Carlson School Takes 1st Place at 7th Annual International HR Case Competition

Six different countries were represented by the 28 masters-level students who participated in the 7th Annual International HR Case Competition (CIHRCom) that was held November 14-16 at the Carlson School. Teams competed against each other to solve a pressing business case provided by Lead Sponsor UnitedHealth Group.

First place went to the Carlson School; 2nd place to Loyola University; and 3rd place to Rutgers University. Congratulations to everyone!

CIHRComCongratulations to the first place team from the Carlson School; from left, Minfei Zhao, Jane Jian, Victoria Hannah and Siraj Mani Acharya, along with UnitedHealth Group Lead Sponsor Judge Peggi Tobias.

More photos from the three-day competition are available here.

Helping Others, Serving Others: Veterans Reflect on Experience as HRIR Students

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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.

Spotlight On…

An occasional series highlighting a member of our alumni community, a current student, and a member of our staff or faculty.

Linda BreedAlumna Linda Breed, ’08

Where are you currently working?
I work for TMK IPSCO, a steel pipe manufacturer with its US Headquarters in Houston.

What’s your favorite part about working in the HR field? 
There are many things I enjoy about HR. I especially enjoy the process of building trust with the line leaders with whom I work and being involved in solving business problems. I like that HR has evolved to be more of a data-driven field. One of the reasons I enjoy rotations in Talent Acquisition is that I get to work with a huge set of data and use the analysis to build business cases as to what we should target to make recruitment more efficient and effective.

What was your favorite part of the MA-HRIR program? 
The friends I met in the program, getting to know students from all corners of the world, completing my last semester in Vienna, having support from both our professors and the career services center to find the right fit for internships and full-time roles.

Did you think the program prepared you well for the ‘real world’? 
Yes it did. I was lucky enough to go directly from my semester abroad in Vienna to my first job with Pfizer Dublin. The international exposure during my semester abroad paid dividends immediately and later on in my career, when I took a 4-year assignment with Pfizer in Germany.

What’s a hobby or something fun you like to do when you’re not working?
I like to read; I finished “Bad Blood” (the Theranos book) and “Super Pumped” (the Uber book) and both were really interesting from an HR perspective. I have two children with my partner and we like to travel to them. Our last two trips were back to his hometown in Germany last Thanksgiving and we went to Maui this past August. I also like watching basketball and cheering for the San Antonio Spurs, my hometown team.

Do you have any advice for current students?
I would say it’s important to be open and curious to any experience you’re getting at work, especially in the early stages of your career. I never thought I would like recruiting but it’s a specialism I’ve returned to many times, and each time I’ve learned something new. I would also encourage current students to take the leap and spend a semester abroad, especially if you didn’t get that experience during college. You’ll be pushed both personally and academically, and you’ll come away with some great stories to share!


First-Year MHRIR Student Sara Al-ShomalySara

Why did you choose to attend the Carlson School’s MA-HRIR program?
The University of Minnesota was highly promoted by my HR professors in my undergrad. I chose to apply because of all the great things I was hearing about this program. I made my decision to attend Carlson School’s M-HRIR after doing some more research and visiting the campus. I have come to find out about the great opportunities that it offers from career coaching to being able to be a consultant for a non-profit organization!

Where did you go for your undergraduate degree, and what was your major?
I went to Western Michigan University and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resource Management in April 2019.

Do you have any work experience?
I worked as a part-time customer service representative for PNC Bank while I was finishing up my last year of my undergrad.

What’s been your favorite part of the program so far?
My favorite thing about this program is the opportunity of being involved in a variety of things. I was able to participate in the case competition, which I really enjoyed working with my team to provide a solution for a case in 24 hours. I also have the ability to learn about how HR is applied in different organizations. For someone who came straight from undergrad, I find it really helpful.

What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I like to watch series (drama/thriller/comedy). I also enjoy touring the cities and hanging out with friends!


Staff Member Brenda LucyBrenda

When did you start working in Carlson School’s CHRLS? What tasks does your job consist of?
I started working at the Carlson School in the fall of 2005 as an executive assistant in the Juran Center. I started my position as the Director of the Herman Library in the Fall of 2006 and added the Associate Director position to my job in 2009. As of today I am the Director of the Herman Library and the Associate Director of the Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies.

As the Director of the Library my primary areas of responsibility are specialized content development and management, library strategic planning and improvement and providing subject area expertise to students, faculty, staff and outside users.

