But for Ohio State … 20 Years in the Making

But for Ohio State.

Those four words have led a campaign for students, alumni, employees and others to share their stories of how our great university has transformed their lives. Mine is but one more story.

My journey began in September 1992 when I moved into Haverfield House, Room 2104, on Woodruff Avenue with one of my best friends from high school and two other strangers. I’d like to say that a life-changing campus visit or lots of time-intensive thought and research led me to campus. Truth be told, there were two real reasons I came to Ohio State. 1. It’s where my brother attended and 2. I imagined that the university would offer any major I could possibly want to pursue. On that point, I was completely right.

Soon I was in love. I found a world filled with ideas, cultures, learning, music and people I had never experienced as a girl attending a somewhat rural school district. It was liberating in a way I never knew existed.

Of course I was also in love with my now-husband, Bill–who was once roommates with my brother–and fellow Ohio State student. At the end of my sophomore year, Bill and I were married and people asked me if I would continue to attend school. It seemed like such a crazy question. Of course I would!

In 1996, I graduated with a major in journalism, minor in English. But for Ohio State and my classes with the Lantern, I would not have had published articles to get my first internships, which led to my first job working for a magazine. I loved working as a writer and an editor. In that career I saw and experienced opportunities that would have otherwise been unknown to me. I have stood with bison, talked to people in-the-know, flown in a four-passenger plane on the way to a story, walked until blisters formed, and fired hand guns–all for one story or another. But for Ohio State, I would have never known the beautiful world of exploration and discovery writers experience every time they start a new assignment.

Two years after my graduation, Bill graduated for a second time with a bachelor’s degree in computer science to pair with his bachelor’s degree in nutrition. We often say that his return to Ohio State to pursue that degree was one of the best decisions we have ever made. We didn’t know just how important that decision would be until several years later.

Along the way, we joined the Alumni Association, and I contributed to the OSUAA magazine as a freelance writer while raising our family. In 2003, our daughter, Amelia, was born at the Medical Center, and I could not have asked for a better experience.

By autumn 2008, career turns led Bill back to Ohio State where he joined the Biomedical Informatics Research and Development team developing cancer research software. For the first time, the knowledge he learned pursuing both degrees at Ohio State combined perfectly. Today he is a director for Biomedical Informatics, a position that is both meaningful, challenging and everything he could have hoped for at this stage in his career.

With Bill working for Ohio State, I finally had the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree, thanks to the generous tuition benefit for spouses. In 2009 I started the MLHR program at Fisher and, as they say, I never looked back. Once again, I was in love. The wave of loving learning returned, paired with a wonderful group of classmates.

On June 10, nearly 20 years after my journey with Ohio State began, I will officially earn my master’s degree. Together, Bill and I will have four degrees to frame.

But the story does not end there. But for Ohio State … I would not have my first full-time job in my new career. In April I started a position as an HR Associate with the College of Medicine.

To say that our lives would be immeasurably different, but for Ohio State, would be an understatement. It is the university that once served us and for which we now serve today. But for Ohio State, we would not know the life we live today, and for that I will always be grateful. Thank you, OSU!



The End of the Internship

This week is it, the end of an era. Goodbye, internship. Started last April, I have been fortunate to experience a year-long internship at one of the most respected companies in business: GE. Not a quarter has gone by that my classmates and I haven’t heard of some human resources example from the world of GE. Admittedly, I have not seen many of these innovations at the plant level, at least not directly. Perhaps they are corporate keepers? Regardless, this has been an invaluable year for learning and development.

When I started at the Circleville Lamp Plant last April, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had never worked in a manufacturing environment, and my office, located inside a block building in the center of the factory, lacked a little bit in the “inspirational” setting department. But oh how each new engineering intern loved to look at those orange office chairs!

What the office lacked in ambiance, though, it made up for in opportunity. As a plant of about 230 employees working as tightly staffed as possible, each intern (or co-op as we were called) had to serve as a full member of the staff. There was simply no use for anyone who wanted to file and fetch coffee, only. Each quarter I served as an HR co-op recruiting engineering co-ops for four lighting plants. This entailed recruiting, selecting, interviewing, onboarding and tending to more than a half-dozen students who came through the door each quarter. I also assisted with staffing for permanent positions and created a harassment-awareness training program for the plant. It was a wealth of work and learning, and I relished every minute of it.

Being treated as a valuable member of the team, instead of as “just a co-op” made the difference between an average experience and an unforgettable one. My manager, a well seasoned HR manager who originally hails from Maine was equal parts sage, career advisor, manager and friend. As Darrell is fond of saying, “When you’ve been around for 110 years as I have, you learn a few things.” And each week I did my best to tap into that wealth of knowledge, knowing there is still so much I have left to learn!  I’m sure he will receive more than one panicked email from me in the future as I start my HR career.

