Wildfire Program Experience Has Helped Early-Career HR Pro Navigate “Complex World of Higher Ed HR”
April 4, 2018

Six early-career higher education human resources professionals have been immersed for the past several months in all that is CUPA-HR and the profession. From attending CUPA-HR conferences, meetings and other learning events to cultivating relationships with senior higher ed HR leaders and CUPA-HR volunteer leaders to experiencing a “day in the work life” of their mentors and more, the six individuals in CUPA-HR’s 2017-18 Wildfire program have had plenty of opportunities to learn, grow and connect. (If you’re not familiar with the Wildfire program, read all about it!).

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been profiling this year’s Wildfire participants and hearing their stories firsthand. We’ve already met Drexel King of Baylor University, Christine Roediger of Northland Pioneer College, Heather Butterfield from Viterbo University and Thuy Nguyen of  University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus and Tapiwanashe Nhundu of Williams College.  

Here, we’ll hear from Shamika Patterson, senior human resources specialist at University of Iowa. 

I began working in higher education human resources in 2014. Prior to this, I spent five years in HR in secondary education. My journey in higher ed HR has been varied and a great learning experience. My first higher ed HR position was at Georgia State University, where I supported the library HR manager (this is also when I was introduced to CUPA-HR). This position allowed me the opportunity to learn about faculty human resources. Then, I transitioned to Georgia Tech to work in the office of faculty affairs within the provost’s office. There, I learned about the full faculty career life cycle. Currently, I am at the University of Iowa working within healthcare HR and the College of Medicine coordinating faculty human resources. Yet again, I am broadening my horizons by learning new skills and developing in new areas.

CUPA-HR’s Wildfire program has benefited me both personally and professionally by helping me expand my higher ed HR expertise. The experience of connecting with various CUPA-HR leaders at institutions around the country on a monthly basis to discuss hot topics related to higher education and healthcare human resources has been invaluable. This program has made a significant positive impact on my ability to be a strategic HR partner and has strengthened my ability to offer additional expertise and resources to my organization.

I believe that collaboration is a key component to being successful in HR, and that is one of the foundational components I’ve noticed throughout my Wildfire experience — CUPA-HR is all about collaboration! CUPA-HR national office staff, Wildfire program leadership, the association’s volunteer leaders, my leader mentor and my peer mentor (Wildfire program alumna Andrea Alfano) have provided me with plenty of opportunities for collaboration and always made themselves available and accessible.

As my Wildfire experience wraps up over the next three months, I’m looking forward to my shadow visit with an HR leader at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and finishing my Wildfire capstone project.

Being involved with CUPA-HR and the Wildfire program has provided me with access to tools, resources and knowledge that have helped me better understand and adapt to higher ed-specific challenges and to confidently navigate the complex world of higher ed HR. I know that throughout my career I will continue to apply what I’ve learned as a Wildfire program participant. I will also continue to tap into the knowledge community that is CUPA-HR for as long as I’m in this field of work!