The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Wildfire Projects Tackle Recruitment, Faculty Education, Employee Relations and Hiring Veterans

Last July we shared with you how six early-career HR professionals started a journey to develop their skills and careers in higher ed. We recently had the pleasure of watching that class of CUPA-HR’s Wildfire program — Shamika Patterson, Tapiwanashe Nhundu, Chris Roediger, Thuy Nguyen, Heather Butterfield and Drexel King — as they ended their program year at CUPA-HR’s Association Leadership Program (ALP).

The capstone to their experiences involved giving back to the higher ed HR community in two ways —sharing successful practices and mentoring their peers.

Sharing Successful Practices

Each Wildfire program participant spends the year developing and carrying out a project, the goal of which is not only to develop their competencies as higher ed HR professionals and leaders, but also to contribute a body of knowledge to the higher ed HR community.

Here’s what the group worked on:

Recruitment and Selection

Nhundu’s goal was to bridge the gap between marginalized populations within her institution’s surrounding community in need of employment and eager hiring managers ready to enhance their campus departments. To achieve this, she partnered with organizations such as Berkshire Community College, McCann Technical School and Berkshire Immigrant Center, and identified opportunities to use the partnerships with these organizations to fill skills- and experience-gaps within the college’s workforce.

Butterfield paired her Wildfire project with research she’s conducting to attain her master’s degree in business administration from Viterbo University. She’s exploring how HR professionals in higher ed can screen for civility in the recruitment and hiring process. She expects to complete her research late this summer and will be sharing the outcome with us.

Faculty Education

Patterson set out to create a level of consistency among recruiting practices for faculty departments in her school. She used her Wildfire program shadow visit experience to learn what other institutions are doing and is developing a faculty recruitment handbook to help improve the process at her institution.

Nguyen took on the challenge of educating faculty in her school on HR processes and procedures to help streamline and improve collaboration with HR. She developed and conducted educational sessions with faculty departments in her school that were well received. She’s shared some of her materials with us in the Retirement Planning Toolkit in the Knowledge Center.

Employee Relations

Roediger made a move during her program year from Ohio to Arizona, where she’s now the director of HR for Northland Pioneer College — a school that serves a majority Native American population in a rural area of the state. For her project, she is developing an employee relations committee to boost morale in a workplace culture that has experienced significant and seemingly constant change over the last decade.

Hiring and Retaining Military Veterans

King is a former Marine who recently transitioned from the military to a learning and development role in higher ed HR. From that experience, he wanted to ease the transition for other veterans and help higher ed recruiters, hiring managers and supervisors attract and retain veterans. To do so, King conducted research to uncover best practices in this area. He’ll be sharing the guidance he uncovered in a CUPA-HR Essentials video to be released in the coming months.

Mentoring Peers

As these six professionals finished their program year with capstone projects on recruitment and selection; faculty education; employee relations; and hiring and retaining military veterans, a new group of Wildfire participants is just getting started. This year’s participants are:

                 2018-19 Wildfire Program Cohort

  • Abby King, HR Office Manager, University of Kansas Main Campus
  • Ashley Dugger, Senior HR Generalist & Title IX Coordinator, Sweet Briar College
  • Chi Herrington, Human Resources Associate, Harvey Mudd College
  • Christopher Dominiak, Manager, Benefits Systems & Administration, The University of Arizona
  • Deborah Lee, Senior HRIS Analyst, The Catholic University of America
  • William Budding, Human Resources Coordinator, Harvard University School of Dental Medicine
  • Latasha Gause, Employment Coordinator, Office of HR and Equal Opportunity, Coastal Carolina University
  • Maria Wingenbach, Assistant Director of HR – Total Rewards, Concordia College
  • Mollie Blanchard, Talent Management Specialist, Cochise College
  • Rachel Williams, Director of Talent Development, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana – System Office
  • Tammi Stuebe, Assistant Director of Human Resources, Mercer County Community College
  • Tyler Mayo, Employee Relations Coordinator, Palm Beach Atlantic University

To enhance the experience by providing guidance and support for the new cohort, Patterson, Nhundu, Roediger, Nguyen, Butterfield and King are serving as peer mentors to the new group of Wildfire participants. They’ll provide thoughtful insight based on their own experiences with the program, needed support for the work the new participants are doing on their campuses, and valued advice on navigating work on campus and within the program.

The experience of being a mentor will help the program alumni build close relations with their peers in higher ed HR, develop leadership skills, and continue to nurture relationships they started during their time with the program. (For guidance on mentoring, check out the CUPA-HR Essentials videos on Making the Most of Your Mentorship and Making the Most of Being a Mentor.)

Learn more about the Wildfire program, and stay tuned to see the 2017-18 cohort’s project results as they’re finalized. If you’re interested in applying for the Wildfire program, mark March 2019 on your calendar — that’s when we’ll be accepting applications for next year.