After being a partner sponser of the Carlson International HR Case Competition for the last three years, Land O’Lakes has taken the reigns as lead sponsor this year. The annual competition challenges student teams from around the world to present innovative solutions to a live business case in the area of international human resource management. A preliminary written round took place in September and the final, live presentation round is scheduled for November.

Kimberly Wirka

Kimberly Wirka, '98 MA-HRIR, a human resources director for Land O’Lakes, says the company sponsors the competition because it places a great deal of importance in supporting and nurturing talented students who will later move into leadership positions and positively influence the future of human resources. “By sponsoring the case competition, we stay connected and we show our support for the HRIR program at the Carlson School,” she says. “We’re excited to present a challenging case to the domestic and international teams and are anticipating some creative solutions and ideas to real business issues that we face.”

The case competition is not the only HR connection Land O’Lakes has to the Carlson School. The company actively recruits summer interns and full-time hires. “The talent coming out of the HRIR program is exceptional and an important feeder into our HR talent pool,” Wirka says.

Leaving the realm of HR for a moment, it would be remiss not to mention Land O’Lakes and its foundation’s 2014 commitment of $25 million to University of Minnesota academics and Gopher Athletics. Out of this substantial sum, $2.5 million was allocated to an endowed Land O’Lakes Chair in Marketing at the Carlson School, a position now held by Professor Kathleen Vohs.

Wirka, who has been growing her career at Land O’Lakes over the past 15 years, from HR manager to now HR director, has even deeper ties to the Carlson School—she graduated from the HRIR program in 1998. Now, she’s on the front lines in finding that next generation of HR talent. “One of the most rewarding parts of my job is leading our graduate talent internship and full-time program, called Pathways. It’s a chance for me to stay connected to the Carlson School and to develop and mentor future HR leaders.” 

This story originally appeared in the Carlson School alumni magazine. For more on students, faculty and alumni, read the latest issue.