42nd Annual HR Tomorrow Conference Held Virtually on April 23rd!

Mark your calendars and join us for HRReimagined, our 42nd annual HR Tomorrow conference held virtually on Friday, April 23, 2021! The upcoming conference will deliver information about the latest transformations in our workforce. Divided into two sessions, the morning will be about “Embracing COVID Learnings #workdifferent” and the afternoon will be about “Equitable Outcomes #DEI.” Our keynote speaker Heidi Capozzi, EVP and Global Chief People Officer at McDonald’s, will present during lunch. Registration will open February 1, 2021–Stay tuned! For more information, check out the website below.


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Join Us for Next Mentor Monday – December 14 at 12:00 noon CST

The third in our “Mentor Monday” virtual speaker series will be held on Monday, December 14 at 12:00 noon CT, where Kimberly Wirka will present “Leading yourself and leading others: my personal journey to discover my passion and advice for future business leaders.” 

Kimberly Wirka is a director at Land O’Lakes and serves as the HR business partner to the $7 billion crop inputs division and leads the early career HR talent development program.  She has held several positions at Land O’Lakes since 2001 including labor and employee relations, talent programs, and HR partner roles with the feed and egg businesses.  Prior to Land O’Lakes she worked at two plants at the Pillsbury Company.  She earned her MA in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management and her BA in Spanish and Management from the University of Minnesota, Morris.  Kim lives in Mahtomedi, Minnesota with her spouse and two teenagers.  She enjoys cheering for her kids at sporting events, running, reading, and traveling.

Monday, December 14 at 12:00 noon CT
Join us via Zoom at: https://umn.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJUqdeyhrTIpEtyb_RHj71pbNLUkZiD6UAEX 

Our second Mentor Monday session featured Sesil Pir, Head of Employee Experience at Takeda Pharmaceutical and is the Founder and Principal Consultant of SESIL PIR Consulting GmbH. She spoke on the “Future of Work” and a recording of her presentation can be found here.

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The Pursuit of Opportunities

A targeted search of the top graduate programs in human resources led Mara Swan, ’83 MA-IR, to the University of Minnesota. “I graduated from the University of Buffalo with a BS in Business Administration,” she says, “and was happy to be offered a scholarship and teaching assistantship at Minnesota” in the Industrial Relations (now the HRIR) program.

As she prepared for graduation she utilized the Career Center and began applying for jobs outside of Minnesota. “Many other students wanted to stay in the Twin Cities. I figured by broadening my search, I’d improve my odds,” she recalls.

At that time, during a recession, the main industries hiring were cigarettes, beer, and oil. “I chose the beer industry and flew to Milwaukee to begin a great career with Miller Brewery.” The odds paid off, and her 11 years at the company saw her weathering 11 layoffs, earning several promotions and the chance to work closely with company executives. “That really gave me confidence,” she says.

Another career opportunity arose and took her to Colorado to work for Coors, where she continued to advance and became their Chief Human Resources Officer at the age of 39. “I took the company through two mergers that doubled the size of the new organization – Molson Coors,” she says.

After more than two decades in one industry, Swan decided it was time for a change. She joined Manpower, a global workforce solutions company, and that turned out “to be the best job I ever had,” she says. As she broadened her responsibilities, she gained executive-level experience in the strategy, marketing, PR, risk management and ESG areas. “I became a better HR person because I was exposed to all aspects of the business,” she says. As the organization grew, rebranded, and became Manpower Group, the company expanded beyond one brand to a multi-brand company.  “I met people from all around the world,” she says, “and that really broadened my perspective.”

She credits the MA-IR she earned at Minnesota with laying down a strong foundation in the fundamentals of the field. “I got a really good grounding in analytics and approaching things from a fact and science-based perspective.” She also became an expert in the area of compensation in part, she says, “by being well-trained by Professor Thomas Mahoney.”

Swan retired in March 2020 and now splits her time between serving on Corporate Boards and enjoying activities she didn’t have much time for while working, such as reading, hiking, snowshoeing, painting, and knitting.

She’s currently serving on three Corporate Boards, which allows her to bring her broad business perspective to support their mission and goals. “I know a lot about the global workforce,” she says,” and am able to bring experience in a broad spectrum of areas.” HR professionals interested in pursuing Board service of their own should begin planning early, she suggests. “I’m seeing organizations more and more interested in mid-career executives.”

Building on her experience understanding numbers and analytics, she advises current MHRIR students to learn as much about finance and business as possible. “That’s what I did the most of near the end of my career,” she says, and it was essential for success to have built and honed those skills over the years. “Get as much business experience as possible,” she says. “The more you can do, and the broader, the better.”

