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2021-22 Wildfire Class

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

Mallory Antovel, HR Manager
(formerly of Great Falls College MSU)
When you work in higher ed you realize that there are many parallels and similarities among various institutions. We all deal with the same types of issues that other sectors of HR don’t have experience with. I have done HR for other types of organizations, but working in higher education is my preference because there is always something new, exciting and different going on. I love waking up every day with the knowledge that I am helping our employees so they can help our students.

Jacob Bononcini, Sr Consultant, Leave & Disability Resources Consultant
Drexel University

I’ve had a very unconventional education and career. After high school I moved to Pittsburgh to pursue a professional ballet career and trained on a full scholarship with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School. After three years, I decided to make the transition out of classical dance and back into college and the workforce. I was offered a position as an HR Assistant for Target, and this was my first introduction into the world of HR, which would eventually lead me into Higher Education. I’ve had to fight hard and sacrifice to get where I am in my career, and I don’t take a single day or lesson learned for granted. I embrace the humanity in HR and value building interpersonal relationships. Leading with compassion and empathy has been key in my success by allowing me to develop meaningful relationships with the University community. This allows me to create a more valued employee experience, rather than just a transactional one.

Monica Bradshaw, Employee Relations Specialist
University of Kansas
I have found a love and passion for working in higher ed, and I am passionate about helping people realize their potential through the power of employment. I strive to understand and provide respect to all employees and customers by considering their diverse backgrounds and upbringings. Being a minority in a professional environment myself has allowed me to offer and share a perspective that some may overlook. From an early age I have been an advocate for those who do not have a voice or have not been empowered to use it yet. Helping my mother translate job applications and assisting her with employment forms has been one of my biggest draws to creating a fair and inclusive work environment as an HR professional.

Alataisha Dickson, Human Resources Coordinator
Coker University
I am passionate about human resources and look forward to making a positive impact in the field. The CUPA-HR Wildfire program will help me become more knowledgeable and contribute to the success of our college community. I love learning and putting newly acquired knowledge into practice, and I enjoy working with others to develop positive relationships. I am all about growth, learning and spreading the knowledge that I receive to help others. Being new to this profession, I still have a lot to learn — and what better way than to start than with this program that is all about developing higher ed HR professionals.

Samuel Dunham, Assistant Director of Employee Development
Valencia College

Regardless of what my specific role may be, my goal in any place is to create better experiences for the people I have the ability to influence and help grow. I consider the values of relationship, learning and transparency to be some of the key values that shape who I am and how I live my life. I hope to learn new concepts, but to also be inspired by leaders in the HR field. By being exposed to thought leaders, I look forward to gaining awareness of my own thoughts and practices while implementing proven practices that I learn from other leaders I respect and admire.

Travis Hicks, HR Business Partner
University of North Texas System

Higher ed HR is different than HR in the other industries in which I have worked. There are so many complex, interesting and meaningful factors at play in higher ed HR. As I look back at my past and current HR jobs, every step along the journey has taught me something and has proven valuable for what is next. Now that I’ve gained experience and developed strengths in several areas, I can more clearly see the value in developing other competencies within HR. While I am proud of my current skillset, I don’t ever want to stop challenging myself or stop seeking opportunities.

Steven Inc, HR Consultant
Community Colleges of Spokane
My last name looks like a company brand: I‐N‐C. It is my personal brand. “I” stands for integrity in the way I conduct myself and serve my clients. “N” stands for nuance in the way I navigate the gray, turbulent context of the new abnormal. “C” stands for curiosity and a tireless thirst for understanding that translates into learning agility in my professional and personal life. My experiences in 2020 have fueled my passion for HR work, and I am excited about expanding my ability to further hone my strengths.

Simren Lehal, Compensation Analyst
Cuyahoga Community College

When I entered my first human resources role, I knew this was the right career for me. I embrace development opportunities, enjoy being challenged and look for solutions to problems. I value the knowledge and experiences of others and am not afraid to seek guidance when I am stuck on an issue. I want to have a positive impact on employees' lives and continually learn about all aspects of HR.

Valyncia Raphael-Woodward, JD, Ph.D, Director of Employee Relations and Title IX Coordinator
Western University of Health Sciences
I’ve made myself a visible and vocal advocate of equity issues. I am unafraid to challenge the status quo when it comes to furthering equity and dismantling systemic oppression. I do this by leveraging my skills to spark and initiate disruptive and transformational change related to policy and procedure as well as people-centered and trauma-informed employee relations matters. The Wildfire program will challenge me to stretch myself and gain more breadth and depth in my higher ed HR knowledge. This program will empower me to tap into the potential I know I have.

Brigitte Strother, Senior Employee Relations and Training Specialist
(formerly of Villanova University)
I have found my niche in higher ed! I have always been motivated by growth and development, both personally and professionally, and I strive to be a better version myself each day. I am a continuous learner who is always eager to improve. My personal mission for self‐improvement is what brought me to higher education because what better place to grow and improve than in an environment built on the idea of learning and bettering oneself? I am grateful for each and every one of my corporate HR experiences, but I genuinely feel at home in higher ed HR and I am committed to dedicating a lifelong HR career in this arena.

Simone Waldon, HR Representative
Missouri University of Science and Technology

I plan on devoting the rest of my career to higher ed HR. There is nothing more exciting and challenging than working through the unique situations higher ed HR provides. Whether it be through students, faculty or staff, there is an energy I get from being in an HR office on a university campus that cannot be matched. My passion for the world of higher education HR is ready to be ignited into a wildfire through this program.

Michaela Bargher, Human Resource Associate
State University of New York at Oneonta

I am passionate about the higher ed community, and I am thankful to have found a supportive environment to spend the rest of my career. I am continuously researching new and more effective ways to engage staff as I refine the practices in place to make things more efficient and practical. My least favorite phrase is “that’s the way it has always been done.” While that may be the case, best practices are evolving and to remain stagnant would be a disservice to ourselves and those around us.

Annika Yappert, Talent Acquisition Partner
Colorado School of Mines
I love HR, and I love learning! My true passion lies in talent acquisition, demystifying the hiring process and making it more inclusive. Searching for a job is one of life's more stressful undertakings, but it doesn't need to be. I have found joy in helping others identify their strengths, finding new opportunities that align with their interests and skills, and showing them how to craft compelling stories that highlight their value in the workplace. As an HR professional, I have the privilege of walking job seekers and employees through some of their best and worst moments at work, and I don't take that responsibility lightly.