Centerpoint Newsletter October 2021

Kelsy Martin 2021 Headshot

Greetings from the CHRLS Alumni Association!

Hello, HRIR Alumni! Autumn is in full swing in Minnesota, which represents many exciting things. The University of Minnesota has begun another academic year this fall, and the Carlson School welcomed 50 full-time and seven part-time students into the MHRIR program and two new students into the PhD program. Additionally, 56 full-time and 45 part-time MHRIR students, and 10 PhD students are returning to the program.

Autumn can also represent a time for change. On the CHRLS Alumni Board, we welcome seven new board members: Hannah Akrong, Chris Carlson, Taylor Fyfe, Emily Legan, Caleb Moore, Liz Pagel, and Jennifer Reilly. Our new and returning board members are already engrossed in working on many exciting initiatives and opportunities to engage. Our three subcommittees are focused on mentoring opportunities, alumni engagement, and the planning and execution of the HR Tomorrow Conference, which will be held on April 22, 2022. You’ll hear much more on the conference in the coming months, along with presenting you many opportunities to engage in other offerings facilitated by this board, so stay tuned to this monthly newsletter and our other various communication channels: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and the HRIR Blog

Although a lot of change has occurred over the last 20 months since the beginning of the COVID-19 global pandemic, there are a few things that will not change on this board: We are committed to continuing our focus on connecting alumni and students, promoting professional competence and leadership, and finding ways to connect us all back to the Carlson School and the resources it continues to offer. 

I am looking forward to all that is to come this board year, and I hope you are too!


Kelsy Martin, ’14 MA-HRIR
CHRLS Alumni Association President 

Welcome, New Alumni Board Members!  
The CHRLS Alumni Association is pleased to welcome seven new members to its Board of Directors: Hannah Akrong, Chris Carlson, Taylor Fyfe, Emily Legan, Caleb Moore, Liz Pagel, and Jennifer Reilly. We also welcome back and thank our 14 returning members: Josh Arbit, Heather Besikof, Mary Kate Bisek, Melissa Bryan, Jessica Hooper, Michael Jacobs, Kelsy Martin, Sarah Merkle, Francis Sadac, Crystal Sequeira, Jodell Swenson, Padma Tamma, Melissa Weisse, and Lindsay Wenzel.  Read the full story here.

Popular One-on-One Alumni-Student Mentorship Program Returns!
HRIR Alumni, stay tuned for more communication on our annual Alumni Mentorship Program where we match HR professionals with current MHRIR students. The program will kick off in February of 2022, but keep an eye out for a participant interest survey this Fall. We are looking forward to supporting another year of great mentoring!

Engaging With Our Alumni
The Alumni and Community Engagement Committee is pleased to share an exciting update with our alumni:

  • Our Goal: The Alumni Engagement Committee's goal is to create robust connections within our domestic and international alumni communities by creating Alumni pilot groups by location and company. 
  • Call to Action! Reach out and reconnect with someone from your class, ideally someone local to you or at your employer. 
  • Want to get e-connected? Visit our HRIR Alumni LinkedIn page
  • Want to get involved? Alumni Group Toolkit: In Spring we will launch a step-by-step guide to creating Goldy Groups, which are geographic or employer-based HRIR Alumni Groups!  If interested in starting a Goldy Group, please email us at
  • Join the Board! Email to learn more about the process.


HR Tomorrow Banner

Mark Your Calendars for HR Tomorrow 2022
It’s not too early to start planning for our 43rd annual HR Tomorrow Conference, which will be held on Friday, April 22, 2022. Many details are still in the works, but attendees can plan for another stimulating, thought-provoking, and engaging day of professional development.  And, if you’re interested in presenting, please note that the Request for Speaker Proposals will open by mid-November; contact for more details. 

Forecasting the Future
Right now, the only thing certain about the future of work is that it’s uncertain. “Overall, we’re seeing upticks in job openings and labor turnover,” says John Kammeyer-Mueller, professor and director of the Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies. “But, what that means long-term for the market, and different segments of the market, remains to be seen.” Kammeyer-Mueller and three HRIR alumni share their thoughts about what the future holds in a recent Carlson Magazine article.

Join Us on Give to the Max Day – November 18 
Minnesota’s statewide day of giving is fast approaching, and we are very excited to announce that this year, our alumni will have the opportunity to “Give to the Max” that day and have it directly affect the students, faculty, and staff of the Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies!

