Membership in the Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies Alumni Association (CHRLSAA) is open to graduates of the MA-IR and MA-HRIR programs, and undergraduates who majored or minored in HRIR. Membership is free.

In addition to strengthening the relationship between alumni and the Carlson School, the CHRLS 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


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Current CHRLSAA Board Members (2018-2019)

Kristyn Aasen, '11, graduated from the full-time program and currently works as an HR manager at SuperValu. She has previously worked at Thomson Reuters, GE and Medtronic. Aasen chose the MA-HRIR program at the University of Minnesota because of its "excellent" reputation and because it gave her the opportunity to focus on building her experience in HR which was crucial to launch her career. Aasen also appreciated that while on campus, she had the opportunity to take advantage of leadership opportunities, internships and mentoring relationships. "These experiences helped me apply the classroom learning to the real world while developing the skills needed to be a successful HR partner," she says. Aasen joined the CHRLSAA Board to give back to the community and to grow relationships with other Carlson alums. Aasen's advice to current students is to take advantage of their time in the program as it goes by very fast. "Because there are so many opportunities to interact with companies and HR professionals, you have a chance to either discover or refine your career path and interests," she says.



Kate Andrews, '12, currently works for CenturyLink as lead HR business partner. Prior to this role, she worked at Chevron. She graduated from the full-time program and chose to attend the Carlson School, she says, because “Minnesota's program is unique being embedded in the business school. As a result there are numerous opportunities, both academically and in the business community, to build the foundation required for a successful HR professional.”  Appreciation for the opportunities she gained from the program drove her decision to join the Board. “I'm grateful for all the opportunities the program provided, and I want to give back to help both students and alumni grow and develop,” she says.  “The program gave me the tools to handle complex issues and continue to find ways to add value to an organization.”


Cropped Kevin Brennan

As a graduate of the part-time MA-HRIR program, Kevin Brennan, ’18, says he found the program beneficial in advancing his career. “The knowledge and competencies I gained from the program increased both the breadth of my understanding of the issues facing the HR professional of tomorrow, as well as the depth of core concepts that have always guided the profession,” he says. Currently a senior HR business partner at Ecolab, Brennan says the MA-HRIR program “is the standard of excellence at my organization due to its reputation of providing our future leaders with the tools and knowledge to make the organization successful.”  Prior to joining the Alumni Board, he was given advice and guidance from alumni within his organization. “Not all prospective students have the resources my organization was able to provide me,” he says, “so I joined the Board to assist those who need it.” And what advice would he share with current students? “I would tell current students to engage with the classroom discussion as much as possible, and challenge your professors on ideas and concepts that are discussed; this is where the true learning takes place,” he says.


Melis Candir

Melis Candir, 07, graduated from the full-time MA-HRIR program, and currently works at Medtronic as a global compensation manager; prior to that, she worked at Best Buy and Procter & Gamble. “Even though I worked for a global company before the program, I was based in Turkey and needed an opportunity to catapult my career and expand my horizon,” she says. “I chose the MA-HRIR program at the University of Minnesota because it was not only one of the best graduate programs, but it was also right in the middle of a robust business community in the Twin Cities.”  She says she found the program prepared her well for her future career. “The program helped me build on my HR and business management knowledge. I was able to complete all the missing pieces,” she notes. “Furthermore, as an international student, the program prepared me to be effective anywhere across the globe.”  Joining the Alumni Board gives her a chance to “give back,” she says. “I would like to support current students, alumni and promote the program to other HR professionals.” She has this advice to share with current students: “Push yourself as much outside of your comfort zone as possible. This is a great opportunity, not only to learn the theories, but also establish lifelong relationships. Focus on getting the most out of your valuable years at the Carlson School.”


Cropped Leo Cardoso

Leo Cardoso, 12, is currently an HR manager at Land O’Lakes. He says he chose to attend the full-time MA-HRIR program because of “the opportunity to learn from world-class researchers, interact with bright students and build a network with alumni in some of the best organizations in the U.S. and abroad.” Cardoso says the program prepared him to think critically about challenges and opportunities in the workplace. “There are always technical aspects of a role, which you can learn on the job,” he notes, “but the ability to think, and find solutions…has been extremely important in my career, and it’s something that the program does a great job at.” Cardoso was interested in joining the Alumni Board, he says, because it was “an opportunity for me to give back, and also to become more connected with former alumni and new students. Over the years, getting back on campus has been one of the favorite parts of my job – now I get an extra reason to do that!”  He encourages current students to “remember to breathe, but also take some chances. This is a very unique time in your career and it can definitely feel overwhelming at times,” he says. “Just know you have a great support network.”


