Class sizes at an institution the size of the University of Minnesota can make it difficult for students to get to know one another. That was one of the driving forces behind the development of a new course offering this academic year in the Carlson School Master of Arts in Human Resources & Industrial Relations (MA-HRIR) program.

Stacy Doepner-Hove, director of the program, introduced the MA-HRIR Practicum course, which was designed to build the cohort of full-time students and provide experiences and understanding to enhance their learning in the classroom and prepare them for their work in the field of human resources.

All 63 first-year students were required to meet every other week throughout the school year. Before this course, students were able to attend one-off sessions with cohorts; after feedback from both students and faculty, it was clear there was a need for something more formal, and ongoing, throughout the year.

The goal of the practicum was to build the sort of camaraderie that can sometimes get lost within a large school and to allow students to get to know one another, and faculty, better, according to Doepner-Hove. She led the 90-minute sessions, along with guest speakers and other HR professionals.

Each session typically followed one specific HR theme, including team building, cross-cultural communication, conflict management, mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and ethics in HR. 

“These are really popular and hot topics in HR and it’s important for these students to see how something might play out in the workplace,” says Doepner-Hove.

“Through this practicum, I had a chance to communicate with some of my classmates who I might not have talked to in the classroom.”

-MA-HRIR Student

One thing Doepner-Hove noticed in the students’ feedback was an appreciation for the role-playing and scenario activities. Students said these activities helped them imagine a situation that might actually happen in the real world, Doepner-Hove notes. She believes the students really benefitted from those opportunities, as well as looking at the themes from different angles.

Given the positive rollout of the course, Doepner-Hove is looking ahead to offering an even better course this fall.

This post originally appeared on the Master's in Human Resources - Industrial Relations blog.