Already I’m missing all of them. Robin, the HR administrator who spent some 20 years on the floor before coming to work in the office, who easily answered all of my questions and shared in my exhaustion as a student and employee. Ruth Ann, who will celebrate 50 years at the plant this year, and knows all there is to know about life at CLP. Saundra, her daughter, who has worked in the warehouse since the late ’80s, and taught me about loosening up just a little bit. Tiff and Lisa, the plant nurses who keep everyone safe; Mike, the engineering manager who I collaborated with daily; and Steve, the plant manager who gave me a glimpse of running an organization, mixed in with tales from West Point and Iraq.

So for any MLHR students who are still searching for that perfect internship, remember that appearances can be deceiving. Beneath the old office chairs or factory setting might just lie the best learning opportunity you’ll have during your grad school years.


The Beginning of the End

During our last blog I wrote about my love-hate relationship with Gerlach Hall–that glorious building on Fisher’s campus that houses the graduate programs. I know I don’t spend more time there than at home, but it sure feels that way some weeks.

So it was with some surprise that I felt myself nearly skipping up her stairs on Monday, feeling somehow lighter and renewed. I can only attribute it to one thing: this is my last quarter in the MLHR program. The grand finale. In so many ways it made me revisit my first-quarter self again, full of optimism and excitement for a new chapter about to begin.

This quarter I have two courses–thanks to a summer quarter elective–HRIS and training & development. An interest in training and development originally drew me to HR, so this class has been a long wait coming. HR Information Systems on the other hand is one of those courses I wouldn’t intentionally select, but I’m sure something useful will come out of it. For better or worse, it is my smallest class yet with 31 of us, all eagerly awaiting graduation.

My first week of spring quarter is over, and I’m down to single digit class weeks. I already find myself scanning my classmates, wondering where some will land, hoping they stay in touch, twinges of emotion starting to well up. Like being a senior in undergrad or high school, you know you’re going to miss these people, but you’re so exciting to move along. It’s one big ball of emotion all rolled up together.

So here’s a tip for anyone beginning the MLHR fall semester: Get to know your classmates early. They will be your teachers, your confidants, your teammates and those who know exactly what you’re going through.

500 Days of Gerlach Hall

Maybe it was week-10 fatigue breaking through, or the thought of facing class after an 8-hour work day, but as soon as I stepped into Gerlach Hall Monday night, my shoulders started to slump, sigh coming on. And then my mind whispered softly what my heart was already thinking: I hate the smell of you. Sure, it wasn’t always that way, but 5/6ths of the way through grad school, my love for Gerlach had faded. Like the film “500 Days of Summer,” what once was great has become intolerable.

In the 2009 romantic-comedy flick, the movie scenes bounce among the 500 days that Tom Hansen, the hopeless romantic, has known Summer Finn, the hopelessly distant love interest. At first Tom loves everything about her, but as the romance flickers, burns and fades, he too slumps with dispassion.

Day 269
I hate Summer.
I hate her crooked teeth.
I hate her 50’s haircut.
I hate her knobby knees.

Week 1: I love Gerlach Hall. I love its student lounge and lockers, mailboxes and Grad Pad. This is great!

Week 50: I hate Gerlach Hall. I hate the smell of you and spending all my time here. When will this be over?

Week 51: I didn’t mean it. We only have a few weeks left together. Your funky glass hats in the lounge are still fun, and I still like the theater-in-the round classrooms. Can’t you just bring back the mailboxes, though?

One of the blessings and curses of the MLHR program is the convenient location of all classes in Gerlach Hall. With the nearby parking garage and lots, it is one of the easiest buildings on campus to access. But, like any close relationship, what was once charming eventually becomes, well, a little stale. In some ways I miss the variety of classroom buildings from undergrad, and exploring new spaces. Sure I spent way too much time in Denny Hall, but for every Denny there was something new, like Lord Hall (R.I.P.) or Central Classrooms.

It’s not you Gerlach, it’s me. Maybe we just need to spend a little less time together, starting this summer!

An Open Letter to My Children

When I was thinking about writing this blog, I imagined it as an open letter to my children. Something like this…

Dear Samuel & Amelia,

One day I hope you will understand why I decided to change careers and go to grad school later in life. I hope it will make you proud, and help you understand the importance of higher education. In so many ways, I have done this for you.

I know that is hard to understand as you try to navigate seventh grade and third grade, most weeknights without mom there to help you through the day’s challenges. But each night as I’m sitting in class, I look at the clock and think of each of you. Six o’clock: supper should be made, something dad did his best to put together. Seven o’clock: Homework in full swing, or nearly finished. A trip out to the barn to feed the chickens and goats. Eight o’clock: Washing up with baths and having a snack before bed. Nine o’clock: Tucked in, book bags packed for the next school day. I’ve missed all of that, night after night, to learn about business, ethics, the law, employment practices, and the myriad other details I must learn to become an HR professional.