She’s pleased to hear of the continued interest in the MHRIR program at the University of Minnesota. “I’m thankful people want to study the field of HR,” she says. “It’s pretty exciting. Building inclusive cultures is hard work, but very necessary.”

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Check Out Our New Look!

As a part of our celebration for the CHRLS’ 75th anniversary, we spiced up our blog with a new design and a focus on user-friendliness! On our blog, we publish recent news, exciting articles and features, and important information about upcoming events. Also, it is now easier than ever before to navigate to your favorite stories and past articles through our use of categories, search features and our monthly archives!

Stay current by following our blog and be among the first to see news and articles before our other social media platforms.

Also, there will be future opportunities for guest contributors to write their own HR stories on the blog and share it with our great community. If you have a personal story you’d like to write and feature on our blog, send us an email at chrls@umn.edu for more information, or leave a comment below!

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Join Us for Next Mentor Monday Event – November 16 at 12:00 noon CST

The second in our “Mentor Monday” speaker series will be held on Monday, November 16 at 12:00 noon CST, where Sesil Pir, ’07 MA-HRIR, will present on the Future of Work.”

Sesil currently serves as Head of Employee Experience at Takeda Pharmaceutical and is the Founder and Principal Consultant of SESIL PIR Consulting GmbH, a boutique management consultancy focusing on changing the status quo of work. She is an active contributor of Forbes, has been published in the Harvard Business Review, HR Zone and UK’s HR Magazine, and has contributed to several human resources management books. She started her career as a Marketing Consultant with Deloitte & Touché in 1999. Since then, she has worked for Honeywell International, Cargill Inc., Microsoft Corporation and Novartis AG as an HR functional leader. She holds an MA-HRIR from the Carlson School of Management, an Executive MBA from Harvard University, and a BA from Eastern Michigan University. She is a certified Six Sigma in project management and is also certified to administer a variety of 360-degree feedback and organizational assessment tools. She is an honorary faculty at Indian School of Business & Istanbul University. She has been recently recognized as ’40 Thinkers Under 40’ in Europe and ‘101 Employee Engagement Influencers’ globally. 

Sesil will be talking about the “Future of Work.” The world of work is changing. The forces of globalization, digitalization and democratization has and will continue to make this shift as significant as the mechanization in prior generations of agriculture and manufacturing. While COVID-19 acts like an accelerator in the current years, we will start to witness a legitimate shift of the status quo and evolve the way we live, relate to one another and work together. In this 20-minute talk, we will explore the power behind the forces of change listed, share ideas around the kind of evolution we are currently witnessing with global organizations (such as job losses, new job families being created, the evolution of demographics and workforce make up) and have a conversation around what this means for the future of corporations, the human resources profession and more importantly, you as the leaders of tomorrow.

Join us via Zoom at: https://umn.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJUtdO2hpzspE9MIuZCfQuRki0nAJUPysq7Y

*Meeting opens at 11:30 am, presentation to begin at noon.

Our first Mentor Monday session featured Nick Christenson, VP of HR for the Off-road Vehicles and Snow businesses at Polaris Inc. He spoke on “Your Career as a Journey,” and a recording of his presentation can be found here.

Please contact us at hrmentor@umn.edu with any questions or comments.

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Four Retiring Staff Members: What We Remember and the Things We’ll Miss

Congratulations to the four CHRLS staff members who will be retiring this fall! We asked them to share some of their experiences with us before they leave. We wish you all the best as you begin the next chapter of your lives!

Jennifer Clement, CHRLS Herman Library Assistant

How long have you worked in the IRC/CHRLS?
By December I will have been here for almost 35 years.

What job(s) have you had during your tenure? 
I started out being a clerical worker and have since been in a library assistant position.

How many different buildings did you work in?
I have worked in Blegen Hall, the Humphrey Building and the Carlson School of Management.

Can you share some interesting/funny memories about your time here?
Most of my memories are getting to know all the different students from all over the world. It has been so interesting getting to know so many people from different cultures as well as in the United States. Being around so many young people has made me feel more young myself.

What will you miss the most?
I will mostly miss all the nice professors, students, and staff that I have really enjoyed working with all these years.

And, what plans do you have after retirement?
Going for lots of walks with my husband and dog, and travelling somewhere warm for a month or two in the winter months.

Howard Kling, LES Labor Education Specialist

How long have you worked in the Labor Education Service?
I have worked at LES since June, 1991, so almost 30 years (29 years and 4 months?)