As the Associate Director, I work closely with the Department Chair of Work and Organizations to support our faculty and academic programs. I work with the Chair to put together the yearly schedule of classes, hiring additional instructors as needed, I manage the TA hiring process for all of the classes that our department staffs and I supervise the support staff.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
In both aspects of my job I love fitting the pieces together and finding solutions; I often say my job is like a puzzle.

I also find great satisfaction in guiding and mentoring staff. I have the privilege of supervising, a job that I take seriously, and I enjoy working with them to develop and encourage growth, in work life and in their personal life.

What is your educational background and what other work experience do you have?
I have a BA in Organizational Leadership from the University of Mary and a Masters in Library Science and a Masters in Information Science, both from the Indiana University, Bloomington.

I worked for the Office of the VP for Government Relations and Public Affairs at Indiana University and the moved to the Twin Cities where I was hired by the Joseph Juran Center at the Carlson School of Management. After just one year I was hired as the Director of the Herman Library and have been in this position for 14 years.

What’s a hobby or something fun you like to do when you’re not working?
My partner, Janelle, and I love to camp: we hike, bike, run, snowshoe, and swim. We just love to be active outside. I also love to read and love to cook!

Is there any little-known fact about you that people might be surprised about?
I have completed a Half Ironman distance triathlon, 1.2 miles swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run, and will be training for another in July 2020.

Investment in Online Orientation Program Pays Dividends in Greater Student Engagement


                                                  Last year’s New Student Orientation Planning team, from left: Sofia Gu, Stacy Doepner-Hove, Star Wynn, Mari Miyamoto, and Jerri Snyder.

Back in June we shared an article about the new student summer online orientation program, where four current students helped MHRIR Program Director Stacy Doepner-Hove develop an innovative way of engaging incoming students and helping them transition to life as a graduate student.

Now that we are close to wrapping up the fall semester, we are able to observe the impacts the online program had on our first-year students and the standard in-person orientation. Doepner-Hove says the program appears to be a success. “The students seemed to take it seriously and really dove into the work that was put forward,” she says.  She emphasizes how they managed to develop relationships with one another before arriving on campus, thanks to the online group projects and get-to-know-you videos each of them posted on Canvas, the online educational portal. The work and familiarization before their arrival on campus allowed for students to feel more comfortable with their surroundings and more prepared for the program. In comparison to previous years, Doepner-Hove says the online program motivated this year’s students to look through the materials early, complete assignments thoughtfully, and meet the deadlines on time.

The online program also benefitted the in-person orientation that took place in late August, by helping the students create connections more easily. “While it was the first time these new students had met each other in person,” Doepner-Hove says, “having been through the summer online orientation meant it wasn’t the first time the new students had met. They were able to get to know each other a bit over the summer and when they met for the first time as a full cohort, they recognized their classmates and started to make connections early,” she says. Also, knowing that the resources on Canvas will remain accessible after orientation allowed the students to feel more present at the in-person orientation. “It was a strong start for these new students,” she says, “and hopefully will give them a solid foundation if they find rough times during their education.”

We interviewed first-year students Siraj Acharya, Yoon-Jin Choi, Laura Christianson, Jennifer Garcia Caicedo, and Sam Hagewood, each of whom participated in the orientation program, to gain an understanding of how effective it was.

Laura Christenson
Laura Christianson:
The online orientation program over the summer helped me become familiar with not just concepts related to leadership, but those related to working in groups, cultural competency, and being cognizant about priorities as a student. Coming from a psychology undergraduate major, I had never taken an HR class, though had loved the experience of class discussions, working in groups, and gaining presentation skills. The online orientation helped me to hone these skills and place them in the context of our program.


Sam HagewoodSam Hagewood: It provided me a foundation for what to expect over the next couple years. I was able to see videos showing how a typical class is taught, and noticed the discussion-based methods this program continuously highlights. Having this online program slowly transitioned me into the mindset of a graduate business student, helping me feel as though I was ready to take on the challenges ahead and not just a “deer in the headlights.”

Jennifer Garcia Caicedo

Jennifer Garcia Caicedo
: As an international student I was used to a different learning environment and the online orientation program let me experience the program’s structure and the pace of the lessons. I learned how to use the Canvas platform, and the strategies to interact with a diverse group of professors and classmates. It left a very good impression when I saw how well-organized the orientation program was. Every time I had a question or concern, without even asking, the orientation program already had an entire module to approach the issue.


