Career Prep

Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management connects study with HR work
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One of the ways Excelsior’s SHRM chapter keeps its members and human resource faculty ahead of the curve is through the weekly newsletter, “HR & Leadership News We Can Use,” which is edited by Chapter Advisor Michele Paludi (pictured). Photo: Mike Hemberger

Lately, Excelsior’s student chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has been attracting lots of attention. In spring 2016, it received an honorable mention award from the National Society for Human Resource Management in the category of Education.

Founded in 1948, the Society for Human Resource Management is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. It is made up of more than 285,000 members in more than 165 countries, with 575 affiliate chapters in the United States. As members of the student chapters, students can receive mentorship and advice from professionals in the business: people who have applied human resource principles and laws on the job.

Excelsior’s student chapter of SHRM offers educational webinars and information in all aspects of human resource management, including recruitment, training, performance management, health and safety, talent management, and employment law. The webinars began last year and drew an immediate response.

“We would have virtual learning sessions for our members and cover subjects from veteran hiring priorities to different HR topics,” explained MBA student Paul Balmforth, the president of the chapter. Balmforth, a retired U.S. Army command sergeant major with 32 years of military service, said that as he rose in the ranks “more and more [fell] into line with human resources.” Now, he is director of the Tobyhanna Army Depot Civilian Personnel Advisory Center (Pennsylvania).

Balmforth, alongside Chapter Vice President Kerry McCormick, who is working toward her MBA with a concentration in Human Resource Management, and Chapter Advisor Michele Paludi, are making great strides in spreading the importance of Excelsior’s chapter of SHRM. Paludi, who is assistant dean of business graduate programs and faculty program director for human resources and leadership, joined the Excelsior SHRM team last year, and frequently co-facilitates the webinars with faculty, students, and members of the School of Business & Technology’s Faculty and Industry Advisory Committees.

At first blush it may appear difficult to be a virtual chapter as opposed to a physical chapter — and in many ways it is — however, that’s what makes it enjoyable, too. “It got me excited about thinking about creative things to do for our chapter,” says Paludi.

In fact, being online is what caused focus to fall on the webinars: the area of expertise for the school chapter. SHRM holds monthly webinars, as well as two, two-hour-long webinars in October and December to bring people together to learn about various topics in the human resource management field. “It gets people to come back every month because it’s always something new,” says Meghan Rosebeck, an academic advisor who completed a Master of Science in Management in March 2016. “And if you’re looking to build your skill and your knowledge and expertise, then you’re going to keep coming back.” Rosebeck hopes to enter the field of human resources, and joined Excelsior’s chapter because of the networking benefits.

“One of the main reasons I joined SHRM was because I was looking for a professional network with human resource professionals,” she says. Working with SHRM has done just that. One way Rosebeck has gotten her name out is by co-presenting the pregnancy discrimination webinar with Paludi and Senior Academic Advisor Becky LaBombard, as well as being featured in the Excelsior SHRM’s newsletter, “Healthy Workplaces,” which is published four times a year.

Human resource professionals play an important role in helping workers adapt in the ever-competitive economy. Organizations like SHRM are important in helping HR students reach their full potential so that they can enter the HR field at the top of their game. “Excelsior’s chapter as well as SHRM provides a venue for sharing of ideas with counterparts in the workforce, learning new things, and on top of it all, to certify your skill set,” says Balmforth. For students interested in taking the certification exams, chapters can even help students study and practice.

Scott Dolan, associate dean of business, agrees with the hands-on approach of SHRM, saying students are “getting to network with HR professionals because we have guest speakers come in from our industry partners and … we have students participating in the presentations themselves.”

Paludi has also aligned Excelsior’s chapter with the local Capital Region Human Resource Association (CRHRA), one of the largest national SHRM chapters with 1,486 members. Chris Wessell, president of CRHRA, explains that members of CRHRA “are able to maintain and further their career development by way of our monthly programs that bring experts in to talk about important and timely topics that relate to HR … . Our programs also offer social outlets for our members so that they can network and build relationships.”

Excelsior’s chapter often interacts with CRHRA. In March 2016, for instance, a group of Excelsior’s several hundred SHRM members attended CRHRA’s annual conference to share information and attended again this year to feature the human resource concentrations in several business programs. Excelsior also sponsored a meeting of CRHRA in June 2016.

“I have had frequent interaction with Michele Paludi to involve students in CRHRA events and expose them to programs and networking opportunities,” says Wessell. “It is my goal also to showcase the unique way that Excelsior operates their chapter (remotely) perhaps as a model for other student chapters who are thinking of leveraging technology to do the same. The fact that we are a smaller city, relatively speaking, and are still able to do big things that catch the attention of SHRM on a national level should inspire everyone (not just chapters but members) to think big!”

“We want [students] to remain current in the field of human resources; we want them to be able to build a community with other students who are interested in human resources and the content within the field; we want them to get an understanding of what kinds of careers are out there, what are the trends in the field, too.” –Scott Dolan, Associate Dean of Business

In addition to interacting with the local CRHRA and hosting webinars, Excelsior has made it a point to ensure its concentration in Human Resource Management available in the Bachelor of Science in Business, Master of Business Administration, and Master of Science in Management programs is aligned with the Society for Human Resource Management’s HR Curriculum Guidebook and Templates. The HR Curriculum Guidebook and Templates were developed to define the minimum content areas that should be studied by HR students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

SHRM’s standards for curriculum, skills, and knowledge are regarded as necessary for individuals to be successful as HR professionals and that is why Excelsior uses SHRM’s guidelines in developing its programs. The goal in the School of Business & Technology, explains Dolan, is to make sure programs are aligned with industry-relevant standards and competencies.

Paludi further emphasizes the importance of the course alignments, saying, “Our students are going to benefit certainly from the courses getting improved and new courses, but also having the alignment in all these other concentrations. They can put that on their resumes and talk about it at a job interview, and that separates the students who have that from campuses where they don’t have this kind of work; it really gets them the job.”

The 2015 Skills Gap Survey conducted by the Association for Talent Development — a nonprofit association dedicated to supporting professionals in developing knowledge and skills in organizations around the world ­— studied the current capabilities of an organization and skills it required to reach its goals. Dolan references this “skills gap,” saying employees can’t find employees with the skills they want, and sometimes they hire people who need extra training. In higher education, it’s easier to develop curriculum once its known what employers are looking for. Excelsior graduates are more prepared to enter the workplace because the College works hard to develop programs, particularly competency-based education, to match what employers are looking for. Chapters like SHRM are great places for students to supplement their course-based education.

Dolan reiterates: “We want [students] to remain current in the field of human resources; we want them to be able to build a community with other students who are interested in human resources and the content within the field; we want them to get an understanding of what kinds of careers are out there, what are the trends in the field, too.”

The Excelsior chapter functions as a one-stop shop for people to gain experience in, and get advice and guidance on, human resources. The chapter is open to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty, in the School of Business & Technology. “Excelsior’s chapter and SHRM have proven to be incredible resources for students in terms of education, networking, and building the professional connections for career advancement,” says Balmforth.