Wildfire Program Motivates, Empowers Participant David Elliott
January 24, 2017

Thanks to CUPA-HR’s Wildfire program, six early-career higher ed HR professionals have been immersed for the past seven months in all that is CUPA-HR and the profession. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be profiling this year’s Wildfire participants and hearing their stories firsthand. We've already heard from Kristina Gravellese. Here, we’ll meet David Elliott.

My name is David Elliott, and I’m the senior HR specialist at Arcadia University, in Glenside, Pennsylvania. I’m often asked what I specialize in, and I never quite know what to say because in our organization, the designation is more of a rank. I’m fortunate because my days are rarely the same. My consistent role is serving as a backup to the payroll manager and assisting on payroll objectives. Outside of that, my work is largely project-based; I’ve done things such as implementing our applicant tracking system and a time and attendance platform and spearheading our response to the latest FLSA event. Presently, I’m working on building a staff professional development program from the ground up, after having run a pilot program for supervisors over the summer.

My path to HR has been a long and winding one. In my undergraduate years, I was the first intern in the university’s HR office and worked under the training coordinator. After I graduated, I took several odd jobs during the recession, and even tried to start a business. I ended up connected to ModernThink, the consulting company who runs The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Great Colleges to Work For, and had the opportunity to return to the sphere of human resources in higher education. I learned a great deal, and a mentor from the organization introduced me to Arcadia. During this entire time, I was also serving in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.

The essence of why I’m excited about CUPA-HR’s Wildfire program is simple: motivation and empowerment. My cohort alone is filled with highly motivated individuals who never cease to impress me. I count myself lucky to be among them, and this drives me to look beyond the day-to-day and ask myself what I can accomplish in a year. If I ever waver in my drive, I know I can just take a look at what they are working on, or send an e-mail or make a call and get a little help putting things in perspective.

The Wildfire program also has connected me with several later-career professionals who have gone the extra distance to either be a member of the CUPA-HR leadership in addition to their day jobs or a thought leader in human resources. The face-to-face learning events and conference calls with HR thought leaders really help to connect me to real people in the positions I could one day be in. This is quite empowering because as I learn from these connections, I’m learning how to ask better questions to get what I need to reach my goals.

A concrete example of the program’s influence would be my latest project, creating a staff professional development program at my university. This endeavor is a direct result of my participation in the Wildfire program, as it has connected me with great resources and amazing trailblazers. The things I have learned from my interactions with my Wildfire cohort and CUPA-HR leadership allowed me to believe it was possible, and helped me make a compelling proposal to Arcadia leadership.

I feel like I’ve still only scratched the surface of what a participant could gain from the Wildfire program. 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.