Cleveland State chapter of SHRM gains valuable experience while coaching veterans
By Nina Polien Light
Student members of Cleveland State University’s award-winning Society of Human Resources Management chapter learn as much from disabled veterans as they do from professors. And that is just fine with at least one instructor.
“I am so proud of what our students are doing,” Dr. Tracy Porter, CSU SHRM’s advisor and college associate lecturer in the department of management, says. “Once a month, they go to the Wade Park Veterans Administration and help veterans develop a resume. Students sit with the veterans one-on-one asking questions, coaching, and helping them to see that they have phenomenal skills.”
Graduate student Anna Gibson, CSU SHRM’s incoming president, says working with veterans is a win-win situation. The ex-military men, who have encountered personal or physical challenges, appreciate learning computer skills and interviewing techniques from nonjudgmental students who may share their uncertainty about the job market.
“It’s a great opportunity for us (students) to work on interviewing skills,” Gibson, who is studying toward a master’s degree in labor relations and human resources, says. “You have to probe them to get them to share their experiences: ‘You worked in a factory? What did you make? Who did you manage?’ Helping them realize what they’ve accomplished in a factory-line job helps their self-esteem and helps us learn to ask the right questions.”
The program has been so successful that Porter is introducing an opportunity for students who meet additional criteria to receive university credit for their work at the VA. Other CSU SHRM members may continue their volunteer affiliation. CSU SHRM will also host mock interviews this fall so students can hone interviewing skills and veterans can practice responding. About 40 veterans will participate in a job fair with 10 local companies in October.
The 50-member CSU SHRM chapter offers students real-world experience in human resources management, encourages certification as a human resources professional (available to undergraduates and graduate students), and matches students with internships. The group provides networking opportunities among students and between students and business professionals. The student chapter is among a larger organization that includes professional groups at the local and national levels. The $35 student dues include memberships to the national and student chapters. Students may join the Cleveland group for an additional fee.
Membership is available to students in any discipline, although most are enrolled in CSU’s Monte Ahuja School of Business.
“It’s a great opportunity for us (students) to work on interviewing skills. You have to probe (the veterans) to get them to share their experiences.”
Gibson hopes to build on last year’s successful programming, which included speakers’ panels, meet-and-greet pizza parties, and panel discussions with CSU alumni who have gone on to successful careers in human resources. This year’s workshops will center on workplace readiness and will likely include presentations on marketing oneself and delivering a successful elevator speech. Another event will feature professionals from disciplines within human resources management, such as training and development or compensation and benefits. The group also plans to work with the business college on professional information nights.
Gibson always encourages students to attend Cleveland SHRM’s monthly luncheons.
“It’s a chance to mingle with professionals and hear about upcoming topics and trends,” she says. “For students who don’t get involved that way, (CSU SHRM) tries to provide opportunities for students and professionals to network. Knowing what you want to do within HR is hard for students if they don’t talk to people in the field. Last year we brought in 18 employers to answer student questions about what their company does and what their HR person does.”
The group’s accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. It was recognized with a Student Chapter Merit Award from the National SHRM for the 2012-13 academic year. The Cleveland chapter recently awarded a scholarship to a current CSU student and honored a former student with the group’s highest award. And Porter and at least one student have been nominated for the HR Awards, presented by the Cleveland chapter of SHRM and ERC. The Nov. 7 HR Awards ceremony is at Executive Caterers at Landerhaven.
“This is a big deal and is very time-consuming,” Porter says. “CSU is a commuter school, and a lot of students work full time, have families, are coming back later in life or are working on MBAs. For them to be involved in something extra is very impressive. It shows employers that our students are willing to do more than what’s required.”
For more information: