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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
“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:
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
This past weekend, the MHRM Class of ’18 (alongside some amazing class of ’17 peers) went out into the wilderness for Summit Vision 2016! What an experience– and what a way to bond through sweat, tears, and laughter. The day began with several challenges that are top secret “For Your Eyes Only”-type missions. Let’s just say it involved tennis ball “values”, PVC pipe, and one very brave, nimble team member named Billy. One key statement that came about completing these first set of challenges was this idea of “Analysis Paralysis.” That’s where you spend too much time thinking strategy that you end up in a continuous loop of ideas with no action! Once we were given a time limit, we rushed to complete– and eventually won through our communication, determination, and grit.
(For Your Eyes Only!)
We split into teams and headed into the woods. Now for the true wild stuff! First, Team 3 (but really we were number one) had to complete challenges on a large bridge-type teeter-totter. Again the challenges are hush-hush; however, some very important things came about. First, in our group of fifteen there were so many great ideas, and what was even better was the fact that we listened to each other! Five challenges brought about five different leaders, and a multitude of great ideas. We constantly tried new things never fearing major consequences, because we trusted each other and knew we would just think of the next idea if the original failed. We constantly remembered “Analysis Paralysis” and just went with it. The final challenge showed that when an idea that fourteen of the fifteen group members were highly skeptical, yet we trusted and just took a leap of faith (quite literally).
The last thing that really stuck with my from Summit Vision is this idea of challenge by choice. You always want to grow and develop, and the only way to do that is to challenge yourself to push beyond your comfort zone. I am terrified of the idea of falling from heights (thank you, genetics). One of the obstacles was a pendulum-style wire swing. You have to climb up these narrow rungs, stay at the top of a platform, and then right before you swing you have to edge your way to the millimeter edge and just go. I was so scared, and shaking through every bone, muscle, and fiber in my body. However, I heard so many words of encouragement; but, what pushed me over the edge was knowing if I can make it from Ohio to Georgia and go through grad school, then a swing was not going to hinder my learning!
(Conquering my fear of falling and pushing myself out of my comfort zone)
At the end of the day we regrouped, reflected, and talked about our gold (what our group has value and strength in) and our goal (our group/individual potential). Today I know that our gold is certainly our support, and my personal goal is trying new things even if they scare me. It also helps that there are people surrounding me that support and help me push through. (It also helps to debrief with a nice Columbus Crew victory as well).
Always remember to avoid analysis paralysis, and sometimes if it’s scary to find you a supportive group, and just take a leap of faith. The further from your comfort zone you are, then the stronger you are going to become in the end.
I prepared everything possible for my trip to Columbia, MD and the beginning of my internship with Frito-Lay. I had made all the arrangements with taking a break with my job, prepared all the living arrangements, and my car was completely packed out. One of the most difficult moments in my life occurred as I said goodbye to my wife, daughter, and son. I managed to keep myself composed as I said, “goodbye” and started to walk to my car. My 20 month old son then motioned towards me. He was asking for another hug. We embraced and he began patting my back with his hand. I was no longer able to keep my composure and accepted the fact that I was going to be the farthest from my children and wife that I had ever been.
My first week at Frito-Lay I was torn between desperately missing my family, excitement about the adventure ahead, and the desire to take advantage of this unique opportunity. I was assigned one large project to complete over the summer. I was asked to combine multiple career development resources into a single, “one stop shop” with easy access. The whole summer flew by, but I took every opportunity to ask questions, network with people, and learn about the company. My persistent curiosity resulted in developing an Excel-based career development software linking multiple career tools in a single tool. What an amazing summer!
My name is Nikki Villoria and I am a first year MHRM student. Just a bit about me: I am from Alexandria, VA and attended The Ohio State University for my undergraduate degree in Psychology (I’m a proud double Buckeye!). I graduated in 2015 and this past year, I worked as an Educational Leadership Consultant for Alpha Xi Delta Women’s Fraternity. It was a wonderful experience to be able to travel and meet many different women across the nation. Mainly, I assisted in the areas of project management, leadership development, and recruitment and retention. I am excited to be going back to school to become an expert in the field of HR! I’ll be posting regularly throughout the school year so I hope you enjoy following me along on my journey!
Here’s a little look into the early days of graduate school life:
August 22, 2016: The day before classes officially start at Ohio State. The anticipation is quite high! Whether it’s been a few years since we’ve been in a classroom or we’re just ready to start studying a subject that really interests us, it seems that my peers and I are really excited to get going!
Today was also the day for the New Graduate Student Welcome and Resource Fair. This event was held in the Ohio Union to accommodate all the various graduate students from all across campus. Like many of the events we’ve had thus far, orientation to trainings, the morning started with a mingling session (I’ve been meeting new people non-stop!) and of course….breakfast. There were many students coming together from all different types of graduate programs. They mentioned there are about 10,000+ graduate students this year.
(Enjoying the sunshine in the Fisher Courtyard while reviewing all the information from the fair.)
The Welcome Event included a few different speakers like President Drake and Bruce McPherson, the Executive Vice President and Provost, who gave us all a warm welcome into graduate life. A speaker who really resonated with me was Todd Gibbs, Wellness Coaching Program Manager and Doctoral Candidate in Counselor Education. His talk touched on his own graduate school experience and the work he is doing for his doctorate. He talked about “imaging ourselves thriving” through the graduate school program. I really liked this idea. With the uncertainty in starting something new, it is normal to be unsure of why and how I am where I am. There seems to be some fear of the unknown but also excitement knowing that there are wonderful things ahead. I hope that keeping a positive attitude and envisioning myself thriving will help me push through any challenges that might come my way. I am thankful to be where I am today, though there are a few nerves. The idea of “transitions” or “starting a new journey” has been a recurring theme throughout these first few days. I am excited to continue to stay curious and take advantage every opportunity that comes my way!
(Buckeyes checking out all the resources and organizations to get involved in as graduate students.)