Students Bring Back Worlds of Experience

“Studying abroad as a graduate student can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Opportunities to conduct research, gain work experience through an internship, or enroll in unique course offerings can contribute meaningfully to your educational and career aspirations.”

-University of Minnesota Learning Abroad Center website


Even though nationally only about 10% of students study abroad, Carlson School students have a rich tradition of exploring international learning opportunities while enrolled in either an undergraduate or graduate degree program. The MA-HRIR program offers two main study abroad options for its students: Global Enrichment Programs which are January or May-June short-term programs, or Global Immersion Programs, which are half- and full-semester long opportunities.

We talked to four graduating MA-HRIR students about their time studying abroad and what they gained from the experience.

Kyle Swatfager Study Abroad Photo.IMG_1340Kyle Swatfager just finished studying abroad in Oslo, Norway at the BI Norwegian Business School. Kyle, who was abroad for all of spring semester, says the opportunity was great from both professional and personal perspectives.

“Professionally, it allowed me to test previously-held assumptions and perspectives in a different culture to formulate myself further as a global thinker,” says Kyle. “Personally, it has afforded me the opportunity to explore my Scandinavian heritage and build my network of friends and experiences internationally.”

One of the benefits of participating in the Norwegian study abroad program was the ability to select his own courses. “I took both strategy and operations courses, which is directly relatable to my career in HR,” he says. Kyle says he gained the knowledge to be able to assist his business partners in an operations setting, and also gained experience in mergers and acquisitions.

“I firmly believe in opportunities to learn outside the classroom,” he says. “These opportunities present themselves abroad by expanding comfort zones, expanding perspective, and experiencing things first-hand.”

He shares this piece of advice to those considering studying abroad: “Take advantage of your time as a student to travel abroad because there is no better time to gain credits and life experiences,” he says.



Eniola Aderibigbe - Study AbroadEniola Aderibigbe studied abroad in Stockholm, Sweden at the Stockholm School of Economics for the first half of spring semester. This isn’t Eniola’s first time abroad, as she is an international student from Nigeria, so she considers studying at the University of Minnesota as her first time abroad.

“I hope to have a career in international HR,” she says, “and considering how companies are expanding their international presence, I saw the study abroad program as an opportunity to learn and experience another culture in the classroom, business settings, and social outings.”

Coming to the United States to study I realized there is a difference between what we read about countries and what we experience in reality,” she says. “Even though there are elements of truth in the textbook readings and media, the opportunity to have a first-hand experience gives a better sense of judgment of what different parts of the world are really like.”

Reflecting on her experience, Eniola says she’s gained a “news lens for looking at how a problem is solved. I have a better understanding why it is important for businesses to understand culture difference, work culture, laws, and resources available in order to adapt and succeed in new regions or countries.”


IMG_0873Tracy Nwakanma spent 10 weeks studying at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. Tracy took advantage of this opportunity because, “I felt it might be the last time in my life where I had the flexibility to live in and explore different countries” without being tied to a career or other responsibilities. It makes sense, then, that Tracy’s advice to students considering going abroad is, “Do it. When will you ever have the chance to take two-six months off of work and travel to a new part of the world?”

Tracy balanced her class schedule with traveling to several European countries, including Greece, France, Spain, Germany, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland. “I made some new friends from all over the world,” she says, “and I was also able to discuss current global business issues and learn from people with different perspectives and experiences.”

I definitely have a new appreciation for human resources and business from a global context,” she says. “I’ve learned that within Europe, HR and business strategies differ drastically depending on the country and company. “I’m excited to apply what I’ve learned and use my experience of different cultures as a guide in my career.”
Anni Stringini Study Aborad PicAnni Stringini also studied at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland for 10 weeks. This was Anni’s second time studying abroad, as she spent time in Rome as an undergraduate student. She chose to participate in a second opportunity, she says, because “it gave me the opportunity to not only learn more about other cultures and business from a global perspective, but the opportunity to travel around Europe during the off time.”

