The World is Our Pokestop

Last Friday night was one for the books. It all started in the Ohio Union. There I was, perched unassumingly on a bar stool witnessing a gaggle of college-aged hipsters load out band gear from the stage inside Woody’s Tavern. And then, from a distance across the white terrazzo tile, I saw them barreling toward me—Ash, Charizard, Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Eevee, and everyone’s favorite, Squirtle. I thought that maybe I’d entered an alternate reality in which Pokemon Go was real life and my real life had become simply an app on an iPhone.

It turns out that this motley crew was simply six of my friends from the MHRM program, competing in the annual Fisher Scavenger Hunt & Bar Crawl. Phew! I decided to join them on their mission toward victory, mostly because they looked really silly and I knew it would be entertaining to watch them skulk down High Street in costume.

On the rooftop at Big Bar, across the street from the Ohio Union. Aren’t they cute?

We embarked on an evening of endless successes. From Eevee petting the belly of a rabid dog (okay, it was a harmless Bernese Mountain Dog)… to Squirtle’s awkward break-dance breakdown at a remarkably empty Bullwinkle’s… to Pikachu high-fiving a policeman when he least expected it, the evening turned out to be the high point of the semester so far. We can’t forget the highlight of the night when a Cane’s employee unashamedly threw a pokeball full of free box combo certificates at the group– which happened to look a lot like a Styrofoam to-go box secured with red electrical tape. #gottacatchemall

Pikachu having a peaceful interaction with law enforcement.
Pikachu having a peaceful interaction with law enforcement.

As the evening drew to a close, the team was determined to close in on the lead. With just minutes remaining on the clock, the group wandered into World of Beer to complete a few final high-stakes objectives. The team stumbled upon the man behind the curtain—2nd year MBA Tada, sifting through mounds of incoming data from hundreds of accomplished objectives. He was obviously glad to have taken data analytics the year prior.

After several grueling minutes of Tada and his team of analysts poring over their Excel spreadsheets with beads of sweat accumulating on their foreheads, the results were in. It was alleged to be a close race, but as we all could have anticipated from the beginning of this post, the Pokemon were the obvious frontrunners from the very beginning. Congratulations to the MHRMs on their well-deserved win and the trophy to prove it!

That time when you stick out like a sore thumb because you aren't dressed as a Pokemon.
That time when you stick out like a sore thumb because you aren’t dressed as a Pokemon.

My Summer Internship!

The first session (7 weeks) of my 2nd year of MHRM program has flown by almost as quickly as my summer internship at Huntington Bank HQ in downtown Columbus! The summer was a unique opportunity to not only apply the first year of the program to a more tactical learning endeavor, but also to gain new experiences to then bring back to the 2nd year of the program and share with classmates. Below is a quick recap of my summer internship and unique projects I got to be a part of! I apologize for the delay/lack of blogging; it may or may not have taken me the first 7 weeks to get back into the swing of things!

During the first stint of my summer at Huntington, I tried to quickly apply a book from Business Excellence II – The First 90 Days. The book highlights the importance of the first 90 days of any new job and new transition, and how it is important to make a good impression quickly. Really, a summer internship is just around that time frame, so the book was an easy application for tackling my projects.

Overall, I would say the first year of my MHRM curriculum trained my brain to think a certain way: what is the situation, the outcomes desired, impressions and experiences we want to provide? I loved that through the first year of my program, I had a network of resources to bounce my thoughts off of: both classmates and professors. To kick off one of my first projects at Huntington, I tried to get an understanding of the current state of the business and how I was being asked to make an impact, and then called one of our professors, Dr. Inks for his expertise and experience. There wasn’t a shiny bauble that came from the conversation, but instead a frame of mind that helped guide my project throughout the summer.

I loved my projects, team, and work environment over the summer. One of my favorite experiences from the summer was Huntington’s all-intern project. The entire class of about 60 interns was divided into groups of five cross-functional teams. I loved that I had the opportunity to work with students from different departments: IT infrastructure, Commercial Risk, Capital Markets, and Data Analytics– all extremely different departments that possessed a different perspective. The task was to pick an opportunity for improvement at Huntington and confront the problem: what is the problem, why is it a problem, and what is our solution for the problem identified? What prepared me for this project was the MHRM Case Competitions – hosted by Fisher. The problem we identified was one that most companies are facing today: how do we retain millennial talent? I had seen this trend before in the MHRM Internal Case Competition with PepsiCo. Therefore, I had a framework and mindset to build on that rallied our team behind how Huntington can improve to retain the very people giving the presentation: millennials.

