CHRLS Alumni Association
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
Kristyn Aasen, '11, graduated from the full-time program and currently works as an HR business partner at Thomson Reuters. She has previously worked at 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.
Justin Ahlstrom, ’05, graduated from the full-time program and is currently the HR analytics leader in the technology and operations group at Wells Fargo; before that he worked at G&K Services. Ahlstrom chose the MA-HRIR program because he grew up in Minnesota and was excited to be able to attend a world-class graduate program so close to home. He says that the MA-HRIR program "provided me with the foundation necessary to understand and appreciate all aspects of HR. This allowed me to approach a career as a specialist (first in compensation, then in analytics) with a wider lens and a more strategic perspective." Ahlstrom chose to join the CHRLS Alumni Association Board of Directors because he hopes he can contribute to shaping some of the great programs the CHRLS Alumni Association Board supports. "I also am looking forward to continuing to strengthen the connection between my organization and the CHRLS," he adds. He encourages current students to find every opportunity to practice connecting the academic lessons learned in the classroom to real-world situations. "The ability to translate and communicate theoretically-grounded principles and complex analysis in a manner that is relatable to business leaders is an invaluable skill," he 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.”
Corey Bonnema, ’98, graduated from the part-time program and currently is manager of employee development and engagement at the Metropolitan Airports Commission. Prior to that, he was president of Manager Builders, LLC, and previously worked at the University of Minnesota, Target, Agribank and AT&T. He chose to attend the MA-IR program because he’s always been interested in management and in understanding "how people work - the psychology of people in organizations and what makes them successful," he says. Bonnema believes the program provided a strong theoretical understanding of training, compensation and employee relations concepts and also says he routinely uses these concepts in his leadership development work. After attending many presentations and numerous HR Tomorrow Conferences sponsored by the CHRLS Alumni Association, he decided to join the Board of Directors. As a member of the board he looks forward to helping current students, alumni and members of the business community with their professional development. His advice for students is to “be curious and continuously ask others for feedback. My favorite saying is, 'you can’t fix what you don't know is broken.'"
Ian Charpentier, ’93, graduated from the full-time program and is currently an HR senior manager at Accenture, after working as a Global HR Business Partner at Duck Creek Software. He previously worked at Best Buy, Adaytum and Supervalu. He originally chose the MA-IR program because he wanted to pursue jobs that applied to his economics major and his interest in the human element of work. Charpentier feels that the curriculum, teaching, and experiences he received during his studies provided a foundation of knowledge and a lens by which he continues to assess and make decisions on a routine basis. After working for a number of years and growing his career with limited connection to the program, he decided to join the CHRLS Alumni Association Board of Directors to help give input into the future direction of the program and students. His advice to current students is to, "work hard and do well in your coursework. In the first part of your career, really focus on ensuring you are getting solid work experiences where you can own projects/work," he says. "The reality is your first company is not likely to be your last, and future companies will likely be more interested in the work you did than who you did it for."
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."
Anna (Xuanfei) Huang, ’14, graduated from the full-time program and currently works for Microsoft as a human resources manager. Before Microsoft, she worked at Lenovo and Sodexo. Huang chose the MA-HRIR program at the University of Minnesota because she had a very deep understanding of human networking. "The world is more flat than ever," she says. "I realized that future HR professionals need to embrace the global mindset and have the competency to deal with challenges not only locally but internationally." She chose to attend the MA-HRIR program to build a strong professional network across the globe and gain a deeper understanding of the core functions, contemporary practices, and underlying theories of HR. Huang says the program has been advancing her career by providing a thorough understanding of the core functions, contemporary practices and underlying theories of HR and business in not just an academic, but a practical, balanced way. "Far more beyond that," she adds, "the extraordinary faculty and career coaching, the strong business partnership and the diverse alumni network the program provided helped me realize my full potential and my career goals." She says that since her first day of studying abroad, she received genuine support and help from the program, her classmates and the alumni network. She wanted to continue her engagement, learning and contributing by becoming a member of the CHRLS Alumni Association Board of Directors. Huang has several pieces of advice for current MA-HRIR students. First of all, she said, "make the most of the excellent resources that the program provides you. Leverage every opportunity and every single uncomfortable moment to challenge yourself, to learn and grow." Second, Huang says, "build a strong personal brand, and build the connections with your classmates, faculty and alumni." Third, "keep your curiosity and the boldness of challenging the status quo," and last but certainly not least, "have fun, always!"
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.
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.
