The More Things Change…

The more they stay the same?  FALSE.  Everything has changed and nothing is the same as it was in my previous quarters here.

I have to say that this has been one of the toughest quarters of my academic career in the MLHR program.  Some of my colleagues feel the same, some think it has been incredibly easy!  I can’t come up with a reasonable explanation as to why except that we all have different strengths.  I like a challenge!  So I suppose I should be thankful for that at least.

One of the biggest challenges for me so far has been the shake-up in the professor roster.  It is a brand new slate of professors for us and we are not familiar with their styles, what they want from our exams, papers and projects, or what they are teaching us.

I am currently taking Strategic HR as my elective this quarter.  Professor Wilk is an incredible professor who really knows her stuff.  Her teaching style is dynamic, engaging and focuses on discussion rather than lecture.  If she does lecture from a PowerPoint, it is only to give us a jumping off point for our discussions about the cases we analyzed and the articles we read.  I am really enjoying this class, but I cannot seem to nail down what she is looking for.  I had taken an elective last spring that focused on case analyses, and did well discussing them in class as well as doing one-page summaries.  With Professor Wilk, not so much.

I didn’t do great on my first assignment, but paying attention to her feedback and comments on it has helped me better understand her expectations.  Armed with this knowledge, I am hoping to do substantially better on my second and final case analysis for her.

One of the required courses this quarter is Labor Law.  The first half focuses solely on labor laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act and mostly on the National Labor Relations Act.  Robert Weisman, Esq. is a labor lawyer who has extensive knowledge of the these acts as well as experience trying labor cases in court.  Because of this extensive knowledge and experience, he has been brought in to teach this first half of the course and did a good job trying to make this difficult material more manageable.

I have experience with enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act rules and regulations in just about every position I’ve had, and surprisingly mostly in my experience as a retail manager.  I have never worked with labor unions and had no intention of doing so in my career, so the NLRA is like a foreign language to me.  I use this simile loosely because I am actually quite good with foreign languages!  Instead, I’ll say that the NLRA is like gravity to me: I know it’s there, I know it’s important and I have a gist of how it works.  Ask me to delve into the specific mechanics of it and you’ll have me at a loss.

The second half of the course focuses on diversity.  So far, it is unlike what I have learned about diversity in my role as a Diversity and Inclusion intern at OCLC.  My experiences here have focused on programming, strategy, culture change and sustainability of these practices in a business-oriented manner.  This diversity that I am learning is like meeting someone from a different planet that speaks something similar to English, acts in a manner comparable to myself, but in the end, is a wholly different creature.  This will be interesting and challenging.

Finally, we are also required to take HR Negotiations this quarter.  Focusing again on labor issues, I am at a loss.  The professor who previously taught the course, Professor Marcus Sandver, unfortunately passed away the weekend before the quarter started.  His replacement, Professor Hills, is from a very different era than those of the professors that we have come to know and appreciate in the program.  I find him to be the most difficult professor to connect with this quarter and that is a very big struggle for me.

I applaud the MLHR program for their efforts to avoid “homophily” (a big word I learned in Strategic HR meaning hiring people who are all the same.  Read the full definition here), and for keeping us on our toes and challenging us.  Hopefully my colleagues in the Cohort and I will be able to applaud each other for making it through this very trying quarter alive and without being put on academic probation.

PS – as much as I would love to put a picture into this post, I do not think there is one adequate enough to capture all my thoughts, even if it was worth a thousand words or more



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