Anni says her time abroad “gave me the chance to learn more about different cultures and how business is conducted in different parts of the world.” Not only were her classes geared toward international business, she says, “but my international classmates brought their own experiences into class through examples and discussion, which I found to be very valuable.”

The 10 weeks went by much faster than Anni had anticipated. “I was a little nervous being gone so long,” she says, “but it went really quickly, and was a great alternative for those who don’t want to commit to the full semester.”

Like Tracy’s advice, Anni says, “if you want to have an international experience or did not get the opportunity to do so s an undergrad, take the time now because once you are working, it will be harder to get that kind of time off to travel and see other parts of the world.”

Thanks to Outgoing Alumni Board Members

Heartfelt thanks go to six members of the CHRLS Alumni Association Board of Directors whose three-year terms are ending this spring. Their hard work and dedication have helped the Board continue its mission of strengthening the relationship between alumni and the CHRLS, the Carlson School, and the wider University community.

Rolling off the board are David Bryant, Laura Elletson, Marc Gauthier, Chris Kujawa, Joe Lucio, and Kristin Lee, who served as President of the Board this past year. Thank you!

All 6

Hot Shots, Cool Receptions

Assistant Professor of Work and Organizations Beth Campbell is featured in an article from the Carlson School of Management’s website.

Elizabeth Campbell Discovery Hot Shot

Organizations invest countless time and money to attract high performers to their work environments, yet too often these individuals flounder or end up leaving early

Drawing upon an extensive field study of Taiwanese salons followed by a controlled experiment, Assistant Professor Elizabeth Campbell discovered an odd paradox might explain what many high performers were experiencing, particularly in workplaces that emphasized teamwork.

Campbell discovered high achievers were being undermined by their peers for standing out while at the same time earning higher levels of support from these same peers. (more)

Former Professor George William (Bill) England Passes Away

Former professor of Industrial Relations George William (Bill) England passed away on February 17. He was 89 years old. England earned his PhD in Industrial Psychology from the University of Minnesota and joined the Carlson School in the Industrial Relations Center (now the Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies) in 1956. He taught staffing, labor markets, and quantitative methods until 1980, when he moved to the University of Oklahoma, from where he retired. His major research projects were multi-national studies of the meaning of work to all people’s lives. He was also a fellow of the American Psychological Association. He is preceded in death by his first wife, Bea, and two brothers; and is survived by his second wife, Fran; children Paula, Julie, Mark and Brad; and several grandchildren. A memorial service has been held.

A New Year, a New Mentoring Relationship

On January 30, almost 50 alumni and current students met in person and virtually to kick off the 2017 HRIR Alumni Mentoring program.


Mentoring Committee member Nick Christenson, ’06, served as the in-person moderator, while Committee Chair Marc Gauthier, ’12,  joined virtually.

Back by popular demand, the program matches HRIR alumni with current full-time and part-time students for a year-long, facilitated mentoring relationship. The program provides students the chance to accelerate their personal and professional development, and alumni the opportunity to strengthen connections with their alma mater and develop their coaching skills.

Participants at the kick-off learned what mentoring is (a relationship focused on knowledge transfer, expertise development, socialization, and career development), and what it is not (a buddy relationship, a supervisory relationships, an obligation, or a way to find a job).

Best practice sharing about successful previous mentoring relationships underscored the importance of open communications, consistency, flexibility, and both parties’ willingness to commit to the relationship.

This year more than half of the alumni mentors are not located in the Twin Cities, but the use of technologies like Skype, FaceTime, WebeEx, and Dropbox, as well as more traditional communications tools like email and phone, mean that mentors and mentees can easily stay connected no matter the distance.

