The year 2014 marks two significant milestones for the Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies: the fiftieth anniversary of the PhD degree in Industrial Relations (as it was known when it began at the University of Minnesota), and the inception of the Work and Organizations concentration in the Business Administration PhD program offered through the Carlson School. 

Prior to the late 1990s, students received a PhD in Industrial Relations. Then the degree became a PhD in Human Resources and Industrial Relations, a name that reflected the many changes in the fields of human resources and industrial relations. And, beginning in 2014, graduating doctoral students will earn a PhD in Business Administration with a concentration in Work and Organizations.

Though the program has changed over the past half-century, it remains one of the top PhD programs focusing on work and organizations in the world.  The program boasts a robust network of accomplished and engaged alumni, and continues its legacy of outstanding and active faculty. 

In the first decade of its existence, the program consisted of about six students. Now it has grown to 15 students and 14 faculty members, and counts more than 120 alumni working around the world, mostly in academic positions.  

When Professor Emeritus Mario Bognanno joined the small group of faculty in the 1970s, the program was just beginning to grow.

“We embarked on cutting-edge research that attracted PhD applicants worldwide, and supervised dissertation research,” Bognanno says. “Our faculty laid claim to five areas of knowledge and research: compensation; organizational behavior; labor relations; staffing/training/development; and labor markets. These curricular innovations of the 1970s and early 1980s allowed faculty to drill deeper into each area of specialization than had been possible previously."

A hallmark of the program was, and continues to be, providing students with a strong academic foundation that they can use throughout their careers. Alumni appreciate the interdisciplinary aspect the program offers. 

“The underlying premise of the Minnesota perspective was that answers to challenges found in the workplace and employment relationships did not fall into neat disciplinary slots,” says George Milkovich, ’70 PhD-IR, and Martin P. Catherwood Professor Emeritus at Cornell University. “Rather, they required knowledge across different fields.”

Jonathan Booth, ’09 PhD-HRIR, especially values the expertise that the faculty brought to their teaching.

“I had access to the best and brightest,” Booth says. “The faculty always gave me the right tools and solid guidance so that I kept going in a forward direction, yet, at the same time, provided me autonomy and freedom to figure things out on my own so that I developed into an independent scholar.”

Now, Booth is an assistant professor of organisational behaviour and human resources management at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He has remained connected with PhD faculty and peers, despite living thousands of miles away. Professors John Budd, Theresa Glomb, and Connie Wanberg have all visited him in London, and he remains in frequent contact with other Minnesota alums. 

While the PhD candidates worked hard, the faculty members tried their best to help the students have a good time. According to Jill Ellingson, ’99 PhD-HRIR, the faculty members liked to celebrate students' accomplishments.

“[Professor] Paul Sackett used to ask each person to pick a week and bring a dessert to seminar so we would have a little sugar to get us through,” says Ellingson, who is an associate professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University. “We were pretty good at celebrating when a student passed a major hurdle in the program." 

Young-Myon Lee, ’92 PhD-IR, taught at the University of Minnesota for two years after earning his doctoral degree, and then moved to Dongguk University in Seoul, Korea.

“The training and experience I gained [in Minnesota] made me a near perfect applicant for a faculty position in Korea,” says Lee, who is now dean of the Dongguk Business School.

Graduates from the first few decades of the program specifically spoke of the impact Professor Herb Heneman had on their future careers. When Milkovich was deciding what degree to earn as an undergraduate, he was directed by HR professionals to Heneman.

“If you never had the opportunity to listen to Herb talk about the IR program in Minnesota, you missed a terrific opportunity,” says Milkovich. “I was hooked.”

Heneman’s advice eventually led Milkovich to earn a Masters of Arts in IR and then continue on to earn a PhD. During his time in the doctoral program, Milkovich enjoyed spending time with many of the faculty members, including Professors Marv Dunnette, Tom Mahoney and Heneman.

“I was fortunate to have taken classes from and work for truly outstanding faculty,” says Milkovich.

Heneman also made a difference in Stephen Carroll’s career. Carroll, ’64 PhD-IR, was specifically steered toward the Master’s program at the University of Minnesota by a mentor because of the opportunity to work with Heneman, who he was told was one of the best known HRM professors in the world. So Carroll turned down an offer from the University of Hawaii and took on the cold Minnesota winters.

“I accepted Minnesota’s offer even though my beach-loving roommates thought it was a crazy idea,” Carroll jokes. “Heneman was a very colorful and dramatic teacher who I tried to emulate in many ways for most of my career,” Carroll added.

Now, after 50 years as a free-standing program, the current faculty, students and staff are looking forward to the future with a new structure to deliver the same successes as the first 50 years.

"The faculty’s goal is to continue our PhD program's leadership in multidisciplinary education in work and organizations throughout the world," says Professor John Budd, director of the Center and Industrial Relations Land Grant Chair.  “I look forward to seeing what all of our past, present and future PhD students will accomplish.”

“The PhD program in HRIR has produced over the 50 years many graduates who have been very successful in having an impact on the profession,” says Professor Emeritus Mahmood Zaidi. “They have not only been visible in the profession, but have also contributed to the visibility of their alma mater. It is important that we celebrate their success and their contributions to the HRIR field, as well as of those faculty and staff who have been associated with them during their graduate studies at the University of Minnesota."