CHRLS Alumni Association

The CHRLS Alumni Association (CHRLSAA)

In addition to strengthening the relationship between alumni and the Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies, the Alumni Association promotes leadership in human resources and industrial relations by providing academic and professional learning experiences, facilitating access to the center's resources, and sharing professional opportunities.

The CHRLS Alumni Association works to build a community of alumni ambassadors by:

  • Connecting alumni in an effort to increase networks and deepen relationships
  • Promoting professional competence and leadership through ongoing learning opportunities
  • Facilitating alumni awareness and access to available CHRLS opportunities and resources
  • Communicating the benefits of involvement with other alumni and students

Current CHRLSAA Board Members (2014-2015)

Current CHRLSAA Board Members (2014-2015)

Scott AlbersScott Albers, '93

Scott Albers, ’93, chose to attend the MA-IR program at the University of Minnesota because he “wanted to be able to use his undergraduate degree in Psychology in a business context, and the MAIR program appeared to be the best way to do that.” Albers said “the MA-HRIR program gave me an outstanding business foundation.” He joined the CHRLS Alumni Board to strengthen his connection with the school and to give back. Albers’ advice to students is to have perseverance. “The value you bring to an organization is realized during the difficult times. The determinant of long-term success is perseverance through the good and the bad.”

Laura BlombergLaura Blomberg, ’06

Laura Blomberg, ’06, is an Organizational Effectiveness Manager at Target. She chose to attend the HRIR program because she wanted a career where she could focus on, and impact, talent as a business asset. She liked that the program offered a wide range of HR-specific and general business classes, so she graduated with a broad base of knowledge. Blomberg said decided to join the CHRLS Alumni Association Board because “I benefited so much from my time at Carlson, and I want to give back to the program that gave me so much.” Her advice to current students is to take full advantage of the many resources available to you beyond the classroom. “Attend the networking events, participate in mock interviews, and engage your alumni mentor,” she said.

David BryantDavid Bryant, '04

David Bryant, '04, is the Organizational Development Manager at Kohler Company. He has also worked had Accenture, Fabcon, Sofitel Hotels and Premium Waters Inc. He graduated from the full-time MA-HRIR program in 2004, and chose the program because he wanted to stay in the Midwest and be part of a University that had a long standing tradition for high quality education. “Although the MA-HRIR program at the University of Minnesota was one of three schools I had to choose from, it was easily the front-runner,” he said. The combination of MBA electives and HR courses helped him think on a wider scale, and prepared him for his HR career. He chose to join the CHRLS Alumni Association Board of Directors because he wanted to help current students and alumni apply the knowledge gained in the program in their career, while also helping his current organization tap into the resources at the University. His advice to students is that competition for jobs is tough, but experience is important. “If you are not able to secure your dream job immediately following the program, make the best of any experience you can get your hands on. Your advanced degree is a long-term investment,” he said.

Laura Elletson, '91

Laura Elletson, ’91, is the Human Resources Director at Barr Engineering Co. She has also worked at Wells Fargo, TCF Bank and IXI Ltd. She graduated from the part-time MA-IR program in 1991. Elletson chose to attend the program because of its reputation, a desire to broaden her professional knowledge, and increase in her credentials and job opprortunities. The program prepared her for her career in Human Resources because it broadened her business knowledge as well as increased her understanding of HR skills needed in compensation, benefits, training and selection. Elletson chose to join the CHRLS Alumni Association Board of Directors because she wanted to stay connected and support the program. “I was intellectually stimulated by this year’s HR Tomorrow conference, impressed by the caliber and diversity of the attendees,” she said. Her advice to students is to take advantage of the opportunities to stretch yourself, and follow your passion.