My intern buddy over the summer and fellow Buckeye, Leah, after our team presented to the Huntington Executive Team!
My intern buddy over the summer and fellow Buckeye, Leah, after our team presented to the Huntington Executive Team!

I’m so excited to be returning to Huntington after graduation from the MHRM program and to be part of the talent acquisition team! I can also say that I’m excited to finish up the last 1.5 semesters in the MHRM program at Fisher, and gain further background and experience that will ultimately prepare me for taking on an HR Specialist role. Plus, I still want to live out the last of my college breaks that I might never see again 😉 Until next time. Go, Bucks!

Buckeyes that intern together, stay together
Buckeyes that intern together, stay together

Counting My Blessings

I’ve been just awful about updating this blog, but I have an excuse: I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been before in my life. It probably was not wise to start my return to college (16 years after earning my undergrad degree) by enrolling in five graduate-level courses, working as a graduate administrative assistant, and interviewing with recruiters for internships (I do have one offer so far!). In the last seven weeks, I’ve spent large chunks of every day (including weekends) studying, writing, and going to class– along with my other duties. It’s just been cray-cray. I am SO relieved to be down to three classes starting next week.


BUT one of my mother’s many sayings that she ingrained into my mind as a child is, “Count your blessings.” And I am. Since beginning my time at THE Ohio State University, I’ve met so many kind-hearted, smart, open-minded people; fellow students, staff, and faculty who are good people happy to be here– and intent on bettering the world in some way. It’s an intangible spirit that you can feel on campus and it’s very inspiring. The sky is truly the limit.

This is Kristina Toliver and me in the Graduate Programs Office. She works at Fisher AND is getting her degree in psychology. She’s one of the MANY nice people at OSU– and I admire her dedication to her studies and appreciate her positive energy!

I also am really enjoying the relationships that are developing in my MHRM cohort. It’s a small group of 48 (I believe), so we already kind of feel like brothers and sisters! For me, getting to know them has rejuvenated my outlook; most of them radiate with the same energy I had in my early 20s.

My new pal, Vinessa, and me.

And they’ve been very kind to me– making sure I don’t feel completely out of place! (although I admit that I sometimes do) Most recently, we went to a … corn maze/haunted house thing (I don’t know what to call it!) and I took part in the fun! 

Me. Apologies for the fake, cheesy smile!

Next up: the continuation of our Business Excellence class, Talent Management (this is taught by a very well-respected professor and is obviously a critical course) and Organizational Development & Change (also critical and very topical, given the importance of change management today). And registration for spring semester starts on October 28th! I can’t wait!

Celebrating Small Victories

Being a graduate student, working full-time, and having a family requires a lot of smart time management. In fact, as I write this, my daughter is making a drawing to put in my office and my son is saying “Daddy, sit down” as he pats the couch seat next to him.  I’ll be honest–most of this month was really tough in balancing my kids, my wife, school, the new leadership initiative, and the new job.  I go to class Tuesday through Thursday.  Every other day, I get to be with my family.  When I am playing with my kids, I don’t think about school.  My attention is focused on playing toys with them.  Everyday before I leave for work, I make a drawing and leave it for them to find when they wake up.  When I get home, my daughter has often drawn something else on it and/or written her name.  It is a small exchange, but it matters so much.

When I am doing schoolwork, I am almost completely focused on schoolwork!  But (in addition still wanting to play with my kids), I wonder about how I can bring my HR education into my job. Being in a sales-account position has made this task a little tricky.  One of the turning points came during a conference that I helped to host back in March.  I basically asked everyone in the company what they had learned in the conference and what they were using from the conference.  The results turned out well and lent support to propose another conference next year. Last year’s conference was a great way to funnel some of my HR training into a work context– and having the opportunity to do it again is encouraging!  Another “distraction” was that I put a proposal forward to help an organization by doing some pro-bono HR consulting work.  This allows me to serve a very charitable organization and it provides another tangible outlet for my developing HR skills.

Exchanging the drawing with my children matters.  Telling my wife, as much as possible, how much I appreciate her, is a victory.  Finding ways to integrate school into practical settings is exciting.  Some of these things may sound small, but celebrating these little occurrences is what helps remind me of why I am going to school and that I am making progress towards my goals.

Reaching Outside the Comfort Zone

First, let me share some background on myself to give you some context for this post: I am originally from Upper Arlington, Ohio—less than 5 minutes from OSU campus. I attended The Ohio State University alongside 50% of my high school graduating class. During undergrad, while most of my high school friends could pinpoint exactly where they wanted to be 5, even 10 years from then, I always felt unclear about what I wanted out of life and unsure of how to figure it out.

