For Marc A. Chini, giving WVU students enrolled in the human resources master's program a feel for the "real world" is the best thing he can do for them.
He's a regular visitor to the College of Business and Economics and, with colleagues, leads a class through a mediation exercise that is as authentic as they can make it.
"The case has actual 'monetary' value for the students as we provide a variety of gifts to use in the mediation process. The students can try to keep, or give up, portions of the gifts to settle a dispute." We all have a lot of fun with it," said Chini, who is executive vice president for human resources at NBC Universal, a $16 billion entertainment business comprising The NBC Network, Universal Films and theme parks, an array of cable businesses including MSNBC, CNBC, USA, Bravo, and SyFy, and new ventures in digital media.
A graduate of Ravenswood High, he received his undergraduate degree in business administration from WVU in 1980 and a master of science in industrial relations degree in 1981.
The case involves an employee law suit against a company. "We bring a variety of gifts like notebooks, water bottles, backpacks, etc, but only bring enough for half the students. We give it all to the 'company' side of the room. As the case is explored, the students that make up the 'company' must decide how many gifts they want to give to the other side of the class, the 'employee', to settle the case," he explained.
In six out of eight times students have finished the case study, he said, their conclusions were very similar to cases he sees in real litigation. "Some of the quotes by students during the mediation are nearly identical to comments I have heard made by employees, business leaders and even jurors," he said. "It's an experience that I believe gives them a preview of what they will encounter in their careers."
But a career in human resources is much more than settling a law suit. "I love every minute of my job, and even on my worst day, I would not give up the experiences I have gone through," he commented. "The variety of work in HR is huge, and every day I feel I have the opportunity to make a difference for an employee, an organization or the business. I may be dealing with something routine, or I may be involved in very strategic decisions affecting the business. In the HR function, literally every day can bring something new to your work agenda."
After nearly 30 years in HR, he should know. Chini began his career with a company that made large industrial motors, transformers and generators. Then he went to a life insurance company. "I finally broke the code on what it was going to take to be successful," he said. "I needed to work with a company large enough to offer the career opportunities I was looking for – that turned out to be General Electric." He began his GE career in Florence, S.C., with a GE Healthcare plant start-up.