Yoonjin Choi

Yoon-Jin Choi: As an international student, it helped me prepare how to behave in the classroom, such as asking questions aloud and discussing with professors and classmates simultaneously. Also, it made most students well-prepared in terms of job market entry. On-campus recruiting started soon after the semester began. The online orientation enabled me to prepare a resume and cover letter beforehand. I felt very engaged in this program even before the start. I feel faculty care about students so much, and this makes me have a strong sense of belonging and commitment to the program.

Siraj Acharya
Siraj Acharya:
It was a great transition moving from an online orientation to an in-person orientation. Getting to know cohort mates beforehand through the fun group activity we planned, learning about the Carlson School of Management and the University of Minnesota and all it has to offer before getting here helped me to understand things presented during orientation at a deeper level.


Laura: The online orientation was a great first step in the now collaborative relationships and friendships I have with peers in my cohort. Watching get-to-know-you videos, working in groups, having discussions, and learning from the perspectives of such a diverse group of individuals are all experiences that have carried over from Canvas to the classroom setting. I also appreciated the opportunity to work on a group project with three other peers. This helped us ease back into a classroom environment while working toward a common goal (in this case, to plan a fun event for cohort bonding!)


Some of the delicious foods prepared by first-year students during Foodival, the first of two team-building activities voted on by students during their online summer orientation exercises.

Siraj: The online orientation provided multiple opportunities for students to get to know each other at many different levels. Starting with a video introduction allowed us to get to know each other’s cultural values, while working on a group project allowed us to understand different perspectives. Doing activities as a cohort was helpful to learn and understand each other, which played a major impact on interaction with other students.

Sam: Because of the intro videos and group discussion pieces, I knew some things about each student that I was able to ask about when we met face-to-face in August. I knew where people came from, what they did before they got to the program, why they chose HR and the University of Minnesota’s MHRIR program, and from there we were able to start meaningful conversations with each other that helped us all bond much more quickly.

Yoon-Jin: I could easily talk with anyone who I interacted with on the online program. When I opened the door to the orientation room, I recognized one of my group members. I sat next to him and talked a lot. The online program enabled students to interact with others naturally.

Jennifer: It helped me be aware of the diverse group of students in the classroom. In addition, reading my classmates’ personal stories about culture shock made me realize that despite our differences we are all humans that struggle sometimes, but at the end we are all pursuing our dreams and that gave me a sense of community.

Siraj: I am so thankful that there was an online orientation before starting the program. As someone who went to a small school for undergrad, coming to a bigger city and a Division 1 school can be very overwhelming. The program covered all aspects of campus life and how to succeed as an MHRIR student, but also how to navigate life in the Twin Cities.

As first-year student Laura Christenson summarizes, “I hope that future classes seize the opportunity to learn from this orientation! It was a perfect way to transition from a work setting to an academic one, while allowing each student to reflect on past experiences and engage with peers.”

Our Award-Winning Faculty

Congratulations to three members of the Work and Organizations Department for their recent awards:

campbell_at_carlson_july_2017Assistant Professor Beth Campbell received the Carlson School’s Award for Teaching Excellence based on her outstanding performance in teaching students leadership and personal development. She has a record of nearly perfect student ratings across the undergraduate, Master’s and doctoral level programs. Student comments also emphasize how her classes inform and inspire them throughout their careers. Besides direct instruction, Professor Campbell has also provided guidance in our programs and facilitated student development as a personal mentor.


20180621_Discovery_Michelle_Duffy-6572_0Professor Michelle Duffy received the Carlson School’s Award for Research Excellence based on her continued contributions to the areas of undermining, envy, and negative supervisor behavior. She is a trailblazer in these areas, having produced some of the earliest and most influential works on all of these topics. Her rigorous research has major implications for every aspect of interpersonal interactions in the workplace, especially as it shows leaders just how important it is to create an environment that builds mutual support and respect.


Pri ShahAssociate Professor Pri Shah received the Carlson School’s Award for Service Excellence.

Where in the World Will Our Degree Take You? A Conversation with Sarah Vania

Sarah Vania

We love to keep in touch with our HRIR alumni to hear about their careers since leaving the program. One such alumna, Sarah Vania, graduated in 2001 and has had a fascinating career since then. We recently had the chance to catch up with her and hear her story.