Spotlight On…

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

Cropped Susan OttoAlumna Susan Otto, ’00

Where are you working currently?
I’ve been working at ModCloth for the past 3 ½ years as chief people officer.  ModCloth is an online women’s apparel company whose purpose is to inspire individual style, and help all women to be the best version of themselves. We are unique in our approach – our brand values are empowerment, inclusivity, and body positivity (we were the first company to sign an anti-photoshop petition).  We enable our community of customers to express their individual style through our style gallery, and offer fashionable options for women size 0 – 4X.   We have been a pure online business for the past 14 years, and in November we’ll open our first brick and mortar store in Austin, TX.  We have about 400 employees across 3 locations.

What’s your favorite part about working in the HR field?
I enjoy being a trusted thought partner to the CEO and other executives. As an HR leader I have a holistic view of the company and have influence over all aspects of the business; I’m passionate about melding that strategic thinking with tactical execution, and creating a work environment where employees feel valued, engaged, and have fun! Second to all of that, I’ve been able to work across a variety of industries and companies various stages of business maturity – I’ve worked in  hospitality, life sciences, digital entertainment and gaming and now fashion – how many disciplines are this fungible! These roles have allowed me to work and/or live in some pretty amazing places including Hawaii, California, Singapore, Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Spain, Switzerland, India……

What was your favorite part of the MA-HRIR program? Did you think the program prepared you well for the ‘real world’?
I participated in the evening MA-HRIR program and my classmates came from a variety of industries, levels of experience, and functions within and outside of HR.  The project-based work provided a great platform to learn about issues across various industries and enabled us to focus on real world problems.

What’s a hobby or something fun you like to do when you’re not working?
Since moving to San Francisco in 2012 I’ve really gotten into cycling. I’m currently training for my third AIDS LifeCycle, which is a 545 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money and awareness in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Do you have any advice for current students? Be curious!  Learn every aspect of your company’s business, learn the financials, learn the key metrics, learn the cross functional dependencies, and be part of the conversation when defining strategy and key objectives. This knowledge will increase your ability to deliver valuable talent solutions and will give you greater credibility with your business partners.  The second piece of advice is to seek out the experiences you want – whether it’s working in a specific division, industry, function, or geography. I’ve had tremendous experiences because I sought them out and didn’t get too comfortable in any one industry or role.



Part-Time Student Tom Kaiser

Why did you choose to attend the Carlson School’s MA-HRIR program?
When looking at graduate programs in HR, none could compare to Carlson’s reputation for its curriculum and experienced professors. I wanted a program that I felt would give me the best educaCropped Tom Kaisertion possible, and that’s exactly what I got.

Where did you earn your undergraduate degree?
I attended Towson University in Baltimore Maryland, and earned a B.S. in Psychology, and a Business Administration Minor.

Do you have any work experience? 
Currently I’m an HR generalist with Ecolab. Prior to Ecolab I was an HR coordinator with Andersen Windows.

What’s been your favorite part of the program so far?
I’ve really enjoyed networking and building friendships with fellow students. I’ve gotten both my current and previous jobs through my connections with other MA-HRIR students at Carlson.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy being an active member of GSHRL, (the student organization) spending time at breweries with friends, and traveling.


Associate Professor Pri Shah

Pri Shah-NEGOSpring2011_4 (1)What are you teaching this semester?
Last semester I taught MGMT 1001, which is an introductory management course for Carlson undergraduates & an Executive MBA Negotiation course. MGMT 1001 is great because I have an opportunity to teach freshman who are really excited about entering Carlson. The Executive MBA Negotiation course is one of my favorites because the students really keep you on your toes – they see immediate application for concepts covered in class to their jobs, they have great examples from work that add value to class and they ask great questions which really helps me stay current.

Do you have any advice for current students?
Learning is a remarkable journey, enjoy it when you have the opportunity to be a student and continue it even after you graduate.

What are you currently reading?
I recently finished the Moral Molecule by Paul Zak – it is a book about the biological basis of trust.

Is there any little-known fact about you that people might be surprised about?
I was born on a military base on the border of India & Pakistan.