Cropped Jon Cermak

Jon Cermak, ’06, is currently talent connection manager at Salo, LLC; prior to that he worked at Sleep Number, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Target Corporation. He says he decided to attend the full time MA-HRIR program because “the MA-HRIR program is clearly one of the most reputable programs in the country. As I considered my career at the time, I felt I could gain invaluable knowledge, connections, and opportunities by completing my degree at the Carlson School.”  And he wasn’t disappointed. “I learned a ton during my time in the program. Information I still use in my work today,” he says. “Some specific knowledge and real life project work in the areas of compensation, OD, and talent assessment have been very helpful in my work.”  Because of the great experience he had at the Carlson School, he decided to join the Alumni Board. “I am at a point in my life when I want to give back and become more involved,” he says. “I want to use some of the knowledge I have gained to connect with alumni and current students to make a difference.” And what would say to current students? “Seize your opportunities. Take advantage of the wealth of resources and events that the Carlson School offers. Be bold and curious. Ask questions, look for newer, better ways to do things,” he says. “Love this experience and network like crazy – build that up, and opportunities will flow your way.”


Cropped Nick Christenson

Nicholas Christenson, '05, graduated from the full-time program and now works as a human resources director for Polaris Industries. Christenson has also worked for Ingersoll Rand and Doosan Infracore. He chose the MA-HRIR program at the University of Minnesota because he believes that it provides learning in the right balance of deeper functional know-how along with stronger business acumen. Christenson considers the program to have completely prepared him for the real world in HR. "The connection emphasized in the program of HR strategies to impact business outcomes has shaped how I operate as an HR leader," he says. He joined the board because he wanted to make real connections between the academic program and real world experiences. His best piece of advice to current students: "Seek to understand the business, and how you can best add value."


Cropped Kelly Dahlman

Kelly Dahlman, 16, graduated from the full-time MA-HRIR program and is currently a human resources business associate at General Mills. She says she chose to attend the program “because I was looking to change careers, and thought the degree would give me the foundation, knowledge, and skills I needed to enter the field of HR. After attending an information session and learning about how the program is nationally ranked, provides access to top professors and builds business acumen,” she says, “I was convinced the program was right for me.” She says she found the program helped prepare her for a career in HR “by building my knowledge base on topics like business, economics, and HR. I found the Graduate Business Career Center immensely helpful in teaching me how to professionally present myself and articulate my career aspirations,” she notes. “I was also fortunate to participate in several case competitions, which trained me to think on my feet and solve real-world problems.” And what led to her decision to join the Alumni Board? “I decided to join the Board because I’m extremely grateful for my experience and I’d like to give back to the program,” she says. “I had such a positive experience and I look forward to being back on campus.” She would share this advice with current students: “Learn about the various jobs HR offers, and find one they will excel in. Students often think they may only be able to transition to a generalist role,” she says, “but there are so many areas in HR that one can move into, and it’s great to explore which is the best fit!”



Robert Klee, '11, graduated from the full-time program, and currently works as senior manager of corporate benefits with Bertelsmann. Prior to this role, he held positions at Mercer and Reed Elsevier. Rob chose to attend the HRIR program at the Carlson School because of its strong reputation. “[The program] provides students with unique educational opportunities focused on the needs of today's HR professionals,” he says. “The MA-HRIR degree provided me with the opportunity to learn about the various aspects of human resources, which serve as a strong foundation to be successful in the field.” He chose to join the Alumni Board “as a way to give back to the Carlson HRIR community and support current and former students of the school,” he says. And, as for advice to current students?  “There are so many facets to HR and varied opportunities as both generalist and specialist,” he notes. “Use your time in the MA-HRIR program to learn about as many of these opportunities as possible.