There have been other casualties along the way too: missed 4-H meetings, missed parent-teacher conferences, missed piano lessons, missed bowling matches, missed suppers and missed conversations. And even when I am home, how many times have I set aside time together so I could study, go to a group meeting, put together a project, or read a case study? The answer: too many.

I know that you are here, and thank goodness for your dad who has so often become two parents rolled into one, but I can’t help but miss you. I miss all of you.

But when I walk into Ohio Stadium four months from now, cap on, smile wide, know that I will again be thinking of you. And this time I won’t say I miss you. I will say thank you and I love you.



A Case for Competition

There are certain things in life you know you should do, know you might enjoy if you do them, but are really challenging to embrace. That was my initial attitude about the MLHR internal case competition. Voluntarily give up an entire Friday and most of Saturday to work on a case, in Gerlach Hall?!  Gack! Not really what I had in mind for a good time.

But, with a little prodding, and a genuine interest in the process, I was soon signed up and teamed up with two fellow second-year students, Rachel Brokaw and Priya Jhangiani and one first-year student, Qin He. With the exception of working with Rachel, I had never worked with the other two students and, honestly, had never spent anytime in class with them either. To soothe the pre-competition transition, we met the week before at the local Panera and mapped out a tentative strategy. One of the rules of our strategy: If you disagree with an idea, speak up. If you have an idea that is out-of-the box, let’s really look at it.

And so the competition began at 7:30 am Friday, January 20 and wrapped up around 3 pm on Saturday. We were fortunate to have a “live” case presented to us by local giant, Cardinal Health. Everyone appreciated the opportunity to get feedback from professionals in the field and work on a case with real-world significance.


But in between plotting strategy, creating slides, practicing the presentation, sharing ideas and poring over research articles, there were moments of levity. One team drew caricatures of themselves on the white board. Another took a break in late afternoon to go exercise. We looked forward to every meal break (we were well fed!), spent time getting to know each other, talk about classes, and laugh about the stupid things that suddenly seem very funny after spending 12 hours together in a conference room. And thanks to an icy Friday night that made driving home dangerous, I enjoyed an impromptu sleepover with one of my team mates. Thank goodness I had packed my suit, just in case!

When Saturday morning arrived, we were tired, relieved, and ready to present our case. Unfortunately, we were slotted to present last, which meant a nearly unbearable wait. As other teams were happily returning from their presentations (were they doing cartwheels down the hall?), we were still nervously waiting. Finally, around noon, our turn arrived. We were calm, rehearsed, and ready to give it our best. I was so proud of my team mates who were as professional as real-world consultants.  Given the judges’ feedback, I think all teams must have been professional with forward-thinking ideas.

In total, 28 MLHR students (7 teams) competed in the internal case competition. Like me, I’m sure others stretched and pushed themselves in new ways. While everyone came away having learned valuable skills, three students won individual presentation awards, and Team 5, a group of four women with various backgrounds who had never worked together before, but met over a meal at Panera to discuss a strategy that welcomed ideas and collaborative sharing came away with first place. But even before our names were announced, I already understood the value of the case competition and the unique opportunity it presented. In that way, we all came away winners.



Weathering Winter Quarter

Ah, winter quarter, you have arrived! After spending a few weeks working as a full-time professional, spending time with the family, sleeping like a cat, and enjoying no fewer than a half-dozen social events, it’s time to get back to the school/work/no-spare-time schedule. Honestly, though, by the time I was watching the Bucks get taken down by the Gators, it was time to call it a break and snap back to reality.

Last winter quarter was probably my least favorite as an MLHR student. Sorry, professors! It was the second round of business analytics/stats, the second round of HR history/overview, and our overview of research methods. Yes, there are memorable projects from that quarter, but it is certainly the one I would vote off the island first.

So it was a pleasant surprise this week to attend two of the three classes for winter quarter (we didn’t get the third class due to the holiday), and find that the courses seem enjoyable, the professors are engaging and the weather is, meh, mildly chilly. There are already two group projects in the pipeline with what look to be two great groups of people to work with. Could this be the winter quarter that is actually enjoyable?

I’m holding my breath that the ice and snow will hold off, the enthusiasm will sustain for 10 weeks, and 2012 will be a beautiful start to the end of the graduate-school era. After all, the end is just five short months away, and picking up speed like a rolling snowball each week.

MIA No More…Welcome to Break!

I looked at my watch a few days ago. It was six o-clock and I was sitting in a Steak-N-Shake with my family enjoying a Wednesday night dinner thanks to a canceled piano practice. With the exception of a surly tween, it was relaxing, enjoyable and everything I had missed during the past 10 weeks of fall quarter. Suddenly, I was a mom returned to her family, and in some respects it was a little….weird. At that moment I would have normally been beginning another long night of class, learning new things and enjoying the company of people who are not my family.