In my junior year of undergrad, while many of my friends were securing study abroad opportunities, I knew I wanted to do something different, something that would challenge me and hopefully reveal to what I didn’t already know about myself—strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities. I wanted to know it all! I found National Outdoor Leadership School through a friend of a friend, and I embarked on what was to become one of the most rewarding and bizarre experiences of my life…

I slept in a sleeping bag for 85 consecutive nights next to 16 strangers who would soon become my closest friends. We backpacked through remote sections of the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico and the Galiuro Mountains in Arizona, carrying everything on our backs that we needed to survive for 3 weeks at a time. We climbed the incredible granite domes of Joshua Tree National Park– powered by bacon, coffee, and laughter. We navigated class-3 rapids in whitewater canoes on the Rio Grande, paddled past Mexican military clad with automatic weapons, and didn’t see another human being for 18 days. The vastness of the wilderness was exhilarating, humbling, inspiring, and terrifying all at the same time, and I came to learn more about myself than I ever expected.

When I graduated from undergrad, I knew I wanted to marry my education in psychology with my passion for the outdoors to facilitate meaningful experiences for others who might benefit. I took a job as a Field Instructor for Evoke Therapy Programs helping struggling adolescents and young adults work through depression, drug addiction, trauma, and motivational/behavioral problems. In this job, I worked a non-traditional schedule of 8 days in the field, followed by 6 days off. I saw recovering drug addicts celebrate 30 days of sobriety in the field over no-bake pies. I saw teenage boys with autism begin to challenge rigid patterns of thinking and to develop their first real friendships. And I saw adolescent girls with a history of self-harm come to believe that they mattered in the world. I count myself lucky to have been a part of the transformation process for the clients I worked with, whose stories continue to inspire me and put my own struggles into perspective.

Me and my best friend Taylor when we worked in the field. This was the equivalent "business casual" in the industry.
Me and my best friend Taylor when we worked in the field. This was the equivalent of “business casual” in the industry.

It’s clear that the program I attended and the wilderness therapy program I worked for are very different. The takeaway that I hope becomes obvious here is that there is a certain inherent healing effect of being outside. I also think there is a deeper level of learning that comes from challenging experiences with real consequences—learning what is in and out of your control and how to adapt to adversity. I believe my experiences in the outdoors have shaped me into someone who can find hope and happiness in just about any situation, and I’m grateful for that.

If there is any piece of advice I would give someone who is uncertain about their path in life (and trust me, you’re not alone), I encourage immersing yourself in an experience that you’re afraid of. I’m talking the thing that you always wished you could do but could never actually imagine yourself doing. There is deep self-discovery and self-awareness that comes from pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone.

backpacking, Ohio State, High Sierras
The OSU Outdoor Adventure Center traveled to the High Sierras last summer. Seriously awe-inspring stuff.

The great part about OSU is that we have access to so many different experiences– so many that I hear people talk about how they struggle to fit in everything they want to do. Well, here is one more for you: the OSU Outdoor Adventure Center. Of course there is the famed indoor rock climbing wall, but what a lot of people don’t know is that as students we also have access to adventure trips. From rock climbing, to sea kayaking, to dog sledding—there is really something for all seasons and to suit all tastes. The best part is that there is no experience required for most and all are welcome.

rock climbing, OSU
Indoor rock climbing wall at OSU during the Valentine’s day climbing competition. Participants were held together by a paper chain and had to complete the climb together. They also do other silly stuff, like zombie themed climbing hours for the premier of the Walking Dead.

I can’t emphasize enough the benefit of pushing yourself to challenge fears, insecurities, an preconceived notions of your own limitations. From my own trips, I’ve learned to work with diverse teams, lead others in high pressure situations, and accomplish stretch goals with limited resources. These are all skills that translate remarkably well to “real life,” and that I plan to leverage in work and life in the future. Get out there!

“Undergraduate Buckeye” vs. “Graduate Buckeye” So Far….

I am about one month into the MHRM program. It is crazy how fast it has gone by! We are already almost at the halfway point of the first semester. That means 1/8th of grad school is almost done and we are finishing two of our half-semester core courses. It’s exciting!

After reflecting on the past few weeks, there have been a few ways that being a graduate student at Ohio State has been different from being an undergraduate Ohio State student.

Here are the comparisons that I came up with:

1. My MHRM classmates vs. Psychology classmates: Even just knowing these people for a few weeks, I already have gotten to know more people at a faster rate than some of the people I took classes with as an undergraduate. Though I still have a few close friends in my Psychology program, it’s cool to have this type of community in the graduate-school classroom environment.


