Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies History

In 1995, the Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies (CHRLS), then called the Industrial Relations Center, celebrated its 50th anniversary, a milestone in a tradition of excellence in research, teaching, and service. The anniversary was an opportunity to reflect on the CHRLS's growth and accomplishments and to set the course for the direction of continued contributions in a rapidly evolving field of study and practice.

The Industrial Relations Center emerged in an era of tumultuous political and economic change that began with the Great Depression and ended with the Allied victory in World War II. The post-war economy, with increased inflation and employment shifts, focused attention on labor-management conflict and employment issues. It was against this backdrop that the IRC was founded in 1945 to study influences on employment behavior, and to educate labor and management on collective bargaining agreements. Its mission continues today to serve the HR/IR profession and the ever-changing workplace by focusing on the relationship between employers and employees.

  • The Industrial Relations Center (IRC) is established in February 1945 to train personnel for management and labor leadership and conduct research in industrial relations. Dr. Dale Yoder is appointed director.
  • The IRC Reference Room is also established in 1945 to achieve improved industrial relations in the community by making up-to-date knowledge about industrial relations topics available to all concerned parties.
  • The IRC Council, comprised of individuals from the ranks of labor, management, and the public, the first of its kind at the University, is appointed by President Coffey (1945).
  • The first annual IRC Conference (October 1945) focuses attention on growing nationwide interest and demand for both training and research in the field of manpower management and labor relations. This was the first of a continuing series of conferences designed to bring management and labor information to practitioners throughout Minnesota. Similar conferences remain a significant offering of the CHRLS today.
  • In 1947 the Rockefeller Foundation awards the IRC a three-year grant to establish a core faculty and staff.
  • The Minnesota Triple Audit project is initiated in 1948 to conduct in-depth surveys of employer-employee relationships within firms in order to evaluate and connect three variables: human resource policies, economic characteristics of the firm, and employee satisfaction. (This was the precursor to current studies on the impact of human resources on firm performance.)
  • In 1951 the Workers' Education Program is established under the direction of Walter Uphoff. With the assistance of Marvin Dunnette and others, studies are conducted to gain insight into union member attitudes and opinions. A major effort is begun to provide union leadership training. This program is hailed by union leaders as a "landmark in Minnesota labor history."
  • In response to the increasing professionalization of the field, the Master of Arts in Industrial Relations (MAIR) degree is authorized by the Graduate School in 1953.
  • Dr. Yoder begins pioneer benchmarking studies of personnel ratios, salaries, and budgets. The IRC was famous for these studies from 1949 until discontinued in 1963. These studies have been subsequently conducted by ASPA/SHRM/BNA and currently contribute to a major HR benchmarking effort.
  • The Management Development Laboratory, under the direction of Thomas A. Mahoney, begins work on the identification and prediction of managerial effectiveness.
  • In 1956 Iota Rho Chi (IPX), the professional fraternity in industrial relations, is founded.
  • The Minnesota legislature establishes the Industrial Relations Education Fund to insure continuity and excellence in continuing education in industrial relations (1959).
  • Minnesota Studies in Vocational Rehabilitation begin in 1958 and continue over a 15-year span, under the direction of George (Bill) England, Lloyd Lofquist, Rene Dawis, and David Weiss. Initial studies evaluate the problems of vocationally-handicapped persons.
  • These studies lead to the creation of a theory of work adjustment and the development of a number of measurement instruments including the "Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire," Minnesota Importance Questionnaire," Minnesota Satisfactoriness Scales," "Occupational Reinforcer Patterns," and "Minnesota Job Description Questionnaire." These instruments continue to be used internationally today.
  • In 1959 the IRC begins an internship program for MAIR students, providing opportunities to work with business firms, labor unions, or government agencies throughout the nation. The management of this program is later transferred to Iota Rho Chi (1963).
  • The first of a series of publications on the use of weighted application blanks is produced by George (Bill) England (1961).
  • The IRC moves from the East Bank campus to the Business Administration Building on the West Bank (1963).
  • International scholars discuss employment trends at the Nolte Conference Center (1963).
  • The Graduate School authorizes a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Industrial Relations (1964). Since that time 74 degrees have been granted.
  • The Labor Education Service introduces the Union Leadership Academy (ULA), a two-year program of non-credit liberal studies for trade unionists (1964).
  • In 1965 the Office of Manpower Automation and Training (OMAT) awards a $55,000, three-year contract to the IRC for the study of the attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, and expectations of youth about the world of work. Herb Heneman and Rene Dawis direct the project, with the assistance of Bob Carlson, George Graen, Paul Zingale, Tom Carroll, and Dave Thies.
