CUPA-HR Wildfire Program Provides Network of Resources, Knowledge and Connections for Participant Kristina Gravellese 
January 10, 2017

Six early-career higher ed professionals have been immersed for the past six months in all that is CUPA-HR and the profession. From attending CUPA-HR conferences, meetings and other learning events to cultivating relationships with senior higher ed HR leaders and CUPA-HR volunteer leaders to experiencing a “day in the work life” of their mentors and more, the six individuals in CUPA-HR’s 2016-17 Wildfire program have had plenty of opportunities to learn, grow and connect. (If you’re not familiar with the Wildfire program, read all about it!).

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be profiling this year’s Wildfire participants and hearing their stories firsthand. We hope you enjoy getting to know this awesome group, as we have over the past few months!

First up — Kristina Gravellese from Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Here’s Kristina’s story:

I’m Wildfire participant Kristina Gravellese. For the past year and a half I’ve worked as a recruiter at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH). Prior to joining Harvard, I worked as an administrative professional and in healthcare recruiting for a staffing agency. My job at Harvard was my first true introduction to both higher education and human resources.

From the moment I joined the HSPH team, I knew that I had found my home — and that I had a ton of learning to do! From the culture in higher ed, to FLSA guidelines, to unions and more, there were a lot of new elements that I had never worked with before and to which I had to quickly acclimate. I was encouraged by the management team at my school to apply for the CUPA-HR Wildfire program, and I was lucky enough to be accepted! I began my Wildfire journey in the summer of 2016.

The program kicked off with CUPA-HR’s Association Leadership Program (ALP) in Knoxville, Tennessee (home of the national office), in July. Here, I had the opportunity to intimately engage with higher ed HR leaders from across the country. This was the most exciting and impactful Wildfire event to date for me, as it was a true introduction to the incredible network of resources, knowledge and people that I have been afforded access to through this program.

I’ve also enjoyed and been challenged by thoughtful monthly topic calls with higher ed HR leaders and the various Wildfire “assignments” along the way, from brainstorming for and creating my own individual development plan to building a diversity program at my school from the ground up (modeled after CUPA-HR’s amazing Creating Inclusive Communities project). I loved my experience at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., last September, and I’m looking forward to my shadow visit at St. Mary’s College of California this spring.

The Wildfire program is exciting because it challenges me — not only to learn more about HR in higher education, but also about myself and who I want to become as a higher ed HR professional. Additionally, the network of people that I’m able to connect with through this program, and that I’m certain I will remain connected with into the future (including HR thought leaders from across the country and the five amazing individuals in my Wildfire cohort that I now call close friends) is invaluable.

The first six months of my Wildfire journey have been nothing short of amazing, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next six months!