2. Group projects. Group Projects. Group Projects: Classes in undergrad are very much lecture-based. It worked for large Psychology classes. In my MHRM classes so far, we have done a lot of group work already. It’s beneficial because it’s allowed me to work with a variety of people in many different capacities.

3. The importance and joy of reading for class: I am looking at reading for classes a bit differently now. It has been awesome to “go deep” into such a specialized topic and to know that I am gaining knowledge in a field to equip me for my future. At the same time, I loved my Psychology classes because of their broad scope; they helped me get a “big picture” and gave me enough knowledge to apply much of what I learned to graduate school now. In my MHRM classes, it is important to come to class prepared and the reading has actually be quite enjoyable!

4. The Internship Search: Psychology was pretty broad and internships needed to be actively sought out. Here at Fisher, there are a multitude of opportunities and support to help us find our summer internship (a large part of our curriculum!). It has been a bit overwhelming with job applications, information sessions, and networking but hopefully it will soon pay off.

5. Buckeye Spirit: If one thing is the same, it’s the Buckeye spirit! What I love about Ohio State is the intense school pride that we all possess. I’m happy to share that with all my graduate school classmates, too. 🙂

With even just a few weeks done in the program, I have already learned so much. I am excited for all that is yet to come!

Go Bucks,
Nikki Villoria

An Enlightening Week

Work this week began with the usual efforts, but soon turned into one of those times when everything flies by!  We got some new orders and I was spending a lot of time out of the office following up on leads and really getting into my sales role. It continues to be an exciting challenge, but I have retained my desire to keep learning and becoming more effective.  I took every opportunity to talk with the regional manager and draw from his experiences.  Slowly, all learning is paying off.  This coming week is filled with appointments.

In addition to a full work week, my wife has begun working on some home projects.  We have been married for fourteen years and she still amazes me with her persistence.  She is somehow able to be an amazing mother and tackle major household projects.  My son turned two years old this week.  He is the perfect combination of absolute sweetness tempered with the whispers of the “terrible two’s.”  The weekends are filled with me spending a lot of time with my kids, but my heart continues to break on Sunday nights as my daughter begs me not to leave for work and stay home and play with her.

School continues to be busy, but the feel of this semester is remarkably different than previous semesters.  I am fortunate to be in a class group with a diversity of experiences and perspectives.  Additionally, every member of the group is working together well and we all share a deep desire to maintain clear communications.  We have our ups and downs, but the underlying desire to be better is so motivating to me.  It makes the work so much more enjoyable.

On Saturday, I organized a volunteering day with my work colleagues and we all served at a soup kitchen.  Serving people breakfast and lunch was a truly enriching experience.  Most everyone said “thank you” as they left the cafeteria, but one moment in particular stood out.  A young girl, perhaps 4 years old, was being carried out by her older brother.  Just as she was exiting the door, she smiled, waived, and said, “Thank you!”  My colleagues and I were shocked at how touching the impact of her thanking us was. I confess that it emotionally impacted me and I felt the sensation deep in my heart.  It was truly a memorable week.

A Juggling Act


“Work-Life balance” is a phrase I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. My first two weeks of grad school consisted of 12 hours of class, 40 hours of work, 2 career workshops, 3 informational meetings, 1 career fair and several long hours of reading (exact number unknown). I ate a lot of fast food, slept far less than the recommended daily average, and managed to wash exactly zero dishes. Let me tell you, grad school at the Fisher College of Business is no joke.

I’ve always considered juggling one of my strengths (no, not literal juggling). But by the end of the first week, I already felt myself floundering– barely treading water to stay afloat in the sea of opportunity. I found myself looking around in my classes, wondering how the heck is everyone else doing it?! How do I juggle work, school, and a social life, which are all arguably—and certainly in my opinion— components of a healthy life? Is it okay for one to win out over the others, or even more dramatically, to drop one entirely so the other two can survive? Well, I decided to ask around and collect some data.

The bad news: no one really knows how to do it. The good news: everyone is in it together.

More on the bad news:

Well, it could be more accurate (and less sourpuss) to say that the jury is out on how to best juggle the trifecta of work, school, and a social presence– and everyone has their own strategy. My advice in three simple steps:


  1. Schedule: Have one. Plan out what needs to be done and do the things you tell yourself you’re going to do. It feels good to deliver in tangible ways and to follow-through—for yourself. In the words of a wise Morgan Hite, “there is no substitute for sanity.”
  2. Make time for the things that reinvigorate you: This is important. Spend time with people you love, have a beer with a friend, watch stand-up comedy, blast the music in your car and sing at the top of your lungs. These are a few things that help me put chaos back into perspective.
  3. Take Pleasure in the Simple Things: Even when you feel like you don’t have time. Get some fresh air, people watch on campus, enjoy the walk home from class, appreciate the full moon and the sound of summer nights while they last. Try not to rush—appreciate the transition times as much as the activities themselves.