  • Herb Heneman and George Seltzer direct a study of manpower planning and forecasting practices in Minnesota firms (funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Labor).
  • The Center for the Study of Organizational Performance and Human Effectiveness is established through funds provided by the Office of Naval Research (ONR). Studies are conducted under the direction of Marvin Dunnette, John Campbell, Bill England, Rene Dawis, Tom Mahoney, Bill Weitzel, and George Milkovich.
  • The IRC celebrates its 25th anniversary with a conference at the Leamington Hotel in Minneapolis (1970). Speakers include James D. Hodgson, U.S. Secretary of Labor; Herbert Morton, editor-in-chief, Monthly Labor Review; Earl (Bud) Cheit, provost, University of California, Berkeley; and Paul Jennings, president, International Union of Electrical Workers.
  • Bill England begins major studies on personal value systems of corporate and union managers and military officers. Comparative studies include work with Japan, Korea, India, and Australia.
  • University of Minnesota graduate James D. Hodgson, U.S. Secretary of Labor, is the first IR professional to receive the University's Outstanding Achievement Award (1970). The award , considered the University's most prestigious, is presented by Malcolm Moos.
  • The individual Satisfaction and Organization Effectiveness (ISOE) Lab is formed. This new service and research project continues earlier work done through the Triple Audit studies. Firms nationwide contract with ISOE Lab to conduct employee job satisfaction surveys. Project work is under the direction of Bill Weitzel, Rene Dawis, and Pat Pinto.
  • In 1974 the Employer Education Service is established. Funding is provided by the Minnesota State Legislature as part of the Industrial Relations Educational Fund. This complements Labor Education Service outreach programs and provides similar training for employers.
  • For the first time the Labor Education Service and Employer Education Service offer a joint labor-management training program (1974). Its objective is to further mutual understanding and reduce the frequency and severity of grievances under the first State of Minnesota collective bargaining agreement. Sessions are held throughout the state and are attended by 1,400 managers and 600 union representatives of AFSCME Council #6.
  • At the time of Herb Heneman's retirement as director, funds are contributed by friends, colleagues, alumni, companies, and unions to establish the H.G. Heneman, Jr. Industrial Relations Scholarship Fund. The scholarship honors Herb as "educator, scholar, advisor, arbitrator, mediator, committee member, director, consultant, public speaker, and friend" (1974).
  • In response to the increasing complexities of the field and the accompanying educational training required, a major revision of the MAIR curriculum and degree requirements is introduced. These revisions reflect the increasing globalization of the field, as well as the recognition that IR/HR professionals are moving into line management. The program is expanded to two years to accommodate the changes. 
  • Norb Berg MAIR '57 senior vice president, administration and personnel, and assistant to the chief executive officer, Control Data Corporation, is the second IR professional to receive the University of Minnesota's Outstanding Achievement Award (1977).
  • Mike Bognanno conducts studies of collective bargaining and labor supply in the healthcare industry. 
  • Labor Education Service receives a Federal "New Directions" OSHA grant to provide safety and health training to union members in the State of Minnesota (1977). 
  • Dennis Ahlburg begins investigating major demographic trends and their relation to employment and the labor force. These studies gain international recognition. 
  • Hoyt Wheeler studies the performance of supervisors and union stewards in the public sector. 
  • In 1978 the Employer Education Service begins offering specially-tailored programs designed to meet the needs of individual organizations. Over 600 programs have been offered since that time.
  • The first official activity of the newly-created IR Alumni Society is an IR Institute, jointly sponsored with the IRC (1979). 
  • Labor Education Service hosts its first Midwest School for Women Workers in cooperation with the AFL-CIO Department of Education and the University & College Labor Education Association (1981). 
  • The Athens Film Festival Award is received for the documentary, "Labor's Turning Point," produced by the Labor Education Service and directed by Martin Duffy (1982). This documentary depicts the 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters truckers' strike. 
  • In 1984 a two-year, $750,00 project is undertaken to provide Northwestern Bell and the Communications Workers of America with job and wage information from a five-state area to assist in bargaining and administering the first "Baby Bell" contract. Principal investigators are Mike Bognanno, Dennis Ahlberg, Rich Arvey, John Fossum, Howard Miller, Jeylan Mortimer, and Paul Schumann; David Estenson PhD '78 is project manager, assisted by Ann Eilbracht, MAIR student. 
  • IRC students and faculty conduct on-site job surveys throughout the Midwest for the Northwestern Bell Research Project (1984). 
  • The campaign to fund the Land Grant Chair in Industrial Relations is launched with a $150,00 gift from Honeywell in 1985. Other significant corporate contributors include General Mills, Inc., Control Data Corp., Tennant Co., Signal/UOP, Hormel, ADC Telecommunications, Inc., Minnegasco, Inc., and Cargill Inc. More than 60 alumni also participate. Donations are matched by the permanent University Fund.
  • An evening offering of the Master of Arts in Industrial Relations (EMAIR) is implemented in 1985 to open the door to full-time working students. Since that time over 360 students have been trained through the EMAIR.