I think there’s a period of adjustment at the end of every quarter. Some sort of re-introduction to your normal life. A recent feel-good news story showed a pack of Beagles who had been rescued from a research lab in Spain and sent to the U.S. Cameras rolled as they took their first tentative steps to freedom, unsure where they were, but sure that it was a good place to be.

I’ve noticed this at work too. Normally I work about 20 hours a week as an HR co-op. With the holiday, though, I’m now working closer to a full-time schedule. Each day I’m asked whether I’m coming back in tomorrow. It’s a nice feeling, I appreciate the extra time to tackle projects and earn more Christmas cash, but I’m left wondering…what happened to my holiday vacation? Where are the homemade cookies? Where are the beautifully wrapped presents? Where is all the house cleaning I had planned to tackle?

Let’s just say, I’m still adjusting to life “on the outside.” It will take a couple of weeks and before I know it–poof!–I’ll be sitting in Gerlach at 6 pm on a Wednesday night wishing it were still holiday break.


Like a Vacation with Strangers

One of the perks that attracted me to the Fisher College of Business was the college’s Career Services office. As someone changing careers mid-stream, I was grateful to see an active career services office that would not only be able to help me polish the resume, but also help me land that critical internship or first job.

About a month ago I signed up for an on-campus interview with a large international company with locations throughout the Great Lakes region. I’ve been enjoying a successful co-op, but what the heck, I thought, it doesn’t hurt to test the waters out a bit before graduation and see what other organizations have to offer. I suited up, prepped for the interview in Gerlach Hall, and received a call back for round two. This time, the interview would be held outside of Chicago. Here was my first chance to take that coveted corporate-sponsored interview trip.

I knew other classmates had also been asked to second rounds. What I didn’t anticipate was other students–undergraduates–getting invitations. So, when I found the threesome at the airport who would be making the trip with me to Chicago, I was a little disheartened. They were all about 15 years younger than me. Would they really want to hang out with a grad-school mom?

I’m sure they had reservations about me as well, but by dinner that night we claimed to be a family of strangers on an even stranger vacation that saw us dining late night at the local Lone Star steakhouse that made us think we’d suddenly landed in Oklahoma instead of Illinois.

The next morning we put on our game faces, put our professional feet forward, and interviewed our hearts out. After an on-site lunch and tour of the facilities, we were back on our way to the airport where we would reside for the next four hours. As we recalled the highlights of our little adventure, including “Dale” the sometimes touchy tour-bus driver, “Scott-ch” the homecoming reveler coming off an intoxicating business trip in the back of the plane, and a mysterious doorbell to Alex’s room, we laughed until our stomachs hurt. Maybe it was the release of too-much tension or the laughter of a group of overly tired job seekers, but it turned into one happy adventure.

Back on the ground at C-bus, the undergrads made their plans for a Friday night out, and I made an appointment for sleep as soon as possible. We hugged good-bye, amazed that we had only known each other a few hours.

Even if I don’t get a job offer, the experience was well worth the challenges of rearranging my schedule to spend time away from home and studies. We came together as strangers, but left as a little Fisher family on a most unusual vacation. Good luck Alex, Ali and Dani!

Buddy Dinner

We’ve officially turned the page to November and half the quarter is over. As always, I’m left wondering where it went…and where my blog entries went too! For any future students, know that autumn quarter (next year – autumn semester) is not only the longest, but it is also filled with welcome-back activities, football games, fall festivals, group meetings and all the intricacies of grad school.

On October 22 the Graduate Human Resources Association hosted its first Buddy Dinner of the year at the Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill. About 40 of us gathered to meet, eat and relax before a frazzling week of midterms. It was also our first chance to meet our “buddies.” Each year, GHRA first-year students have the option of pairing up with a second-year buddy. I’m not part of the match-making process, but it seems that we are paired up based on common interests, backgrounds, etc.

Unfortunately, my buddy never materialized last year. I think she was too busy to be a buddy, which is understandable. This year I vowed to be a better buddy to a first-year student.

As everyone settled into the restaurant we moved around to sit near our buddies and learn more about them. I was happy to be paired with Mary, a nontraditional first-year student who works full time. I suspect we were paired because of Mary’s nontraditional status and our mutual backgrounds from farming communities. Although I was not raised on a farm, as Mary was, we always had farm animals. I’m not sure another person at the dinner could have named a hog breed, much less had the same (Duroc) growing up! It’s going to be a good match, I think.

The GHRA is busy planning other events for this quarter, including a round table discussion, service events and plenty of social activities. Behind the scenes, buddies will be emailing or getting together to discuss favorite professors and exam expectations. It’s part of that flurry of fall-quarter activity that makes the return to classes just a little bit sweeter.