What job(s) have you had during your tenure?
I was hired as Director of the Labor Education Service Telecommunications Project (LESTP), a position I have held since 1991. In the beginning, LESTP was essentially a video production collective focused on issues of work, organized labor, and social and economic justice. My work as LESTP Director meant providing leadership and also included doing all the tasks associated with video production. As communications technology developed, LESTP expanded its work and mission to include computer-based media and then online, web-based media production, including Workday Minnesota which was launched in 2000 as the first on-line labor news service in the U.S.  I and LESTP also played a key role in creating Workers Independent News, a national commercial radio project, and the Twin Cities Daily Planet, an on-line community news and information publication. I became Acting Director of LES as a whole in 2000, and became the first elected Director of LES in 2001, serving 3 terms until June, 2010.

How many different buildings did you work in?
Two: LES was housed in the Management and Economics Building next to Blegen until CSOM occupied its new and current building.

What will you miss the most?
For sure all the people I’ve known and worked with at LES and the IRC/CHRLS. Many have already left the U but there are plenty who are still here. How strange that on a certain day I will no longer have an office to go to and the shifting tableau of all these wonderful people won’t grace my life anymore. Sigh, I guess Covid has actually been quite a good teacher. Ugh.

I will also miss my work, the joy of creating a video that is well received, teaching in our union leadership program, all the schemes and initiatives and experiments I got to participate in, the freedom to dream and try things, the camaraderie with my fellow LES staff, and in particular our very innovative LESTP collective and the amazing working relationship we developed together. I will miss feeling useful and helpful, especially during those times of trouble for LES. I will miss the privilege of knowing, interviewing and videotaping so, so many working people whose courage and articulate words have inspired me all these years. And I will miss the support I have always, always felt from the IRC/CHRLS.

And, what plans do you have after retirement?
I will be working with John See, and retired LESTP staff member Randy Croce, to finish digitizing and archiving 35+ years of video programs and historic raw footage. I have some potential video projects with friends in San Francisco as well as Buffalo, NY. I plan to start doing creative writing again.

Cook more. Drink wine. Work on our house. Hang out with friends (which will hopefully be possible sometime soon!) Visit our daughter and her wife in Brooklyn and my son in Ely more. Read more books. Listen to more music. Play my guitar (not very well). Eventually move back to Buffalo, NY, my hometown.

Anne Obst, External Relations Coordinator

How long have you worked in the IRC/CHRLS?
I will have completed a full 15 years with the CHRLS when I retire on November 2.

What job(s) have you had during your tenure?
I was fortunate to be hired in as External Relations Coordinator back in 2005, and have kept the same title since then. However, my responsibilities definitely expanded over the years into the varied, challenging, and enjoyable position I have now.

How many different buildings did you work in?
All of my time has been spent working in the Carlson School building, but I have to say that once the coffee shop in Hanson Hall opened up, I’ve spent a quite a lot of time over there!

Can you share some interesting/funny memories about your time here?
I’ve had the privilege of coordinating 15 separate HR Tomorrow Conferences during my tenure, and each one had their own challenges. From the early days when one of our breakout session speakers developed food poisoning and drove himself to the hospital (he ended up to be fine), to the year we almost cancelled due to a raging snowstorm (and one of our attendees rented a car with a stranger and made a middle-of-the-night drive up from central Iowa to get here in time), to actually cancelling this year’s event due to COVID-19, each conference has had its own personality and quirks – and each conference was definitely exciting and satisfying to put on.

What will you miss the most?
By far and away, it will be the people: my amazing co-workers, our extraordinary faculty, my supportive departmental partners across the college, and all the remarkable alumni I’ve had the honor to meet, build friendships with, and hopefully keep in touch with!

And, what plans do you have after retirement?
Volunteering, reading, traveling, and spending time with my grandchildren are at the top of the list. Everyone says I’ll be busier during retirement than I ever was during my working years, and I’m eager to test out that theory!!

Susan Suchy, Student Services Specialist

How long have you worked in the IRC/CHRLS?  I started working in March 1978.  Previously, I was at the Boynton Health Service for almost three years.  My first few years I was able to be around when Herb H. Heneman was a faculty member and not the director at that time.

What job(s) have you had during your tenure?
After working in the main office for one year, I took a position in the Labor Education Service and worked with Jack Flagler. After three years my position was being eliminated. They asked if I would be willing to move back to the main office and work with the students instead of the staff. I’ve been able to work with students to the present time.

How many different buildings did you work in?
The building I first started in was the Management and Economic Building (which now is Heller Hall). I moved into the Carlson School once the building was built.

