Centerpoint Newsletter November 2019

Greetings from the CHRLS Alumni Association!

Lisa Zajac Headshot 2019


As Chair of the Alumni Mentoring Committee, it’s my privilege to work with an amazing group of HRIR alums this year: Heather Besikof, Kevin Brennan, Melis Candir, Kelsy Martin and Mandy Zhao. Together we’ve been planning a great year of mentoring opportunities for our current HRIR students.


We kicked off the year with a highly engaging “Speed Mentoring” event in October, featuring six local HR executives who were happy to share their expertise with students, field questions on their respective career paths and offer personal and professional advice.


We are now turning our attention to the HRIR Alumni Mentoring Program, where alumni are matched one-on-one with a current student. It’s no surprise that the Alumni Mentoring Program is one of our most enduring offerings. Past mentors have told us they truly valued the experience and often learned as much from their mentees as the mentees learned from them.


The one-on-one mentoring relationship allows alumni to help students identify their career objectives, build relevant skills, fine-tune their active listening and communication proficiencies, provide guidance on professional development opportunities in the community and much more.  


The program officially kicks off in January 2020, and sign-up is now open for alumni mentors! Visit this link to sign up; you’ll be contacted in mid-January with your mentee match. In the meantime, feel free to contact us at




Lisa Zajac, ‘11 MA-HRIR
Chair, HRIR Alumni Mentoring Committee


Calling All Mentors!  
Are you interested in an opportunity to shape future HR leaders while giving back to the Carlson HRIR program? Then please consider being an alumni mentor! The CHRLS Alumni Association Board is continuing our Alumni Mentoring program and we need you. As an alumni mentor, you will be matched with a current HRIR student who is hungry to learn from your experience. We will ask that you commit to connect with your mentee for at least one hour every month to share your insights on HR and business, discuss current HR trends and topics, or simply work through any potential issues or questions that your mentee might have. Don’t live in the Twin Cities? No problem. You and your mentee are welcome to connect by phone or video conferencing!

To sign up as an alumni mentor, please complete the Alumni Mentor application before December 15. Also, watch for an email from with details on the Mentoring Program Kick-off in late January at the Carlson School. We will cover mentoring tips and best practices, and you can meet your mentee in person or virtually! If you have any questions, please email


Colleen, Scott, Kathleen Peterson


All in the Family: 3 Siblings, 3 Degrees, 3 Rewarding HR Careers
Chief Human Resources Officer at The Schwan Food Company. Executive Compensation Director at H.B. Fuller. Director of Global Compensation at Ecolab. Besides being human resources positions of responsibility in leading national and global organizations, these three posts have something else in common: all three are held by siblings who earned a Master of Arts in Industrial Relations from the Carlson School of Management. Scott Peterson, ’83; Colleen Peterson, ’96, left; and Kathleen Gabel, ’97, are siblings who have not only built highly-successful careers in human resources, but also share the distinction of being alumni of the Carlson School’s highly-regarded HRIR program.


Helping Others, Serving Others: Veterans Reflect on Experience as HRIR Students
In honor of Veterans Day this month, we wanted to take the opportunity to open a dialogue with alumni from our program who are currently in or have previously served in the military. We interviewed alumni Liz Ayotte, ’17; Josh Eslinger, ’18; and Bridget Nunmaker, ’10; as well as second-year MHRIR student Rich Parocha. They share their experiences of transitioning in, and out of, the program and what skills they brought with them.


Where in the World Will Our Degree Take You? A Conversation with Sarah Vania

Sarah Vania

We love to keep in touch with our HRIR alumni to hear about their careers since leaving the program. One such alumna, Sarah Vania, graduated in 2001 and has had a fascinating career since then. We recently had the chance to catch up with her and hear her story.