Cropped Brandon Lukach

Brandon Lukach, '04, graduated from the full-time program and now works as director of HR for The Linux Foundation. Prior to that he was the director of people at Udemy. He has previously worked at ModCloth, Electronic Arts and Honeywell. Coming from a liberal arts background, Lukach appreciated that the University of Minnesota provided a more theoretical basis than many MBA programs. "I believed strongly that learning the foundational 'why' to be more important to being trained on the 'what'." Lukach says that the program really trained him well on how to handle the microissues that come up in the real professional world. He joined the board to help students find as much value from the program as he did and to assist in building an experience with the school that transcends graduation. "Hone your ability to harness data to add value to the business," Lukach said is his best piece of advice for current students.



Cropped Larry Morgan

Larry Morgan, '88, graduated from the part-time program and is currently president of Orion HR Group, LLC. Prior to this role, he held positions at Lawson Software, Best Buy, HB Fuller, Grant Thornton Public Accounting, JD Edwards, National Car Rental, and CUNA Mutual Group. He says he found that the MA program prepared him by providing, “solid theory and academic material, which I was able to integrate into practical experience in my career.”  Being an active member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors appealed to Larry, who also encourages current students to make sure to “apply all the knowledge you gain in the program to your current work experience or internships.”



Susan Otto, '00, graduated from the part-time program and currently works for TrueCar as EVP and chief human resources officer. Prior to working at TrueCar, she held positions at ModCloth, Electronic Arts, CancerVax, Medtronic, Sylvan Learning Systems and Manele Bay Hotel. She chose to pursue an MA-HRIR at the University of Minnesota because, “I was interested in supplementing my professional experience in HR with a theoretical understanding of the core HR functions. The primary reason I chose the University,” she says, “was because of its stellar reputation, and secondarily it offered an evening program, which allowed me to continue working while pursuing the degree.” She says the program prepared her for her career in HR by providing a deeper theoretical understanding across the function. “Through the frequent group projects, in a very concentrated period of time, I learned about a large number of organizations, functions, challenges, and approaches to organizational situations, which further prepared me for the roles I’ve held,” she says. Serving on the Alumni Board appealed to her because, “I have been looking for a way to give back in a bigger way, and to grow relationships and networks outside of Minnesota,” she says. And, as for advice to current students? “Stay curious and flexible,” she says. “Approach each situation with an open mind. Find companies that can provide the opportunities you seek, be sure to communicate your developmental goals, and build your personal board of directors that will help you find the opportunities you seek.”


Cropped Kara Sime

Kara Sime, '96, graduated from the full-time program and currently works at Human Capital Partners as a senior career architect. She has previously worked at Agropur, Inc., Bolt Industries, Old Home Foods and Rosemount/Emerson Process Management. She chose the MA-HRIR program at the University of Minnesota for the organizational behavior concentration and because of her interest in organizational communications. Sime says the program prepared her for everything. "The program was rigorous, thought-provoking and taught me all the basics I needed to have a well-rounded HR career - recruiting, benefits, economics, labor, compensation, organizational development and behavior, and don't forget statistics and research methods." She says that she is ready to give back and would like to be engaged and involved with other HR professionals, and this is why she joined the board. Her best piece of advice: "Take the time to take a broad array of classes and find ways to apply the theories in a meaningful way that helps people in organizations - this builds your business credibility," she notes. "Be curious - always ask questions and go learn as many aspects of the business as you can and find ways to bring people and concepts together."


Cropped Alex Smith

Alex (Crump) Smith,'03, graduated from the full-time MA-HRIR program and is currently the chief human resources officer for the City of Memphis. Before that, she held positions at Microsoft, Target Corporation, and Brightstar Corporation. Choosing the MA-HRIR program involved a lot of research for Smith. “After researching career options, I knew that human resources was the career for me,” she says. “With my economics background, I had a strong interest in connecting business with my HR education. As I began researching HR graduate programs, I focused my sights on schools in the top tier that also had a business focus. Luckily, I found one program in which the HR program was housed in the business school: the Carlson School’s MA-HRIR program, which allowed me to take both MBA and HR-focused classes allowing me to develop as a strong business leader as well as an HR professional.” Smith found the program prepared her well. “The HRIR program taught me the foundations of HR as a profession and the many complexities one can face in the function,” she says. “After my first day in the program it was clear to me that HR was more than just about hiring and firing. It is truly about the proper acquisition, care and feeding of employees so that they produce for the organization.”  Joining the Alumni Board became the next natural step for Smith. “I truly believe that the HRIR program helped me to be on an accelerated career path and I am thankful,” she says. “I wanted to join the Board to give back and help as many students and alumni as possible reach their dreams. The program has given so much to me, it is time for me to pay it forward.” And what would she say to current students?  “I know you want to be CEO or VP right now but trust me: taking your time to get foundational experiences will serve you and make you the best CEO or VP when you get there,” she says. “Slow down, get the experience, and learn. It is worth it.”