Mary Jo FlanMary Jo Flan, '96, President

Mary Jo Flan, ’96, graduated from the part-time evening program and is currently working at Korn/Ferry International –Leadership and Talent Development as an Account Executive. She has also worked at MCI/WorldCom, Qwest, and Lifetouch. She chose to attend the MA-IR program because it was a top ranked program. “I had debated pursuing I/O Psychology, but decided I didn’t want to be research-oriented and the Ma-IR program fit what I wanted at the time,” Flan said. According to Flan, the MA-IR program helped her be a better business person no matter what position she held, especially in management positions. She joined the CHRLS Alumni Association Board to help ensure beneficial connections continued to be made with current students, alumni, the CHRLS and the business community. Her advice to students? “Learn from your education and your experiences,” Flan said. “It’s the combination that will create your value to organizations in the future."

Marc Gauthier Mark Gauthier, '12

Jason GroszJason Grosz, '06, Vice President

Jason Grosz,’06, is Director, Talent Acquisition—Global Functions at Ecolab Inc. He chose to attend the HR/IR program at the University of Minnesota because he wanted to attend a program that offered the opportunity to work on real world projects with area companies. He said “by applying the skills and knowledge learned in the program, I was able to prove my value as a true business partner.” Grosz decided to join the CHRLS Alumni Association Board because “this is my chance to offer back what so many alumni have before me.” His advice to students is to “enjoy your time in the program and on campus. It goes fast.” Also, “appreciate the friendships and relationships you build. You never know when you may cross paths again or how you may be able to support each other in the future.”

Ruth Harris Ruth Harris, '96

Carrie JohnsonCarrie Johnson, '97

Carrie Johnson, ’97, graduated from the part-time program, and now works at True North Groups Institute as an Executive Director. She has also held positions at American Express, and Ameriprise. Johnson chose to attend the University of Minnesota MA-HRIR program because it gave her the flexibility to take classes part time and ease out of her sales career. “The MA-HRIR program gave me a tremendous foundation in all of the basics of human resources,” Johnson said. “Being in the program gave me credibility with employers as I gained HR experience through internships and part-time roles.” She chose to join the CHRLS Alumni Association Board because she believed the program had been meaningful in her professional life, and joining the board was a way to make a great program even better. “As alumni, we all have a vested interest in keeping the program strong,” she said.

Kirk Keeney Kirk Keeney, '11

Maysam KhorasaniMaysam Khorasani, '10

Maysam Khorasani, ’10, currently works at 3M. He chose to attend the HR/IR program at the University of Minnesota because it provided a well rounded education by offering a solid foundation of the core HR principles along with a good balance of business/MBA electives. The HRIR program at Carlson helped Khorasani in his Human Resources career because of the program’s strong research focus. “The instructors brought very relevant, real-life experience and research case studies into the classroom,” he said. “This allowed me to approach my work and career from different perspectives.” Giving back to the HR/IR program was a large driving factor for Khorasani to join the Alumni Board, along with staying connected to fellow alumni, staff and students. His advice to students? “Build a strong educational foundation for yourself, because what comes after graduation will just keep building off of this foundation.

Chris Kujawa Christopher Kujawa, '94

Christopher J Kujawa is the Vice President, Human Capital Capabilities, at American Express. He has previously worked at Anderson Consulting, Deluxe Corporation, Target Corporation, and Ally Financial. He graduated in 1994 from the full-time MA-IR program. He chose to attend the MA-IR program at the University of Minnesota because, “Simply the University of Minnesota is one of the best.” The program prepared him for his career in Human Resources because he received a foundational understanding in all aspects of Human Resources. “I learned how to think strategically around human capital, how to work in diverse teams, and created a strong HR network,” Kujawa said. He decided to join the CHRLS Alumni Association Board of Directors because he wanted to contribute to the success of the CHRLS, and he enjoys spending time with the CHRLS alumni. His advice for students? “Enjoy every minute of being in one of the best HR programs in the world. Grow yourself academically, through work experience and develop a strong network.”