More on the good news:

We’re in this together. I’ve known my cohort for less than three weeks, and I already feel we understand one another better than most. There’s something about being stressed together that connects people on a deeper level. I realize now that I’ve missed this feeling from undergrad.

Maybe it’s because we’re like-minded people who genuinely care about helping people become the best version of themselves (call it HR). Maybe I just lucked out in the gamble of grad school cohorts. But when I think about the last few weeks, one word dominates—grateful. I am grateful to be treading water in this sea of opportunity and wisdom that is the Fisher College of Business. It is one of the best “problems” to have.

Paraphrased from the wise Dr. Larry Inks (Clinical Associate Professor at FCOB), there’s only one thing to do with the towel of experiences that make up life—wring it out and soak ’em up.


“Shape the Game”

Well, I am hot ‘n’ heavy into my first semester! I must admit that I feel a bit overwhelmed. It’s a manageable “overwhelment,” but it’s become clear to me that time will be precious while in the MHRM program. In addition to the core courses, I’m taking two electives this session (and probably one elective next session) and serving as a graduate administrative assistant for the college. I also am going to try to re-launch the Fisher LGBT affinity group (called “Out in Business”) sometime soon if I can get the time to do it! (For a myriad of reasons, the group is currently inactive, although Fisher is absolutely inclusive and welcoming with LGBT students.

Anyway, one of my favorite courses thus far is called “Organizational Turnarounds.” The crux is: how do you turnaround failing organizations? Senior Lecturer Jeff Rodek teaches the (popular) course. We’re learning that this difficult task requires a lot of structured, but quick decision-making. In addition to a textbook, we’re gleaning insight from case studies and articles… AND Mr. Rodek himself. He’s a former CEO of Hyperion Solutions– and he was charged with doing his own turnaround of the company. You can read quite a bit online about his time there. What’s awesome about the class is that the students are required to analyze and assess HIS performance at Hyperion– the good, bad, and ugly. It’s part of our first group paper.

Mr. Rodek himself

He’s incredibly open and honest about his experience as CEO. He doesn’t sugarcoat it. He’s reflective of things he did well and things he’d like to go back and change. And he wants us to learn from it. How cool is that? This isn’t some professor who’s been buried in research for years; he’s been in the thick of things and he’s sharing his insight and knowledge with us. He also has a great sense of humor and really tries to spark good conversation in the classroom.

One thing he said in class this week– and this was really a very small comment related to the topic at hand, but immediately hit me– is the need to “shape the game” as leaders (particularly during a turnaround), not just “play the game.” As someone who’s told friends and colleagues many times to play the game, I really appreciated his revision of this mantra. It resonated with me. Shape your experiences and relationships in the way you want them to be shaped; take change of your own destiny rather than being a willing bystander.

And it applies to what I’m doing now as a student. Despite the stress, I’ve reminded myself that I am here because I want a challenge. I’m here to grow. I’m here to be the best. So, I’m going to work hard, build relationships, and learn as much as I can to shape my professional and personal life in the way I want it to be. O-H-I-O!

Dancing with My Daughter

The first week back started with a ‘Kick off’ session of the inaugural Fisher Leadership Program of which I was selected to be a part.  Being around talented colleagues, hearing the overview of the program, getting details of the individual electives, and meeting the person I’m to mentor were all extremely motivating.

“Performance Management, Learning and Design” and “Business Excellence Two” are the classes that I signed up to take this semester.  After a summer of working in ‘Learning and Development,’ I found the first week of classes extremely relevant to my recent experiences.  Although not too overwhelming, it was a shock to jump back into the extensive reading assignments.  I felt different in my approach to both the assignments and group interactions.  From my internship, I was more confident about how to approach both.

During this first week, I also continued the Office Exchange Program that I had done during the first year of my work as a staffing coordinator.  Additionally, I also inquired about and got promoted to a Sales Account Executive position.  I felt that this would be a perfect opportunity to  learn more about the sales side of the business and an opportunity to develop professionally and personally.

At the end of the week, I got a text from my MHRM cohort showing a group photo of them after a team building experience opportunity.  Initially, I wanted to participate in this event, but decided not to sign up because I was away from my family most of the summer due to the internship in Maryland.  There are certain moments where you decide why you work.  My week ended dancing with my daughter to the song ‘When Can I See You Again?’ by Owl City.