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Learning | Connecting | Mentoring

2020-21 Wildfire Class

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

Alejandro Briceno, Senior Compensation Analyst
Houston Community College
Coming from a military background, I learned at a young age, to dig your foxhole, but to always continue to improve it. I want to be an HR practitioner who has the knowledge and ability to help HR continue to improve and steer away from doing things because it is the way it was always done. I am not afraid to learn, in fact, I welcome it. I have worked hard to educate myself, so I know the “why,” when working in HR. I recently finished my master’s degree in Human Resource Management and earned my PHR. I have always believed knowledge is power, but only if it is shared.

Courtney Cifaloglio, Human Resources Manager
Rowan University
Even though I have earned a new managerial role in my HR office, I am self-aware enough to know that I need to possess more than an excellent work ethic, focus, and dedication in my current position to achieve my professional goals. I must also be willing to enhance and diversify the breadth and depth of my HR procedural knowledge and experience in a manner that better equips me to effectively perform my current duties and prepares me to successfully adapt to the types of ongoing technological, statutory, and procedural changes that will impact my position specifically and the higher education HR field generally.

Marisa Clabby, HR Business Manager
University of North Texas System
As an early-career professional in higher ed human resources, I've had just a taste of all that HR can bring to a college campus. I've been lucky enough to be surrounded by HR professionals at my university, and I've learned so much from them. Instead of being sated by this knowledge, I want more. HR is the best department to work in if you want to serve. We have a complex but rewarding field. Yes, HR is often the butt of the jokes in the workplace (poor Toby), but I've never met a group of people more collaborative and enthusiastic than HR people. I'm so proud to call every one of them my colleagues.

Matt Everhart, Human Resources Generalist – HRIS
Minneapolis College of Art and Design
In the past three years, I have worked at many different types of institutions: a large corporate bank, a smaller healthcare company, a three-person start-up, and an international development non-profit. However, it is at my current job, with an arts and design college in Minneapolis, that I truly feel I have found my "home" within HR. The exciting and unique opportunities that a higher ed HR career offers are tantamount to nothing I have experienced before at any of the other organizations I've worked at.

Julie Garcia, Recruiter/Sourcer
University of Pennsylvania
Gratitude plays a major role in my life and as a result, I appreciate and embrace great opportunities as they come along as well as the small wins in life. I greatly attribute my developing this mindset to my parents. They left Oaxaca, Mexico and came to America where they were able to successfully navigate American culture and make a good life for our family. On both a professional and personal level, I do my best to emulate their hard-working and resilient characters. Because of my Mexican-American upbringing, I appreciate knowing first-hand the positive contributions diversity offers and consequently, look forward to learning more from diversity.

Andrea Kiser, HR Consultant
James Madison University
This may sound cliché, but I have a passion for human resources. As a child, I always knew that I wanted to care for others and assumed that this meant I needed to pursue a career in healthcare. When this career path didn’t come to fruition, I wasn’t sure where to turn or what direction my professional path would take. After obtaining a position within HR and seeing the opportunities available, I knew that I had found my purpose and place to belong. Within HR, I found a way to care for others.

Fred Kitchell, HR Assistant
University of Kansas School of Medicine – Wichita
My thirst for knowledge, gaining new skills, and creating connections is fully derived from my will to serve everyone that I meet. Now that I have begun this new path in higher education, my enthusiasm has grown exponentially as I feel that helping my employees with a great experience means that they can focus on doing the same for the students they serve. It is a true snowball effect!

Elizabeth Ross, Director of Talent Management
Pellissippi State Community College
I am a self-motivated individual with over 10 years progressive experience in training, managerial and project management skills, and what one would consider a “lifetime learner.” I take on new challenges and opportunities voluntarily, knowing that the more I learn and grow, the better position I place myself in to be able to give knowledge, support, coaching, and mentorship to others. Becoming the director of talent management here at Pellissippi State Community College has been a dream come true in the sense of career goals, and now that I am here, I want to take advantage of all of the opportunities presented to be an ambassador not only of Pellissippi, but also as an HR professional, and specifically as a training and development expert.

Kristen Sides, Human Resources Specialist
Jefferson College
I am a first-generation student. Higher education is very important to me in so many ways. I love the purpose of higher education – career preparation, enhancement of quality of life, economic development, attainment of new knowledge, and so on. I also love the work atmosphere of higher education and the community we serve. Human resources is my passion and the fact that I get to have a career in human resources in higher education is truly a dream come true.

Chricinda Stephens, Business Analyst, IRIS-HR Team
University of Tennessee System Office
It is in my nature to be in constant pursuit of knowledge and personal growth. Persistence, determination, a desire to be the best in my field, and to be a strong role model for my three daughters are at the root of my approach to every challenge I face and each goal I set. While I am confident in the foundations of my HR knowledge, I have a drive to constantly improve in my role as a higher ed HR professional and to attain the competencies necessary to perform to the best of my ability.

Helena Warren, Senior Human Resources Consultant
Pima County Community College District
My undergraduate degree is in communications and anthropology. People often wonder how I ended up in human resources with a background like that and I simply tell them, healthy and effective communication is the foundation of any relationship, professional and personal, and anthropology taught me how to ask questions that help me seek to understand.

Cassidy Zekas, Recruitment Support Coordinator
Salt Lake Community College
My devotion to personal development and lifelong learning quickly led to the discovery of my passion for working in education. From coordinating several after-school programs to teaching English to refugee students, I love nothing more than watching individuals learn, develop, and succeed. As I look to advance in my higher ed HR career, I hope to grow my leadership capabilities to eventually pay it forward by mentoring and educating the future generations of higher ed HR leaders. Throughout my life, I have had several mentors that have shaped and influenced who I am today. My mission is to be able to have that same positive impact on others both personally and professionally.