Kristin Lee Lewandowski Kristin Lee Lewandowski, '06

Kristin Lee Lewandowski graduated from the part-time program in 2006. She currently works at Cargill as a Client HR Manager and previously worked at Anheuser-Busch and Park Dental. She chose to attend the MA-HRIR program at the University of Minnesota when she realized that she would benefit from additional education focused on the more technical areas of Human Resources. “The part-time program was a perfect fit to help me achieve this goal while continuing to work,” Lewandowski said. The program prepared her for her career in Human Resources because it allowed her to learn about areas that she didn’t have exposure to. It also taught her the importance of working as a team to achieve a common goal. She chose to join the CHRLS Alumni Association Board of Directors because of the opportunity to use her experiences in a different way and to continue to learn and share best practices with HR leaders from other organizations. Her advice to students: study abroad. In addition, “Stay connected with your peers. They will become a valuable part of your network and you will rely on them for a variety of things through the years.”

Faith Leicht Faith Leicht, '04

Faith Leicht, full-time ’04, is an Organizational and Talent Development Leader at General Electric—Capital Americas. Leicht chose to attend the HR/IR program at the University of Minnesota because she wanted to make sure she was “part of a program that not only helped build an academic skill set, but also prepared and supported its students for internship and full time job placements.” She said the MA-HRIR program pepared her for her career in Human Resources by approaching concepts in a contemporary way while also having access to professional development events and networking. Leicht decided to join the CHRLS Alumni Association Board because she believes that “membership on the Alumni board is an opportunity to continue to give back to the program, as well as a way to continue to learn and share best practices while networking with HR leaders from various organizations.” Her advice to current students? “Take advantage of the resources offered through the program.”

joe lucio Joe Lucio, '11

Joe Lucio, ’11 graduate from the full-time MA-HRIR program, currently works at Chevron. Lucio decided to have a career in HR because he was interested in understanding the psychology of workforces in large organizations. He said that the most rewarding thing about a career in HR is the diverse issues that you continually are dealing with. “Whether it is dealing with employee nationalization efforts in Nigeria, or Union negotiations in our refineries, there is always something that makes coming to work interesting.” The MA-HRIR degree helped provide a strong business acumen as well as foundational HR competencies that were driven from the diverse curriculum of the program “The degree truly did prepare me to work in a large, complex globalized organization."

Eric Eric Miller, '12

Eric Miller, part-time ’12, is a senior Human Resources Manager at Jostens. He has also heald positions at Toro, University of Minnesota and the Mounds View School District. Miller chose to attend the HR/IR program at the University of Minnesota because he was at a point in his career where he valued the idea of re-engaging a more academic review of the profession, and “the program at the U of MN was a perfect was to do so.” He valued that the content presented in his courses was a mix of contemporary practices and theories in the HR field while also staying grounded in some classical views. Miller decided to join the CHRLS Alumni Association Board because it “provides a chance to positively influence the future direction of a strong and vibrant academic program.” He added, “I can’t wait to begin working with the other great HR professionals on the CHRLS Board.” His advice to future students is that “relationships matter,” and to “become a student of the business unites or roles you serve.”

TarynTaryn Shawstad, '88

Samantha South Samantha South, '10

Samantha South graduated from the full-time MA-HRIR program in 2010 and is currently working at IBM in Workforce Analytics. She chose to attend the MA-HRIR program because she found that the program offered a balanced curriculum as well as a strong focus on internship and career placement. “The MA-HRIR program prepared me with a  strong knowledge base of HR theories and practices as well as business principles which enables me to look at my work more holistically and from different perspectives,” she said. South chose to join the CHRLS Alumni Association Board because she wanted to do her part and actively give back. Her advice to students is to “surround yourself with people who challenge your thinking and deliver above and beyond the basic requirements of your projects.”

Shanequa Williams Shanequa Williams, '08

Pat Wyffels Patricia Wyffels, '92

Patricia Wyffels is employed as an HR Consultant and has worked with diverse industries to include technology, biopharmaceutical, agricultural products and non-profit organizations. Wyffels previously served as Global Manager, Human Resources for Chevron Oronite Company LLC where she was responsible for leading the global HR team commissioned to support the integration and growth of a complex multi-national business. She has also held various HR leadership positions at Chevron Corporation and Quantum Corporation. Wyffels received an M.A. in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management and a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Minnesota.