Can you share some interesting/funny memories about your time here?
The changes that happen within 42 years. Having students line up before the door opened to be put on the waiting list for classes. I would need to hand write a permission slip to each of the students for each class. They would come and pick up the permission slip and go to the registrar’s office to register for the classes. They also needed to wait in line. I would also answered faculty phone calls and left messages in the mailboxes. The faculty didn’t like the change that messages would be on voice mail. Thank goodness for computers and cell phones.

What will you miss the most?
I will miss the people. I worked with great people. Doing the job for so many years, every Fall felt like I was starting a new job, with getting to know the new students. The first 25 years I really knew the students. Someone would say the student’s name and I would be able to know if they were students of ours.

And, what plans do you have after retirement?
Plan to travel and do things I was unable to do while working.

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Please Join in Supporting 75th Anniversary Social Justice Fund

Thanks to a generous lead gift from Professor John Budd and his wife, Gwen, the CHRLS is pleased to launch the first philanthropic effort within the Carlson School to actively recognize social justice work with the creation of the “75th Anniversary CHRLS Social Justice Fund.”

This effort acknowledges the social justice contributions of CHRLS faculty, staff, students, and alumni. As far back as the 1920s, the precursor to CHRLS offered courses in labor problems and social insurance that highlighted the needs of workers for fair treatment, dignity, and voice. Several decades later, Professor Herb Heneman was chair of the St. Paul Fair Employment Practices Commission which is now its Human Rights Commission, and today our research, curriculum, and alumni still trumpet the importance of dignity, empowerment, equality, diversity, and inclusiveness.

But knowing there is still much more to be done, we also want to commemorate the social moment that coincides with our 75th anniversary. We hope the Fund can symbolically remind us of that convergence into the future, while also concretely providing funds for student fellowships and other initiatives.

This fund is being flexibly designed to allow program leaders to tailor specific expenditures most effectively as needs change and will include fellowship support to recruit outstanding Master’s students, including those from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, as well as initiatives that we can’t currently foresee.

You are invited to join John and Gwen Budd in this important effort by making a gift or pledge now.

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HR Tomorrow Conference to Be Held Virtually on April 23

Mark your calendars to join us for the 41st annual HR Tomorrow Conference, HRReimagined, which will be held virtually on Friday, April 23, 2021. The popular professional development event for HR practitioners will offer a half-day or full-day option, and will focus on Embracing COVID Learnings #workdifferent and Equitable Outcomes #DEI.

Interested in sharing your expertise with conference attendees? The Request for Speaker Proposals is now open; please submit your application before December 1.

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Help Us Capture 75 Years of Excellence!

2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies (formerly known as the Industrial Relations Center.) While we won’t be able to gather in person to celebrate this momentous milestone, we’d love to hear from you nonetheless!

We are collecting “75 Reasons to Celebrate the CHRLS” and hope you will take a few minutes to fill out this survey. Feel free to answer any, or all, of the questions. We would love to receive your responses before October 23. Thanks for sharing your memories!!

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Join Us for Mentor Monday at Noon on October 19th!

Join Us for Mentor Monday to hear from Nick Christenson, VP of HR at Polaris: October 19 at 12:00 noon.

2020 has brought many challenges but also many opportunities to engage differently as HR students and professionals. The Carlson HR & Labor Studies Alumni Association has operated no differently, pushing ourselves to find new ways to connect current students and alumni. One of the innovations we will be implementing this year is a virtual speaker series called Mentor Mondays. Mentor Mondays will be held monthly and will be about 30-45 minutes in length. The speakers will focus on many topics impacting both students and alumni today, as well as leaving time for Q&A.

The first speaker in our Mentor Monday series will be Nick Christenson. Nick is the VP of HR for the Off-road Vehicles and Snow businesses at Polaris Inc., based in Plymouth, MN.  He previously led the Talent Management function at Polaris and lead HR for the Polaris Parts, Garments and Accessories business.  Prior to joining Polaris in 2014 Nick was most recently HR Director at Club Car, a division of Ingersoll Rand, based in Augusta, GA.  He also held previous positions of increasing responsibility at Ingersoll Rand and Doosan/Bobcat.  Nick graduated as part of the 2005 MA-HRIR program cohort and received a Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of Minnesota. Nick has been an active supporter of CHRLS Alumni Board activities, serving on the board of directors from 2016 to 2019 including the final year as the board’s president.  He is currently a member of the Carlson Executive Education board of advisors.

Nick will be presenting on how to approach your career as a journey, which will including examples of how, through his own career, he’s balanced his professional and personals goals to get to where he is now. This session will be held on Monday, October 19th at 12:00pm CST and is open to both current students and alumni of the MA-HRIR program.

We will not be sending out registration for this event, so please make sure to add it to your calendar with the below Zoom information:

Meeting ID: 978 0256 6896
Passcode: cdugR1

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