Give to the Max 2021

Gifts made on this day will be directed to the CHRLS Social Justice Fund for Masters Students, created in 2020 to provide support to HRIR Masters students who are continuing the Center’s work toward social justice for all marginalized workers around the globe. Watch your mail and your inbox for more details coming soon about this impactful giving opportunity.

Alumna Alex Smith Named 2020 CHRO of the Year by HRO Today 
Congratulations to alumna Alex Smith, ’05, who was named 2020 CHRO of the Year in the nonprofit sector by HRO Today Magazine. Alex is the CHRO for the City of Memphis, a post she’s held since 2016. The award recognizes CHROs who help drive workplace initiatives through innovation with measurable excellence in employee engagement and retention to prove it. Read more here.
Rewarding Returns: Three Alumni Share Their Degree-Completion Journeys
Few current MHRIR students may be aware of the old Plan A or Plan B options required for graduation. These requirements have since shifted, but for students in the 1980s, ’90s, and early 2000s, after completing all their required coursework, they had to choose between the Plan A thesis option or a series of between one to three Plan B papers to graduate. Sometimes, life got in the way, and the Plan A or Plan B requirements were all that stood between a student and a completed degree! We reached out to three returning MHRIR students, and asked them to share their journeys to get their degrees.

1st Tuesday Returns with Hybrid Event Model

1st Tuesday Speaker Series typography on maroon background

The premier monthly networking and speakers series for business professionals in the Twin Cities has gone hybrid. Beginning in the fall of 2021, and as COVID-19 protocols allow, we plan to offer the 1st Tuesday Speaker Series with both in-person and virtual attendance options. At the on-campus event, attendees can attend a networking luncheon with alumni and members of the local business community as they hear from C-suite executives and other leaders in the traditional format. Read here for more information.

Welcome New Staff Members 
The Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies and the Department of Work and Organizations welcomed two new staff members this fall: Kate Barry, Assistant Director of Advising and Student Affairs and Nora Menchaca, Principal Office and Administrative Specialist.

Kate comes to the team from the University’s College of Biological Sciences where she spent the last three years as the Graduate Program Coordinator in their department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. Prior to that she spent seven years as the Graduate Program Coordinator for the College of Veterinary Medicine. She will be handling registration and student services duties, as well as student advising and student affairs coordination and growth.

Nora comes to the team from Ridgewater College where she worked as an administrative assistant; prior to that she worked for the Buffalo Lake Hector Stewart School District. Nora will cover front desk duties in the CHRLS offices and be responsible for a variety of administrative and financial transactions support.

Associate Professor Aaron Sojourner Featured in Carlson Magazine
Aaron Sojourner isn’t scared off by complex economic issues. In fact, he leans into them. In the process, he’s working toward an economy in which everyone can flourish. It was U.S. President Harry Truman who famously asked to be sent a one-handed economist, one who couldn’t say “on the one hand…but then on the other hand.” Labor economist Aaron Sojourner has taken a somewhat different approach. “I’m a many-handed economist,” says Sojourner, an associate professor in the Carlson School’s Department of Work and Organizations. “I see a lot of alternative explanations for things.” Read the full story here.

Faculty Members Win National Awards
Two Department of Work and Organizations faculty members have been recognized with top honors:

  • 2021 Responsible Research in Management Award: Assistant Professor Elizabeth Campbell was selected for research that studied the role of religion in the gender wage gap. This award “pays tribute to high-quality scientific research that addresses critical issues in business and society.”
  • Academy of Management Fellow: Professor Connie Wanberg was selected for her “significant contributions to the science and practice of management.” 

Congratulations, Professors Campbell and Wanberg!

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)
  • Instagram - find us at umnhrir
  • Jessica Bienert, ’15, is HR leader at Cargill
  • Julie (Skavanger) Fraunhoffer, ‘07, is senior director, HR business partner at Daiichi Sankyo
  • Steve Hanson, ’13, is head of employee relations at Google Fiber
  • Rob Klee, ’11, is director of benefits at Sony
  • Shanna Koenig, ’07, is senior manager, HR business partner, at Ripple
  • Morgan (Landon) Lanzel, ’14,  is HR business partner at Compressor Controls Corporation
  • Alana Novosad, ‘16, is transformation communications manager at Fitch Group, Inc.
  • Justin Nuahn, ’14, is human resources director at Dynatronics
  • Lucas O’Brien, ’13, is senior compensation business partner at Dropbox
  • Matt Plitzkow, ‘06, is senior HR business partner, consultant, at Securian Financial
  • Levi Sheppard, ’19, is talent development manager at Hearst
  • Na Sun, ’07, is head of compensation programs at Redfin