Share Your Expertise at HR Tomorrow
There is still time to submit a speaking proposal for the 2020 HR Tomorrow Conference on April 17. The conference is an excellent opportunity to share your expertise with a broad audience of approximately 325 HR professionals. The application deadline is December 2. Visit the conference website for more information and the speaker application. Questions? Contact us at

HRT 2020 Banner

The Way We Work Series
Minnesota’s Talent: The Influence and Impact of Changing Demographics – December 6

Minnesota’s economy is vibrant, due in large part to excellent human capital. But staying vibrant could be challenging: we are facing a potential workforce shortage in the coming decades. Join Allison Liuzzi, Research Manager at Wilder Research on December 6 to learn more about our changing demographics and their potential impact on Minnesota’s talent market. Register now.


Business Lives Here
Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) recently premiered Business Lives Here, a 26-minute documentary produced in partnership with the Carlson School in honor of its centennial year. The documentary explores the reasons why the Twin Cities' business community continues to thrive, and how the Carlson School plays a strong part in its success. Visit the TPT website for air dates.

CIHRCom 2019


7th Annual International HR Case Competition
Six different countries were represented by the 28 masters-level students who participated in the 7th Annual International HR Case Competition (CIHRCom) that was held November 14-16 at the Carlson School. Teams competed against each other to solve a pressing business case provided by Lead Sponsor UnitedHealth Group. First place went to the Carlson School; 2nd place to Loyola University; and 3rd place to Rutgers University. Pictured above is the first place team from the Carlson School; from left, Minfei Zhao, Jane Jian, Victoria Hannah and Siraj Mani Acharya, along with UnitedHealth Group Lead Sponsor Judge Peggi Tobias.


Investment in Online Orientation Program Pays Dividends in Greater Student Engagement
Back in June we shared an article about the new student summer online orientation program, where four current students helped MHRIR Program Director Stacy Doepner-Hove develop an innovative way of engaging incoming students and helping them transition to life as a graduate student. Now that we are close to wrapping up the fall semester, we are able to observe the impacts the online program had on our first-year students and the standard in-person orientation.


Speed Mentoring Event Sets the Pace for Alumni-Student Mentoring Opportunities
On October 28 the CHRLS Alumni Mentoring Committee kicked off its program year with an engaging Speed Mentoring event featuring six local HR professionals who shared their expertise with 30 of our current MHRIR students. Students enjoyed networking, learning from the HR executives about the common issues facing local organizations, and identifying core themes and interests that they can pursue in their education and careers.


Beth, Michelle, Pri


Our Award-Winning Faculty
Congratulations to three members of the Work and Organizations Department for their recent awards. Assistant Professor Beth Campbell received the Carlson School's Award for Teaching Excellence; Professor Michelle Duffy received the Carlson School’s Award for Research Excellence; and Associate Professor Pri Shah received the Carlson School's Award for Service Excellence.


Each issue of Centerpoint highlights a member of our alumni community, a current student, and a member of our staff and faculty. Learn more about alumna Linda Breed, first year student Sara Al-Shomaly, and CHRLS staff member Brenda Lucy

Want to get the latest news from the CHRLS? Wondering who the next 1st Tuesday speaker will be? Interested in seeing photos from campus? Stay connected with your alma mater by following our social media sites:​

  • LinkedIn - find our group (Carlson School of Management - HRIR) here 
  • Facebook - find our page here
  • Twitter - find our feed here
  • HRIR Blog - find our blog here and sign up to follow it (in the bottom right-hand corner of the page)
  • Erika Berndt, ‘07, is a senior director of human resources at MicroVision
  • Lance Bryan, ’12, is a staffing manager at Cubic Corporation
  • Manjit Gill, ’02, is a vice president of total rewards at Baker Hughes
  • Freyr Halldorsson, ’08, PhD-HRIR, is an assistant professor at Reykjavik University
  • Josh Marlatt, ’10, is a senior director of total rewards at SoFi
  • Danielle Scotti Mattson, ’11, is a global talent management consultant at Medtronic
  • Alvin Schexnider, ’08, is an operations project manager at the Illinois Department of Human Services
  • Mindy (Empey) Schwabenbauer, ‘10, is an HR program manager, M&A, at Amazon
  • Bridget Szeluga, ’11, is a director of human resources at McDonald’s
  • Weilu (Wendy) Xu, ’11, is an HR analyst at Futurewei Technologies