For the 17th year, IU Southeast is hosting a series of monthly breakfast events run by the resident student chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest member organization devoted to this ever-expanding profession. It’s a well-earned distinction for the university — IU Southeast boasts the only AACSB-accredited undergraduate human resources (HR) program in the region — and an opportunity for the students to engage local professionals in real-life situations.
But first, it’s a lot of work.
Brigette Bailey, current president of the student SHRM chapter, and the eight other officers suggest meeting topics, compile mailing lists, prepare and send invitations and work with the IU Southeast Conference and Catering unit to organize the food and beverages. They prepare name tags and lanyards, register the attendees at the desk, and act as cashiers and facilitators.
Bailey is master of ceremonies, honing her public speaking skills in introducing the day’s expert speaker and in closing the event. A transfer student from Jefferson Community and Technical College, she chose IU Southeast because of its undergraduate HR concentration, and worked with School of Business academic adviser Courtney Tipton to design a program that would combine her career goals in this field. As president of the SHRM student chapter, she is already learning a critical leadership lesson.
“I have to delegate,” she said.
The breakfasts bring 20-40 HR professionals from Southern Indiana and Louisville to campus for a light early-bird buffet and a lot of information provided by industry speakers, followed by group discussions and exercises.
Alysa Lambert, associate professor of human resource management in the School of Business, advises the student SHRM group. She also chooses the speakers, from student topic suggestions. Lambert said SHRM professionals are required to earn a certain number of recertification credits — akin to continuing education — in order to maintain their standing or advance in their field. By virtue of aligning the IU Southeast HR program curriculum with SHRM’s curriculum standards, and by agreeing to policy guidelines that set a high bar for programming, administrative support, evaluation and other responsibilities, the IU Southeast School of Business has earned the status of “preferred provider” of these credits. No other student chapter in the region hosts professional SHRM workshops.
This year’s topics range from motivating a team and employment law to mental health issues in the workplace and keys to reducing employee turnover, all critical aspect of real-life HR work.
Students have ample opportunity not only to meet and chat with the HR professionals informally before the presentations, but also to participate in the breakout groups that discuss real-world workplace issues with those actively involved in dealing with them. Discussions are frank, and can be a real eye-opener for the students. At the same time, their insights are listened to and valued, helping to build confidence alongside competence.
“The breakfasts are just one way to get students involved with professionals,” Lambert said. Indeed, the Southern Indiana SHRM professional chapter provides a student scholarship, a mentoring program and lunch meetings.
Lambert knows that the types of contact and experience provided by the IU Southeast program can be crucial to entering the workforce.
“This field can be hard to break into,” she said. “But our students have a good hire rate: approximately 80% of our 2013 HR graduates were hired within six months, according to a Career Development Center survey, and 100% of our 2015 graduating student chapter officers were hired within three weeks.”
Thomas Keefe is professor of business administration, a longtime supporter of and adviser to the student SHRM group and the driving force behind the HR concentration at IU Southeast. He said, “We tell students that success in finding employment depends on three factors: education, work-related experience and social networking. The breakfast series provides two of these.”
Bryson Mills is a junior business major combining HR, marketing and management, as well as a member of the IU Southeast tennis team. He is currently a full-time intern at New Albany, Ind.-based connector manufacturer, Samtec, where he creates online training modules and coordinates soft-skills training. As director of student relations in the student SHRM chapter, he is in charge of the retention of officers and other members. He said there is a definite benefit from participating in the chapter. “I plan to stay involved, meet new people and strengthen my connections throughout the professional world.”
In summing up the value of the breakfast series for herself, Bailey said, “Textbooks aren’t enough. This is real life. It’s a lot of stress, but with that comes a lot of satisfaction. it’s good for my resume, and it makes me happy to help other students achieve their goals.”
The IU Southeast HR Breakfast Series invites local HR professionals, faculty, staff, and students to hear speakers on HR and business-related topics. The series takes place on the second Friday of every month from September to April, from 7:30 to 9:15 a.m. in the University Center. The event is free to IU Southeast faculty, staff and students.