First, can you tell us a little bit about your educational experience? How did you come to choose to attend the University of Minnesota to earn your Master’s at the Carlson School? How would you describe your experience in our program? Are you connected to other alumni or professors from the program?

Growing up, I was always interested in other cultures and wanted to explore the world. I had an early interest in international development, and got my bachelor’s degree in Economics and International Relations from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  After a few years of working in non-profits, I realized that I would benefit from more expertise in a technical area. I considered many different paths, and eventually landed on human resources— I felt that it would be something that I’d both enjoy and be good at. I was fortunate to be from Minnesota, and when I started researching HR graduate programs I was thrilled to see that one of the best in the country was in the Twin Cities.  Given the excellent quality and relative affordability of the program, it was clearly the best choice for me. I didn’t even apply to other schools.

I flourished in the program—the classes, professors, fellow students, opportunities and facilities all contributed to an amazing two years. Having the HR program embedded in the business school was particularly helpful—I took as many business courses, alongside the MBAs, as I could. I’m still in touch with a number of my classmates, and some of them remain close friends.

I entered the program as someone who grew up in a middle-class family with no personal or family connections to global organizations. I left with job offers from four Fortune 500 companies. The education and opportunities provided by the Carlson HRIR program were truly life-changing.

What has been your career path? How has it shifted over the years since graduating? How did our program impact and prepare you for your career? 

I entered the Master’s program with a plan to return to the non-profit world.  But I quickly saw that I would have the most exposure to world-class HR if I went the corporate route for a while. I interned with Fidelity Investments and after graduation joined the rotation program at Bristol-Myers Squibb, eventually staying for five years. My last role there was with the Latin American Canada region, which gave me great experience in Mexico and South America. From there, I joined the Corporate Executive Board (now Gartner) in Washington DC in an HR business partner role. It was a revelation to work at a business research firm that was well-known for its world-class HR data, resources and services. I learned a lot and still incorporate their research into my work to this day.

After eight years in the corporate world, my brain was fully engaged but my heart was elsewhere.  It was time to return to the non-profit sector.  Within a month of making that decision, I landed a job with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a global humanitarian aid, relief and development organization.  The combination of my international experience, Master’s in HR and HR experience made the transition to a large, global non-profit quite easy.

I’ve been with IRC for close to ten years now.  I spent most of that time as the HR Director for their US refugee resettlement programs.  As of January, I now oversee HR for our international programs.  We work in over 40 countries, where our exceptional staff provide clean water, shelter, health care, education and empowerment support to refugees and displaced people.

Can you share some of your work or living abroad experiences?

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Gabon, taught ESL in South Korea, and lived in Belgium while working with Bristol-Myers Squibb.  With the International Rescue Committee, most of my travels bring me to Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and I look forward to visiting some of our programs in South Asia soon.

What are some of your proudest accomplishments, and/or what is a project that you are a part of and passionate about?

I am proud of many of my accomplishments, but the most meaningful experience I’ve had so far in my career was working alongside IRC’s leadership and staff in the refugee resettlement program when the United States refugee program and its underlying humanitarian principles came under attack by the new Administration.  The courage and determination demonstrated by our staff was deeply inspiring.  My HR responsibilities ranged from scenario planning to securing on-site counselors that had the right level of sensitivity to support our multi-cultural staff, many of whom are former refugees.

What other goals do you hope to accomplish?

Earlier this year, the IRC’s CEO announced our aspiration to become a feminist organization.  We cannot be successful in addressing the inequalities of the world unless we also address our own.  Our global HR team and line leadership is working closely with our extraordinary Gender Equality team to put practical and creative policies and practices into place to remove obstacles to full workforce participation, and encourage the development of female leaders.  I look forward to seeing significant progress against our key indicators, from balanced representation at all levels to female staff reporting an organizational culture where they feel fully respected, supported, and safe.

What advice would you give to current students?

Live below your means, always.  It can be heady to get your first healthy paycheck, and it’s tempting to spend it on a nice lifestyle.  But with prudence comes freedom—the freedom to change jobs that aren’t a good fit for you, or to move to a different place in the world.  In my case, I was able to move from the business world to non-profit.  I meet a lot of people who would like to do the same thing, but can’t afford it.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I enjoy cooking healthy meals, exercising, working in the garden, reading to keep up with my book club, and- when I am working out of our NYC HQ office—keeping my eyes open for confused and lost tourists. I love to stop and introduce myself, and help them on their way.  I’ve met so many wonderful people over the years (including an elderly couple from New Zealand who invited me to visit their sheep farm), and it’s satisfying to repay the many kindnesses I have received during my own travels.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

If you are a current or former international student who is from one of the countries where IRC works, and you’d like to return- let me know! We would be happy to interview you for any of our HR openings.