Roxana Martin, ’09, graduated from the full-time program and now works at General Mills as the human resources business partner for IT- Global Business Solutions. She previously worked at Statoil Venezuela and Conoco Philips Venezuela. Martin chose the University of Minnesota MA-HRIR program because of its reputation and because the curriculum offered the opportunity to understand the HR and business fields with more depth. "Although I already had an HR background prior to coming to the Carlson School, this program expanded my vantage point of the business world," Martin says. "It gave me the opportunity to network with leaders, learn about business and even explore other countries through the study abroad program," she says. Martin says she is 'energized' with the opportunity to reconnect with the Carlson School and its students. "This was an opportunity I could not let go by," she says of joining the CHRLS Alumni Association Board of Directors. Martin advises that future students should "be curious and courageous. Never leave a class without having asked your question. Lean into discomfort and really challenge yourself to think more broadly about talent and the role we play in the business world." But aside from work, Martin also understands that having fun is important as well. "Your time at the Carlson School will go really fast, so take time to cultivate those friendships as they will last a lifetime," she concludes.
Tara Miller-Hochhalter, ’10, is an HR director at Suburban Imaging; before that she was a systems consultant within HR Operations at Target. Prior to joining Target in 2012 she worked for Fairview Health Services with a majority of time spent in physician recruitment and HR technology. She chose to attend the HRIR program to strengthen her human resources acumen to effectively lead company-wide business initiatives by providing HR alignment and support. "Since I did not have an undergraduate degree specifically in HR, I attended an open house to explore this program," she says. "I enjoyed meeting current students, staff and other potential students. I immediately felt a connection to the Carlson School of Management HRIR program and knew this is where I wanted to earn my Masters degree." Miller-Hochhalter decided to join the CHRLS Alumni Association Board as a way of giving back to a program that prepared her well to be an effective HR leader. Her advice to current students is to, "take time to get to know your classmates. Many of my classmates have remained friends and provide an invaluable network to reach out to for quick insights or feedback," she says.
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.”
Monica Percic, ’00, graduated from the full-time program. She is the Director of Human Resources and Risk Management for Award Staffing, having previously worked at Kimley-Horn, Arthur Andersen Business Consulting, Dean Foods Company, and other manufacturing companies. Before deciding upon the University of Minnesota’s MA-HRIR program, Percic was considering the program at Illinois and Cornell. She says she ultimately chose the program at the Carlson School because, "I wanted to attend a leading program that was not only part of a business school, but part of a vibrant business community." When asked how the program prepared her for an HR career, she said, "the program gave me a breadth of knowledge in all areas of human resources that allowed me to be dangerous, and it gave me the confidence to allow me to expand upon and apply my learning to other parts of business." Percic did not have a conventional career path. She went into consulting right after school. But throughout her career, she has connected with the program and Carlson School in various ways. She recently was a participant in the Emerging Leaders program while considering another career transition. "I want to bring the perspective of an alumna who can validate and legitimize the diversity of work perspectives at a time when the work experience is more varied than ever," she says. Her advice for students is to "keep up with the relationships you forge. Be a student of the businesses you support; a business person with a specialty in people factors," she says. "If you find that your path is different from others', remember that you can bring value as a sole proprietor, consultant, contractor, field practitioner, specialist, or generalist working independently, in a field organization, at a boutique firm, at global headquarters or any place in between."
Dino Sassan, '95, graduated from the full-time program and is currently director of compensation at Lifetouch. He’s previously worked at Life Time Fitness, Buffalo Wild Wings, Ingenix, Nestle Nutrition, Hewitt, Towers Perrin, Price Waterhouse, and Ecolab. The “outstanding placement percentage” attracted him to the program, he says, and “while I knew I was interested in compensation, the program did help [prepare me] by providing me with a well-rounded understanding of all of human resources.” Joining the Alumni Board was important to him, as “I would like to see the Carlson School maintain its reputation so that graduates are provided with many opportunities,” he says. “I am thrilled to be able to contribute to the Carlson School.”
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."
Na Sun, ’07, graduated from the full-time program and currently works as compensation manager at US Bank. She previously worked at St. Jude Medical, Capella Education Company, Inclusion Inc., and Minnesota Public Radio. Sun chose to attend the University of Minnesota because she was looking for a prestigious program with excellent faculty, great students and alumni to extend her career in human resources. "The MA-HRIR program at the University of Minnesota is one of the targeted schools. I was lucky to get into this program, and was amazed every day by a supportive staff, dynamic conversation in the classroom, and passionate peers around me," she says. She believes that the MA-HRIR program stretched her HR knowledge and skills both in depth and breadth. "By exploring all the facets in HR," she says, "I am ready for a new stage of my career. Another great part is the connections with alumni, classmates and faculty members. They are life-long peers in my professional development." Sun chose to join the CHRLS Alumni Association Board of Directors because she was impressed by the previous HR Tomorrow Conference, the mentor programs and the training and learning sessions. She believes she can contribute different perspectives as an international student who comes from the fastest-growing economy in the world. Her advice for students is to "stay connected with your peers, alumni and the world. Take advantage of the resources in this program and the Carlson School."
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.