In honor of Veterans Day on November 11th, we wanted to take the opportunity to open a dialogue with alumni from our program who are currently in or have previously served in the military. We interviewed alumni Liz Ayotte, ’17; Josh Eslinger, ’18; and Bridget Nunmaker, ’10; as well as second-year student Rich Parocha. They share their experiences of transitioning in, and out of, the program and what skills they brought with them. We would like to say a special thank you to each of them for giving us their time, and for their military service.
What military branch were/are you involved in? And, what was/is your military status while you were/are attending the MA-HRIR program?
Josh: I am a Field Artillery Officer in the Army. [During the MA-HRIR program,] I was active duty, assigned to the University of Minnesota as part of the Army’s Advanced Civil Schooling Program. Through this program, the Army gives officers time to complete a fully-funded graduate degree. I was allowed to choose the location and program in exchange for an addition to my service obligation.
Bridget: [During the MA-HRIR program,] I was active in the Minnesota Army National Guard. [I had previously been] deployed to Operational Iraqi Freedom from 2005-2007 (22 months).
Liz: United States Army; Active Duty Army Officer.
Rich: I was in the Coast Guard. I am in veteran status and have been since entering the program.
What skills or experiences from your military service could you translate into the program?
Liz: Some of the human resource experiences and training I have received in the Army were a seamless translation into the HRIR program, while others were not. Working with a team in order to create products or presentations is something we do frequently in the Army. You have to get to know your team or small group and figure out what the different strengths and weaknesses are in order to build a quality product or to be successful in vocalizing your point to a bigger audience. It was helpful to have team building and public speaking experience having come into the program.
Josh: Skills and experiences from the military that helped me in the program definitely centered around training and leadership development. In the Army we do not have profit to worry about. We are instead concerned with task proficiency and readiness of people, equipment, and processes. This did give me a different perspective in course work, but it also made me very aware of similarities between business practices and the military.
Rich: The skills that translated the best for me were my time management skills from working with the incredibly talented and motivated individuals at the sole enlisted ascension point for the Coast Guard in Cape May, NJ. Ultimately, time management gives you the chance to maximize your opportunities creating a better path forward to your day and hopefully your career. So moving forward, I really want to take that skill and use it in subsequent chapters of my life.
Bridget: Openness to broad experiences and agile mindset. In the military, I experienced many things I never imagined that I was able to turn into great opportunities to grow and learn as an individual. Also, being in the military helped me be more agile and understanding when things change or go off course. You may have a plan and then life happens and we need to be able to quickly adapt to that change and continue to move forward.
And, what learnings from the program could be applied back to your military responsibilities and/or job?
Bridget: Learnings around organizational capability, training and development of employees. I think in the military and in any organization it is important to make it a priority to manage your organization capability and train/develop your employees or soldiers appropriately for multiple reasons: safety, efficiency, enhanced performance, results and creating a strong organization.
Josh: I have applied a lot of knowledge from the program back to my job. The most notable of this centers around learning from various courses in organizational behavior. New perspectives gained from understanding structure, relationships, stakeholders, intent, and team dynamics have helped me solve problems in unique ways.
Liz: Learning to work with an extremely diverse group of people. Everyone in the class had such a different background and brought different skills and experiences to the table. The military is very diverse as well. Working with different groups of people will never be something that anyone masters. The technicality of the curriculum has also been helpful. If you are in human resources you are in the business of helping others, serving others. The ability to eliminate distractions and place talent where they will directly affect the success of an organization is an application I take part in daily.
How was your experience of transitioning into the MA-HRIR program after/during your involvement in the military?
Josh: [The] transition was easy. The staff were available, ready, and willing to help before and after the program. Transitioning in was a relaxed time. I went from 40-60hr work weeks to the life of a student. It was a blast.
Bridget: It was great, I had just returned from Iraq a few months prior and was excited to get back on track with my education and plans for a career. My experience in the military helped me be more confident that HR was a path I wanted to take and I knew the MA-HRIR program could really help me start a career in HR by giving me the building blocks needed. Also, there was a great camaraderie among the students in my class that was similar to the military. We spent a lot of time together and the camaraderie made the program fun.
Rich: My transition was pretty quick. The first day of the MA-HRIR program was a little over a month after leaving the service. I would say I was lucky to have phenomenal supervisors, subordinates, and peers who supported my educational desires and helped with ensuring that the transition, despite its quickness, would be a seamless one. The Coast Guard might be a small service, but because of its size, we treat people like family and getting me in and out of a training scenario and into a classroom setting is a testament to the amazing individuals that make up the Coast Guard.
Liz: The faculty and staff were incredibly helpful during my transition into the program. I was deployed when I was notified of my acceptance into the program. The staff and faculty were incredibly responsive and really took a personal approach as I returned from deployment and moved back to MN within a month of returning from Afghanistan. Moving from the austerity of Afghanistan to Minneapolis and Carlson catered breakfasts in less than a month was a complex emotional transition. But it is the people that make the place. I have a sense of belonging to Carlson as I do with the military.
I have enjoyed being in the military because of the opportunity to meet many different people. When I arrived to orientation the first day I was immediately comforted when I met one of my now, closest friends among the crowd. She started by telling me how she just came home from her honeymoon the night before orientation started, had all of their unpacking to do, and how she crammed everything into one day. I knew we were going to be friends for a long time, and I was comforted to be in the company of many personalities similar to mine.
How did your experience in MA-HRIR program prepare you for your career, whether in the military or in a civilian role?
Bridget: The MA-HRIR program did a great job of bringing in “real life” or business/organization examples or speakers to help with learning. I thought this was helpful in applying the building blocks and concepts of HR to my career after at Chevron.
Josh: Understanding civilian academic considerations in a breadth and depth covered through the program has made me a more inventive and dynamic military leader.
Liz: It certainly opened a number of doors for me professionally within the Army. Having pursued and completed a resident master’s program speaks volumes to those that are looking for potential employees or the promotion of employees. I have used a surprising amount of my coursework within my current job. Currently, I work for Army Marketing, an Army unit I didn’t know existed. While I do not make Army level decisions, I certainly have a seat at the table with those who do. My voice is heard and is credible thanks to completing the coursework at Carlson.
Rich: The exposure I gained in the MA-HRIR program from the fields of compensation and benefits, labor relations, staffing, training, etc. will help me incredibly in the future. It was because of the experience in the military and the foundation in these educational topics that I was able to succeed in my internship this summer and was offered a full time position as a human resources generalist for Honeywell following graduation.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Bridget: I was selected as one of the 25 Impactful Veterans in Energy through Hart Energy this year.
Liz: I enjoy being a part of and contributing to something bigger than myself, which is exactly what I gain from both the Army and Carlson. I am fortunate to be a part of both networks and close-knit communities.
Rich: I just wanted to take some space to thank the great professors and staff that the MA-HRIR program provides its students. Not only are there a plethora of resources (great library, great business center, flexible scheduling), but the students, and my peers, are some of the hardest working, intelligent, and most genuine-hearted individuals I have come across. I am a better individual for all of it so thank you all for your time and energy.