Cropped Eva Treuer

Eva Treuer, '10, graduated from the full-time program and works as global project manager at Amazon. Treuer previously worked at Target, Carlson Hotels, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, and also worked as a volunteer program manager at Neighbors, Inc. before attending the program. She appreciated that the MA-HRIR program offered the opportunity to learn more about corporate operations and strategic planning through the alignment with the MBA program while building upon her interest and background with Industrial Organizational Psychology from her undergraduate students. Treuer joined the board to stay connected with CHRLS and to continue to learn from students, faculty, and alumni and grow her network in the HR community. Her best piece of advice to current students is, "Take time to learn from the experiences of your peers, professors, and mentors. The support system and network you have within the HR community is invaluable throughout your career and the foundation you set at CHRLS will last a lifetime," she says.


Cropped Rachel Yates

After returning to the University of Minnesota for a second bachelor’s degree, Rachel Yates, ’13, “discovered a whole field of psychology dedicated to the workplace, and in the process I found my passion,” she says. After attending an information session about the MA-HRIR program, she applied and was accepted into the part-time program. Currently an HR compliance consultant at Wells Fargo, Yates previously worked at U.S Bank. She’s been in her role for three years and recently passed the SHRM-SCP certification, and is also working on an HR regulatory compliance certificate. Her interest in joining the Alumni Board stems from wanting “the opportunity to bring news ideas and a different perspective to the Board because my background and experiences aren’t stereotypical,” she says. Her advice to current students? “Never give up on a dream. You just have to keep at it,” she says. “You may have to take a step back quite a few times and re-strategize how you are going to make it a reality, but where there is a will, there is a way.”


Cropped Lisa Zajac

Lisa (Singh) Zajac, 11, is currently an HR manager at The Toro Company, having previously worked at CenturyLink and Stanley Black & Decker. She’s pleased to have attended the MA-HRIR program. “The program has a reputation of being one of the top programs in the nation,” she says. “I grew up in St. Paul and was excited to be able to further my education and pursue my passion right here in the Twin Cities!”  She says the program offered a diverse range of courses, theory and practice “that prepared me to be a strategic HR business partner and effective business leader. I also had the ability to build a strong professional network with alumni, classmates and faculty members that continues to be a resources for my professional development,” she adds. Joining the Alumni Board gives Zajac a chance to “give back to the program by helping current students, alumni, and members of the business community with their professional development,” she says. And what advice does she have to offer current students?  “Say yes to opportunities that may be outside of your comfort zone,” she says, “and constantly seek feedback. Your development is your responsibility.”



Lizhen (Mandy) Zhao, '17, currently works at Deloitte as a consultant. Prior to that, the graduate of the full-time program worked for Brookfield Global Relocation Services, PwC.  She says she chose to attend the HRIR program at the University of Minnesota because of its “great academic reputation, strong networks with industries, and family atmosphere. I learned a lot useful knowledge from professors, classmates and alumni,” she says, which has helped prepare her for her career in HR. Joining the CHRLS Alumni Board will help her “give back what I have learned from school and help future students,” she says. “I can stay connected with the school and alumni and expand my networks.” Mandy says she hopes her international HR work experience will contribute to the success of the Alumni Association. Her advice to current students?  “Be proactive in learning from academic research and industrial experience,” she says.

2017-18 Alumni Mentorship Program

During the 2017-2018 academic year, the Alumni Mentorship Committee is hosting opportunities for connecting students and alumni. The first of these opportunities was an "HR Executive Networking" event, held on October 2, where HR executives met with several groups of students, and answered questions, offered advice, and shared their career paths.

The second event will be the One-on-One Mentoring Match Kick-Off, held on January 22, 2018, where student mentees and alumni mentors will come together to hear mentoring tips and best practices, and meet each other in person. If you are interested in volunteering as an Alumni Mentor, please see more information here.

If you are interested in participating in one or more of these Alumni Mentoring events, or have any questions, please contact us at

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


The HRIR Blog is a great way to keep tabs on what our alumni, faculty and students have been up to.

HR Tomorrow Conference

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 325 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.