’t know this because I find an excuse to mention it any chance I get: I work out 3 days a week with my 82-year-old grandfather. He picks me up at 5 a.m., we head to the gym, and go through our usual routine of chatting with folks and doing our workouts. On our way back in the car, we look up our joke-, fact-, word-, and quote-of-the-day… or we argue about politics. It’s the best.

What’s a big obstacle you’ve had to overcome in your life or career?

I came from a low-income, divorced family and went to four different elementary schools as a kid. Although each experience shaped who I am today, at the time, I was very unsure of myself and where I would be on any given day. I am relieved to provide a different, more stable environment for my kids but am still very sensitive to those who do not have that stability. The experience was instrumental in my wanting to go into this type of work, since such early events impact the child in differential, substantial ways and thus warrant the intervention of effective professionals and their tools.

What’s your personal connection to the WPS mission?

I never realized there was a position between direct clinical service and conducting the research you find in journals until I found this job. Indirect service is perfect for me—I’ve spent some time in clinical and applied settings and eventually realized I wanted to have a broader reach in a more behind-the-scenes manner, one that allows for the fun data work but in an area of social importance.


What is your educational background?

Although I did well academically, I was also a very independent adolescent—I moved out on my 18th birthday and continued to work two to three jobs at a time. I realized that if I delayed college even one semester, my likelihood of ever finishing significantly diminished. So, I enrolled in the local community college just in the nick of time. I transferred to USC where I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology. I went on to get my first master’s degree in school counseling at LMU and then got another in clinical psychology at CSU, Dominguez Hills. Once I had a number of years under my belt working with underrepresented and at-risk youth and observing interesting trends in their lives, I pursued my PhD in educational psychology at USC.

What’s something you’re currently studying or learning?

I’m looking into how to write a book.

I also love learning new line dances… and any of Beyoncé’s moves that I can pull off.

What do you enjoy most about working at WPS?

I love the communication systems here, the events that keep staff engaged and morale high, and the actual work that we do. Every single person I have met is super nice and seems to be a rock star in their field.

What did you do before WPS?

I was a therapist in training at the Torrance Police Department, head school counselor for Torrance Adult School, and then held various positions over ten years at USC in research and program management. I’ve also taught social psychology, human development, special education, and psychopharmacology at Mount St. Mary’s University, and statistics and program evaluation at CSU, Long Beach.

Where can we contact you?

My Email

My LinkedIn