  • A professional development certificate program is first offered by the Employer Education Service in 1985. It provides employees with an integrated body of relevant, ready-to-apply skills. More than 700 candidates are currently enrolled in EES certificate programs.
  • The Twin Cities Area Labor Management Council moves its offices to the IRC to facilitate joint programs with LRS and EES (1986).
  • Through a grant form the University of Minnesota, the Labor Education Service Telecommunications Program is formalized, under the direction of Martin Duffy, which allows for the expansion of audio-visual services to unions.
  • IBM donates 32 computers to the IRC for the creation of a microcomputer classroom teaching facility (1987).
  • Hewlett-Packard contributes two computers to the IRC Reference Room for development of library cataloging and retrieval applications (1989).
  • The annual George Seltzer Distinguished Lecture series is established on the occasion of George Seltzer's retirement (1988).
  • The C. Arthur Williams, Jr. Chair in Insurance is acquired by the IRC to augment the employee benefits area. Richard Butler is named to this chair following Art Williams' retirement. The Minnesota Center for Insurance Research is begun.
  • Combined day and evening MAIR enrollment tops 200 (1991).
  • IBM upgrades the IRC microcomputer classroom teaching facility with laptop "thinkpads," and a multi-media station for faculty instructional use (1992).
  • The IRC's research and academic programs are ranked number two in the nation by an Ohio State University study (1991) , and later in the Gourman Report (1993).
  • MAIR student Cora Ann Clark wins the University of Minnesota's President's Student Leadership Service Award for teaming up with Jim Scoville to recruit minority graduate students in industrial relations (1992). The following year the award is given to Dave Dahlgren, evening MAIR student (1993).
  • IRC faculty members receive prestigious national awards: Rich Arvey, 1993 Human Resource Division of the Academy of Management Award for Scholarly Achievement; Ray Noe, 1993 Society of Industrial /Organizational Psychology Award for Distinguished Early Career Contribution; Cheri Ostroff, 1994 Ernest J. McCormick Award for Early Career Contribution and the 1995 American Psychological Association Distinguished Service Award for Early Career Contribution.
  • The IRC continues to be recognized internationally for its leading-edge research, and faculty gain increasing international experience to address the issue of globalization.
  • Current IRC faculty serve as editors or consulting editors for prestigious academic journals: John Remington, Journal of Labor Studies; Paul Sackett, Personal Psychology; Mike Keane, Journal of Business and Economic Statistics; Dennis Ahlburg, International Journal of Forecasting; Cheri Ostroff, International Journal of Selection and Assessment.
  • During the past 60 years, the Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies (formerly known as the Industrial Relations Center) has emerged as one of the premier academic programs in the nation, with the largest graduate enrollment of any industrial relations institution. Its reputation for faculty, research, and continuing involvement with alumni, management, and labor is unmatched among other colleges and universities. Its focus is threefold—research, teaching and outreach.
  • The CHRLS continues to broadly define industrial relations as the study and practice of the employment relationship. Five current areas of study include: labor relations and collective bargaining; labor market analysis; compensation and benefits; organizational behavior and theory; and staffing, training and development.
  • Research has kept pace with the evolution of the HR/IR profession with comprehensive studies on emerging employer practices and global trends. For example, alternative work design patterns, including teamwork and employee involvement programs are being simulated through team projects in the classroom. A majority of CHRLS faculty have participated in significant international research and teaching assignments to provide broad, global perspectives.
  • Master of Arts students today may elect a regular schedule of day classes, or an evening program that provides flexibility for employment. The PhD program continues to attract individuals nationally and internationally who intend to pursue research and teaching careers.
  • One of the most promising aspects of the CHRLS today is its emphasis on employment opportunities for students and graduates. Alumni and corporate sponsors routinely recruit candidates for summer internships and career opportunities. Through its Labor Education Service area, the CHRLS serves a broad public sector with training and educational opportunities. Many are custom programs that address emerging issues in HR/IR management and the union movement. The CHRLS Herman Library serves a vital purpose in providing the most comprehensive collection of data and information available to students, alumni and the profession. Efforts are now underway to upgrade its accessibility through data networks.
  • Most important, alumni and leaders in labor and management serve an integral role in providing support and guidance to faculty and students to confirm curriculum and focus on emerging issues and trends.


This material was adapted from a commemorative publication developed by the 50th Anniversary Promotions Committee, with the assistance of Georgianna Herman and the financial support of Union Carbide Corporation.

50th Anniversary Committee Members

Donna D'Andrea 
Jaclyn Davis, '94 MA-IR 
Tony DeAngelis, '74 MA-IR 
Thomas J. Donaldson
Sherry Goetze, '85 MA-IR
Victoria Meyers, '93 MA-IR
Mark H. Skidmore, '86 MA-IR
Pamela J. Sveinson, '80 MA-IR

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