All in the Family: 3 Siblings, 3 Degrees, 3 Rewarding HR Careers

Colleen, Scott, Kathleen Peterson.jpg

Siblings Colleen Peterson (left), Scott Peterson, and Kathleen Gabel 

Chief Human Resources Officer at The Schwan Food Company. Executive Compensation Director at H.B. Fuller. Director of Global Compensation at Ecolab. Besides being human resources positions of responsibility in leading national and global organizations, these three posts have something else in common: all three are held by siblings who earned a Master of Arts in Industrial Relations from the Carlson School of Management.

Scott Peterson, ’83; Colleen Peterson, ’96; and Kathleen Gabel, ’97, are siblings who have not only built highly-successful careers in human resources, but also share the distinction of being alumni of the Carlson School’s highly-regarded HRIR program.

As the oldest of the three, Scott was the first to enter the program. “I had been looking into law school or public policy, but realized I wasn’t really interested in those careers,” he says. “I stumbled across the [HR]IR program, and met with [Professor Emeritus] Mario Bognanno. I learned about the program’s good reputation and placement rates, and realized I could have a really interesting career in HR.”

Even though Kathleen knew about the program through Scott’s experience, she was still deciding between the HRIR degree and an MBA. She eventually made her choice. “I was really drawn to the [HRIR] program, and discovered I really liked compensation,” she says, and especially enjoyed classes taught by emeriti professors John Fossum and Jim Scoville.

Colleen majored in philosophy as an undergraduate, but in her senior year took some HR and finance courses, which she enjoyed. Then, “Scott arranged a tour for me when he was working in HR at Pillsbury, and I had the chance to meet with their HR team,” she recalls. Those experiences led her to enroll in the [HR]IR program, and to a 21-year career with H.B. Fuller.

Scott says that his compensation classes “were phenomenal. I’ve used what I learned in them throughout my career,” he recalls. “It’s really helped differentiate me from my peers, and gives me credibility with my CEO and CFO,” he says. “The classes were rigorous and very helpful. I’ve used [what I learned] in my stats class more than anything else.”

However, it’s not all numbers and spreadsheets. “Don’t underestimate the importance of emotional intelligence, or EQ, either,” notes Scott. “The more you rise as a leader, the more important EQ is.”

Even though all three have been out of graduate school for many years, their faces light up when recalling the connections they made in the program. Kathleen fondly remembers Friday night gatherings at Seven Corners as a time for students to relax after a long week. “Sometimes faculty [from the program] would drop in, too,” she says.

“Georgie [retired librarian Georgianna Herman] was like a mother to us,” Kathleen continues. “She always made time for us. When we were in such an intense program, having her there was great – she was really supportive.”

Colleen counts friendships among another of the benefits of the program. “The friendships I made [in the program] have lasted,” she says, and she’s still in touch with several classmates. “The program attracts a high quality of student, and they’ve enhanced my professional and personal life.” Scott recalls that “our group project work helped create lifelong friendships” among he and his classmates.

Scott credits the faculty for making an impact on him, as well. “The University is a big place,” he says, “and we had faculty who really looked out for us. They found something in each of us, and made us each feel like an individual.”

What advice do these seasoned HR professionals have for current students while in the program and as they begin their careers? Kathleen encourages students to “utilize your faculty.” She also cautions that “the two years will go by fast. Enjoy the time you’re there,” she says. “You’ll be learning a lot from great professors, and making a lot of friends. It will be tough,” she notes, “but it will be a great experience.”

Scott concurs. “Make sure to build relationships with your faculty and your classmates,” he counsels. “And, don’t shy away from the quantitative side of things.” Colleen notes that people are eager to help: “there’s a real team spirit among classmates, faculty and staff,” she says.

What is Thanksgiving dinner like with three family members who not only work in the same field, but who share the same graduate degree? According to the siblings, they do talk shop, sometimes bouncing ideas off of each other, sometimes even doing a little benchmarking among them. And, as if three graduates from the same family weren’t enough, it turns out there was a potential fourth. Their brother, Rich, also looked into the program, but went down a different path – he became a federal agent.