HR Tomorrow Conference

HR Tomorrow Conference

Friday, April 17, 2015

As an Alumni Board, we also coordinate this annual conference to provide a venue for the exchange of ideas, a professional and academic learning experience and an on-going connection to the CHRLS. This is a premier event that attracts over 300 attendees each year, and offers professional development as well as the opportunity to network with alumni, faculty and peers in the HR and business community.

2012-2013 Professional Development Workshop Series

2012-2013 Professional Development Workshop Series

The CHRLS Alumni Association Board of Directors is committed to the ongoing professional growth of alumni, current students and other HR practitioners through professional development events. In 2012-2013, we offered a free workshop series on a variety of topics.

Workshop Three - "The Expatriate Experience"

Tuesday, May 7, 2013
5:30 to 7:00 p.m.

Guest speaker Pamala Pappas Stanoch, President and Founder of The Athena Group International, presented a look at the four different cycles of the Expatriate: the Selection Process; Signs of Success; Training and Development of the Employee in their Role; and Re-Patriation. Pappas Stanoch founded The Athena Group International, a consortium of global talent designed to meet the needs of clients expanding their global operations, in 2003. The Athena Group provides coaching, strategy, global network design, and other resources to its international clients. She also founded Window on the World, Inc., to serve as a cross-cultural communications organization.The speaker completed a B.A. in French and in Foreign Language Education, a B.S. in International Relations, and a master's degree in Cross-Cultural Communications from the University of Minnesota and the Universite' Catholique de L'Ouest, Angers, France. 

Workshop Two - "From Minneapolis to Mumbai: Key HR Learnings"

Tuesday, February 5, 2013
5:30 to 7:00 p.m.

Guest speaker Rebekah Ferguson, Human Resources Director at General Mills, spoke about her two-year global assignment with General Mills in Mumbai, India. She provided an overview of GBS (Global Business Solutions) India, and highlighted various HR focus areas including recruiting, retention, learning and development, compensation and benefits, and culture. She also shared some of her expatriate experiences. Ferguson has been with General Mills for 15 years, in a variety of HR leadership roles, across multiple U.S. manufacturing locations, World Headquarters, and a global assignment in Mumbai, India. She is currently HR Director for the Finance organization. Ferguson attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, earning a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree from the School of Labor and Employment Relations.

Workshop One - "International HR: A Global Perspective"

Tuesday, October 23, 2012
5:30 to 7:00 p.m.

Guest speaker Paula Cooney, Director of HR Strategic Programs for the H.B. Fuller Company, provided insight into her HR experiences from an international perspective, and discussed selection, job elimination, working across countries with vastly different employment laws, and her experience as an ex-patriate in the U.S. Cooney is Director of HR Strategic Programs for H.B. Fuller Company and is responsible for world-wide people growth including talent management, leadership development and employee engagement. Prior to joining H.B. Fuller Company she spent 13 years with Intel Corporation in a variety of human resource positions, including Director of the Intel Learning & Development, a global organization charged with enhancing Intel performance. She joined Intel Ireland in 1997 and completed two expatriate assignments in the US before moving permanently in 2004. Prior to joining Intel in 1997, Paula was an Employee Relations Executive with the Irish Business & Employers Confederation, an associate lecturer in the National College of Industrial Relations in Dublin, and started her career in the Houses of Parliament in Ireland. Paula holds a Diploma in Personnel Management from the National College of Industrial Relations in Dublin, Ireland, and a Masters in Human Resource Management & Industrial Relations from the Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business, University College Dublin.

2011-2012 Professional Development Workshop Series

2011-2012 Professional Development Workshop Series

The CHRLS Alumni Association Board is committed to the ongoing professional growth of alumni, current students and other HR practitioners through professional development events. In 2011-2012, we offered a free workshop series on a variety of topics.

