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Learning | Connecting | Mentoring

A Unique Opportunity

CUPA-HR’s Wildfire program is sponsored in part by:

2020 Notification: By April 17, 2020

The application period for 2020-21 has closed. Applications for the 2021-22 program year will be accepted in February 2021.

This 12-month immersive experience connects a small, select group of early-career higher ed HR professionals with CUPA-HR, key association leaders and multiple learning opportunities.

The opportunities for program participants within the profession and association spread like wildfire!

"Overall, I feel as though being part of this group has unlocked something in me that motivates me to achieve something great to help the people I serve every day, empowers me to believe that it is possible, and connects me with those who can offer helpful advice and wisdom so that I can make it reality." — David Elliott, 2016-17 Wildfire Program Participant

Components of the Program

Association Leadership Program – Each Year in July

This annual gathering of nearly 200 CUPA-HR chapter, regional and national leaders offers Wildfire participants an orientation to the program and the association, as well as the opportunity to connect with other higher ed HR professionals from across the country.

CUPA-HR Annual Conference and Expo – Each Year in Late Summer/Early Fall

At the conference, Wildfire participants will have the opportunity to connect with one another and with many of the leaders they met at the Association Leadership Program, while also attending outstanding professional development sessions. Attendance at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference is made possible by HigherEdJobs.

Experiential Learning Opportunities – Flexible Timing

As part of the application process, applicants will identify key areas for development over the course of the year. With those areas in mind, the program will offer participants tailored learning experiences that could include shadowing a higher ed HR leader on his or her campus, participating in monthly phone or video conferences with CUPA-HR leaders and other higher ed HR subject matter experts, or taking applicable CUPA-HR e-learning courses.

Wildfire Project – Ongoing

Each participant is required to develop a learning deliverable that reflects his or her growth in one of the areas identified for development. This deliverable will be created in a form that makes sense for the topic, such as an article, CUPA-HR conference presentation, webinar or e-learning content, etc. and can be done with the assistance of a mentor, a CUPA-HR leader or staff member, in collaboration with a colleague or individually.

Download this document to review the program outline and requirements.

Costs of the Program

The program covers participant costs including registration, travel, meals and accommodations for attendance at the Association Leadership Program and CUPA-HR Annual Conference. The program also covers participant costs including travel, meals and accommodation for a campus visit to shadow a higher ed HR leader, if applicable.

Who Should Apply?

To be eligible for the Wildfire program, you must be:

  • Employed by a CUPA-HR member institution;
  • An entry-level or mid-level professional with no more than 15 years of experience looking for opportunities to enhance your higher ed HR competencies and grow personally and professionally;
  • Willing and able to commit the required time, as outlined above;
  • Fully supported by your direct supervisor to participate in all components of the program;
  • Committed to using your leadership skills and knowledge for the long-term benefit of the higher ed HR community;
  • Committed to working in higher education;
  • Interested in actively engaging with mentors and connecting with other higher ed HR professionals; and
  • Willing to remain engaged with CUPA-HR at the conclusion of the program in a volunteer capacity.

In addition, you are eligible to apply unless you:

  • Serve on the CUPA-HR national board of directors; or
  • Have served as a national CUPA-HR board or committee member, or regional or chapter board member.

Participants will be selected based on application responses explaining:

  • How the program would be of benefit personally and professionally;
  • Why the participant should be selected to participate; and
  • Strengths and areas for development using CUPA-HR's Learning Framework.

We encourage all applicants to give some thought to the criteria above before applying. Final candidates will be evaluated based on the answers given in the application.

If you have questions about the Wildfire program, contact CUPA-HR at

Wildfire Program Alumni


Heather Butterfield (2017-18)
Drexel King (2017-18)
Thuy Nguyen (2017-18)
Tapiwanashe Nhundu (2017-18)
Chris Roediger (2017-18)
Shamika Patterson (2017-18)


Andrea Alfano (2016-17)
David Elliott (2016-17)
Kristina Gravellese (2016-17)
Veronica Lenegan (2016-17)
Katryn Stewart (2016-17)
Clarity White (2016-17)


Alisha Arnold (2015-16)
Bel Campos (2015-16)
Jaylyn Corna (2015-16)
Sarah Deitz (2015-16)
Stephanie Kelly (2015-16)
Adrienne Preddie (2015-16)


Mickelle Anderson (2014-15)
Magda Bakali (2014-15)
Joey Bracco (2014-15)
Lydell Fortune (2014-15)
Alexis Knapp (2014-15)
Elecia Smith (2014-15)


The CUPA-HR national office will be closed November 26-27 in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.