Vinessa Burnett (MHRM ’18) is pursuing a career in human resources because she desires to make the workplace a better place. She shares how her Fisher experience prepared her to succeed and feel confident in the professional world – and how donors’ support made her journey possible.

Following a personal passion

The decision to pursue a career in human resources was a personal one for Vinessa Burnett. It was largely influenced by her mother’s work experiences.

“My mother has worked for the last 24 years in an administrative role where there hasn’t been an internal opportunity to advance higher,” Burnett said. “Her salary has been capped since 1999 with no possible increase in merit pay.”

“Watching her struggle professionally sparked the question within me, ‘How can her experiences in the workplace be made better?’ She deserved a better workplace culture, fair treatment, higher pay, career advancement opportunities and so much more.”

Although Burnett’s undergraduate major was communication studies at the University of Miami in Florida, she elected to take a human resources class during her senior year. That’s when her passion for human resources was fully realized, and she became determined to “make the workplace a better place” for her mother, for herself and for others.

However, with little applicable work or internship experience, she realized a master’s degree in human resources was necessary to help position her as a competitive candidate in the field. That’s when she began receiving emails from graduate schools about their programs; but it was Fisher’s email that caught her attention — it was the only personalized one.

She connected with the Graduate Programs Office over the phone.

“I was blown away and positively overwhelmed with all of the information, Burnett said. “Prior to that phone call, I hadn’t even considered attending grad school, let alone leaving Florida!”

When she decided to tour the campus and meet with faculty, current students and staff, Burnett said she fell in love with Fisher.

“I felt at home with all of the people I met, that I truly belonged.”

Vinessa Burnett

Creating a ‘leadership legacy’

Burnett received a competitive admissions package, which made coming to Fisher affordable and possible. She made the journey from Florida to Ohio, taking one more step toward making her dream of a career in human resources a reality — and she hasn’t looked back.

“From day one, Fisher has given me the resources I need to succeed and feel confident in the professional world,” Burnett said.

Through her classes, she has been able to interact with people from all over the world, providing her with a global perspective she would not have gained anywhere else. She has also met and learned from several senior business leaders.

“Learning from such high-level professionals in my chosen field — especially in a candid, classroom setting — has been inspiring and invaluable,” she said. “I’m able to learn from their success and envision myself in their shoes one day.”

When she enrolled in the Leadership Legacy class, taught by Dr. Tony Rucci, Burnett didn’t know it would become her favorite class, let alone a life-changing one.

“The class centers on the idea of, ‘What do you want people to say about you at your retirement party 40 years from now?’” Burnett said.

“Throughout the semester, Dr. Rucci spent a lot of time helping us dig deep to uncover the important themes, values and narratives that have shaped our lives, and how we could connect those to our professional aspirations — and ultimately, to our professional legacy.”

The result was a leadership legacy statement, which was the focus of a semester-end class presentation. For Burnett, her statement read: “A hardworking opportunity-seeker with a curiosity to learn, willingness to speak up and a heart for developing others.”

“This is what I will reference periodically throughout my career to make sure I am on track,” Burnett said.

Taking these leadership lessons to heart, Burnett got involved in several student-service organizations and programs. She served as the director of marketing and communications of the Fisher Black MBA Association, was an MHRM Ambassador, and a member of Ohio State’s Black Graduate and Professional Student Caucus and the Multicultural Understanding through Nontraditional Discovery Opportunities (MUNDO) organization.

During spring break in 2017, she advised a Buck-I-Serv community-service trip to Vinton County, Ohio — one of the state’s most poverty-stricken, food-scarce, and least populated counties. The theme of the trip was “college access.” The Ohio State students held workshops in several schools promoting continuing education beyond high school and discussing the opportunities that students have in a variety of postsecondary options. In all, more than 1,400 high school students took part.

“This made me super appreciative of the opportunities I’ve been given and afforded through Ohio State,” Burnett said. “And, it reminded me of the importance to pay forward so that others can get to where I am.”

Vinessa Burnett

Making her dream of a career in human resources a reality

Now, as Burnett begins a career in her dream field, she looks back on all that was made possible for her through donor support.

“Support from donors helped make my dreams of pursuing higher education a reality without going into thousands of dollars in student loan debt,” she said. “Thanks to the generosity of donors, I was able to give my full attention to my education, which has allowed me to excel within and outside the classroom.”

Her career goals are to work as an HR generalist, such as a regional HR manager, and eventually advance toward becoming a chief human resources officer within a major technology company.

“I desire to be a voice for my employees, someone who is able to listen to their concerns, resolve their problems and constantly advocate on behalf of their best interests,” she said. “At the same time, I’d like to work strategically with managers and the business as a whole to create well-aligned human resource strategies that support the company’s overall mission and contribute to its long-term success.”

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