Early this semester, students in the Class of 2021 Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM) specialization met in Grainger Hall for SHRM Center orientation which included various events and activities spanning over the course of two days. Orientation was hosted by Charlie Trevor, SHRM Center Director, and Linda Barrett, SHRM Center Assistant Director, who welcomed our group of eight students by introducing themselves and their roles within the Wisconsin School of Business. Charlie shared the vision of the specialization; to educate the future leaders of HRM who will have positive impact at the most successful companies in the world. He also expressed that our duty is to share experiences with one another, be outstanding students, carry ourselves with respect and maintain academic integrity.
Members of the Career Team, Betsy Golomski and Kyle Casey, highlighted the recent success of SHRM alumni and the types of roles they’ve filled immediately post-graduation. We learned that for this to happen, we need to pursue academics and career development simultaneously. Our first exercise of the day consisted of practicing elevator pitches with our classmates. It was fascinating to learn about each other’s diverse academic and professional experiences.
Another interesting aspect of our day included lunch when Jirs Meuris, assistant professor of Management and Human Resources, joined Trevor to share their current faculty research. Research and practice in HR is driven by data, so Trevor made the change to require SHRM students to take the People Analytics course due to its importance in today’s job market. While we aren’t PhD students (at the moment), research sets the pace for practical application in the business world and is another avenue for us to explore.
After lunch we were joined by alumni Brad Zemp (SHRM MBA ‘18) and Sarah Condella (SHRM MBA ‘07) who posed HR business situations their respective companies faced. Our task was to ask questions to understand the problems, and present solutions. After the exercise, we learned which route each company took and the current business implications of their decisions. This activity was an exciting preview to not only the business cases we will tackle in our classes, but also the case competitions available for us to participate in.
On Day 2 of SHRM orientation we joined the SHRM Class of 2020 for team building activities. The activities were facilitated by Adventure Learning Programs, whose main objective is to build teams and leaders through experiential education. For one of our activities, our task was to sit in a circle and pass a can around the circle with our feet. This activity was not difficult with our eyes open but became exceedingly more difficult without the option of sight. This exercise was one way in which the group was expected to enhance our communication skills. Since we were different heights, our leg lengths could have been a hindrance; however, we quickly realized that the can need not be passed from one person to another vertically from foot to foot but could be maneuvered depending on each person’s preference. My greatest take away was the appreciation and respect for our differences while working toward a shared goal.
Another group activity involved assembling a pathway for a marble to land in a cup. It was challenging to say the least, and involved many attempts. One of our facilitators mentioned that we are one of the first groups in a long time that hadn’t given up. This made me reflect on how our MBA journey began months prior to this day with GMAT/GRE preparation, campus visits, and applications – not an easy feat! We are not strangers to persistence and by the end of the second day of orientation, we were not strangers to one another. We strengthened our communication skills, improved decision-making skills and increased team spirit.
In approximately 20 months when our MBA journey will conclude, we will look back at where we began, the steps it took to reach graduation and the value we added to our collective SHRM MBA experience, which all started with this orientation.