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Learning | Connecting | Mentoring

A Unique Opportunity

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

The application period for 2021-22 has closed. Applications for the 2022-23 program year will be accepted in January 2022.

Selected applicants will be notified by April 9.

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

The Wildfire Program is built upon learning and engagement opportunities with key leaders in the association and higher education human resources. While we would prefer to host as much as we can in person, after the many changes we experienced with the Wildfire program in 2020 due to COVID-19, all program components for 2021-22 will be held virtually. As the situation continues to evolve, CUPA-HR may choose to change specific components of the program to include in-person connections. If this occurs, leaders will work with selected participants to coordinate details.

Connections With CUPA-HR Leaders

Whether it’s gathering on monthly calls with current and Emeritus CUPA-HR leaders, connecting at events specifically for association leaders or getting introductions to higher ed HR colleagues from across the country, program participants will have many opportunities to connect with HR and association leaders throughout the experience.

Kick-Off Events – Beginning in July

Participants will kick off the program year in July with a series of virtual orientation sessions designed to help each member of the cohort understand the program and its requirements while getting to know one another, past program participants and program leaders. Participants will also be given opportunities throughout the year to connect with CUPA-HR leaders from the national, regional and chapter levels.

Monthly Topic of Interest Conversations

The cohort will gather on a video call each month to talk about a specific topic important for higher ed HR professionals. Program leaders will guide the conversation while invited subject matter experts will share their knowledge on the topic and program participants will ask questions or share their perspectives. Topics include change management, establishing credibility, employee engagement and others.

E-Learning Experiences

Beginning in August and ending in December, participants will be prompted to take the CUPA-HR Boot Camp and Understanding Higher Education e-learning courses. Program leaders and CUPA-HR staff will guide the cohort through the course material and prompt discussion through a private group in the CUPA-HR Connect online community.

CUPA-HR Virtual Annual Conference and Expo – October

During the conference, Wildfire participants will have the opportunity to connect with one another while also attending outstanding professional development sessions. We are currently planning for the cohort to participate in the conference virtually due to restrictions related to COVID-19, but we will coordinate with program participants should an in-person event be possible in October.

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, participating in 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 and implement a project that is connected to identified areas for development. Past projects have included creating an HR mobile app, developing supervisor training, implementing inclusion programs and exploring topics such as mental health and wellbeing of HR professionals or becoming an ally for LGBTQ+ employees. At the conclusion of the project, each participant will share a summary of their work and collaborate with CUPA-HR staff to share the project outcome with other CUPA-HR members. This could take many forms, 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 for registration to attend any required virtual or in-person events. The program would also cover costs including travel, meals and accommodation for any in-person learning events,  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)