Workshop Two - Total Employee Engagement: How Do We Get That?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012
5:00 to 6:30 p.m.

We know our employees are not fully engaged, but may not have an action plan to turn this around. Organizations are becoming more adept at measuring employee engagement, but acting on the data and achieving an ongoing highly engaged workforce is still a challenge for many HR professionals.Through qualitative research and a live case study at a Fortune 500 company, our speaker developed a continuum which defines the stages of employee engagement. She shared this continuum along with the critical foundational elements that must be present at an organization to drive high engagement. She also discussed the levers found to have the greatest impact on achieving and maintaining the optimal level. Guest Speaker Kathy Carlson is the Director of Learning and Development at General Mills, Inc. (GMI). She has been in the learning and development area for nearly ten years and prior to that held roles within the quality organization of GMI for 13 years. Kathy earned her Ph.D. in Human Resource Development from the University of Minnesota. She also holds an M.S. in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Minnesota, and a B.S. in Chemistry and Business from the University of Wiscsonsin - LaCrosse.Her current affiliations include ASTD, ASTD Director's Forum, Conference Board on Employee Engagement, and Fredrickson Round Table. Her certifications include Hogan Assessment, e-learning, Instruction Design, Generations in the Work Force.

Workshop One - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Social Media (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Thursday, October 27, 2011
8:00 to 10:00 AM

Our three guest speakers provided insight on the influence of social media on core HR functions, from recruiting to workplace conduct to how team members from companies are representing themselves in the virtual space (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.) of social media. We welcomed three experts in the field who shared their perspectives into what is currently happening, and what to anticipate with respect to social media. They are:

  • Sukie Crawford - Senior Process Business Partner, Target
  • Julie Melander Holmes - Senior HR & Employment Law Consultant, Trusight
  • Gene Sheih - Senior Counsel, Wells Fargo & Company

Alumni Mentorship Program

Alumni Mentorship Program

Alumni Mentorship Program

We are excited to introduce a new way to mentor current MA-HRIR students!  Rather than pairing up individuals 1:1 the traditional way, we will be offering three separate "Speed Mentoring" events throughout the year. During this one-time commitment, alumni will meet with several groups of students throughout the course of an evening. We will provide topics that will generate discussion about alums' backgrounds, employers, career paths, views on HR topics, and advice to students. Students will be encouraged to surface questions on their own, too. At the end of the night, it's up to the alums and students to determine whether or not they continue a relationship beyond the event, but there is no expectation to do so. 

We’ll kick off this new initiative on Monday, October 13, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Carlson School. The second session will include our non-local alumni, and will be conducted virtually on Monday, February 2; the time is still to be determined.  And, we'll wrap up the series with another in-person event on Monday, April 6 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. 

If you are interested in participating in one or more of these events, please complete this survey. We will follow up with more details once the dates get closer.

Centerpoint Newsletter

Centerpoint Newsletter

Centerpoint is a publication for alumni, friends, faculty, and staff of the Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies, and is published electronically several times per year. To make sure you receive the newsletter, please send your updated email address to

"Where in the World" Wednesdays

Jillian Nelson graduated from the MA-HRIR program in 2001 and currently works at Goldman Sachs. She is based in Bangalore, India and she has lived and worked there since 2005. She advices everyone to travel to India if they ever get the chance. “It’s a great place to live and work with lots of options for travel and cultural immersion,” Nelson said.

Want to let your fellow alumni know what you have been up to? Contact Kali Dingman at


Membership in the CHRLS Alumni Association is open to all HRIR graduates and undergraduate alumni; there is no application process or membership fee, and graduation is not required. To serve on the Board of Directors of the CHRLS Alumni Association, members must have completed all requirements of the MA-IR or MA-HRIR program and been granted their degree. Please for more information.

Centerpoint Newsletter

A newsletter for alumni and friends of the Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies.

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