Students Seek Studies in Growing HR Field, Contribute To Program’s Rapid Growth

During any given day, you can walk through Rutgers’ Levin Building and find undergraduate students eagerly discussing with professors how to staff, motivate, and develop team members in a work organization. You’d be hard-pressed not to easily identify these same students as studying in one of the university’s fastest growing programs—human resource management (HRM).

Above: Professor Charles Fay, the new director of the undergraduate HRM program, answers students' questions about the program's courses.

“HR has evolved and is now a strategic function in the working world.Our programs prepare students to help organizations manage their talent and stay competitive,” says Professor Bill Castellano, former director of the School of Management and Labor Relations’ undergraduate HRM program and the new director of SMLR’s Center For Management Development (CMD). “I am happy to have been a part of the undergraduate program’s development. It has truly exceeded our expectations.”

What began a few years ago as a small program offered solely as a minor has significantly grown over the years. When the program was launched in fall 2009, there were only 18 students declared as minors. That number currently stands at 220. In fall 2011, SMLR introduced a bachelor’s degree program in Human Resource Management and had 150 undergraduate students declared as majors. Today, there are nearly 400 students participating in the program with HRM as their major. In spring 2012, another milestone was achieved—the first cohort of HRM undergraduates received their bachelor’s degree.   

“I was proud to watch our first group of students graduate with bachelor’s degrees in HRM, fully prepared to make their mark in the HR field,” says Patrick McKay, chair of the Department of Human Resource Management.

Above: HR students meet with recruiters during SMLR's HR Career Fair.

Christopher Wolffis looking forward to being among the second cohort of graduates in May 2013. Two years ago, he switched his major and had no idea what he was going to do after graduation. He says, “The undergrad program helped me navigate through that process, giving me the skills I needed to obtain an internship at the New York City Economic Development Center (NYCEDC) and excel at it. This resulted in a full-time job offer.” Wolff recently transitioned into the position as the NYCEDC’s HR coordinator.

Like Woff, Justin Saranovic is looking forward to graduating this May. He believes that the HRM undergraduate program has fully prepared him for entry into his career. “The program has provided me with realistic expectations for the current challenges that HR professionals face, and the insights from the program's knowledgeable and caring faculty have left an impression on me that I will carry throughout my career,” he says.

The huge interest in Rutgers’ HRM programs appears to follow industry trends. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2009), the human resource field is projected to grow significantly in the next decade, opening up employment opportunities to those with training in the field. To meet this growth, SMLR is increasing the number of HRM courses and sections that are offered in spring 2013.

Courses in compensation, corporate governance, diversity, and global HRM will continue to be offered and taught from the perspective of the HR professional, manager, and employee. This will be accompanied by a new course that explores the relationship between social media and human resources. Ashe Husein, who has master’s degrees from the HRM program and Rutgers School of Communications and Information and is also SMLR’s information technology manager,created and will teach the course. He plans to address current issues surrounding employee and organizational uses of social media.

Above: Professor Jessica Methot polls her Introduction To HR class, increases students' engagement.

“Each day, we’re seeing how social media is impacting the human resource profession and our daily lives. Our students must be equipped to address these issues and understand how new technologies for communications affect the working world,” says Husein.

In addition to addressing timely topics, the undergraduate program incorporates innovative tools to enhance the classroom experience. Professor Jessica Methot’s popular introductory HR course is exemplary of this. She utilizes students’ dependence on technology by regularly polling them in the classroom on a range of HR topics, including interpersonal relationships in the workplace and the occasional, light-hearted question on personal preferences and current events. Students submit their responses via mobile or laptops, and the results are displayed in real-time on a classroom projector. This gives Professor Methot the benefit of receiving automatic feedback on course materials, monitoring attendance, and engaging students.

Stefany Rodriguez, a current senior, enjoys the program’s components and variety of teaching styles. When she initially applied to the program, Rodriguez thought that she would only need to utilize her superb people skills. She was pleasantly surprised.

Above: Undergraduate HRM students participate in the HR Case Competition.

“After attending some of the classes, I realized that HR requires more than just these skills, and the courses focused on more than just HR-related material. I was able to improve my technical, analytical and, most importantly, teamwork skills. It has made me grow not only as a student, but also as a person,” Rodriguez says.

Part of the HRM program’s highlights is the opportunity for undergraduate students to meet with representatives from prestigious companies and potentially interview with them for internships (click here to learn about an upcoming Career Fair). Stefany Rodriguez landed a human resource internship at JP Morgan Chase this past summer, which has resulted in an offer for a full-time job position. “I was able to apply several of the lessons that I learned in the HRM classes,” says Rodriguez. “I am very grateful for the program’s support and motivation; it is truly helping me in my transition from school to the workplace.”

This academic year, several new professors have joined SMLR to address the HRM program’s growing student body. They join esteemed, long-time professors, many of whom are among the most published and cited in their industry. Professor Charles Fay is included on the list of skilled professors and has taught a course on compensation for many years. Professor Fay conducts research focusing on the areas of rewards systems, performance management, and human resource information system. He recently became the new director of the undergraduate HRM program and has great pleasure in seeing the program grow.

“Through the years, I have watched many students succeed in the classroom and in their professions,” says Professor Charles Fay. “I am happy to see our program evolve and look forward to congratulating many more HRM graduates.”