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WVU SHRM provides experiential learning, networking opportunities

West Virginia University has one of the largest student Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) chapters in the U.S., with roughly 100 members. They’ve been honored in recent years, both as the Outstanding Student Chapter in 2014 and earning the Superior Merit award in 2013.

At the end of August, Jordan Gobble, 2014-2015 SHRM President and a second year MSIR student, shared what the group playfully calls the “State of the Chapter Address,” a rough blueprint for the year ahead. She was pleased to let everyone know they already had been hard at work with fundraising and recruiting efforts over the summer.

WVU SHRM has always served to facilitate networking and internship opportunities, meeting monthly to hear presenters from the field of HR and learn what the profession is all about. According to Gobble, the group will take on two new projects this year that allow students to work directly with companies to gain real world experiences.  

“We will be participating in the Bravo program, where we will partner with WVU Healthcare to help them make some changes to one of their incentive programs,” Gobble said. “We’ll be doing research to see what other companies are doing and how WVUH can make some changes.” 

They also will team up with Nemacolin Woodlands Resort to rewrite job descriptions, another valuable experience for those who dream of becoming HR professionals.

One of the main activities of WVU SHRM is its participation in the annual SHRM Southeast Regional Case Study Competition, where teams of six compete for cash and bragging rights, all while honing their writing, decision-making and presentation skills.

The WVU team has a strong history of accomplishment at this competition, with three 2nd place finishes over the last three years. 

“At regional competitions, there can only be two winners,” said Dr. Suzanna Gosden Kitchen, chapter advisor and College Relations Chair for the West Virginia statewide chapter of SHRM. “There are five regional competitions, so 10 winning spots collectively, out of 450 student teams total.”

At case competitions, student teams are sequestered in a room for four hours, where they work together to solve an HR case. These cases come from real business problems, and the students’ work is sometimes used as a real business solution. 

After the four hours, the team presents its solution to a panel of judges comprised of seasoned HR professionals. The two top teams are selected after the first day of competition, and then must present again the second day in front of all attendees – roughly 200 people. Sara Wheeler, a first year MSIR student and third year SHRM member from Kingwood, W.Va., was part of the 2nd place team earlier this year. She said it was a wonderful experience.

“Coming in second showed us that you can still learn a lot without winning. It really prepares us for the future, because the time limit component is how it’s going to be in the real world. In this situation, the pressure was on,” Wheeler said, explaining that her portion of the paper, the executive summary, was worth 40% of the overall score. “I really had to focus, push through quickly, and still write well.”

Gobble, who has twice participated in the competition – once as an undergraduate and once as a graduate student – agreed with Wheeler that these competitions enhance and expand students’ skill sets. 
“It shows a lot of leadership and taking initiative. It also confirms that what we’re doing (in the classroom) is useful,” Gobble said. 

“For students to want to pursue this educational opportunity outside of the classroom completely voluntarily tells me that these students are intrinsically motivated and confident in their academic abilities,” said Kitchen, noting that students give up their free time and do not receive class credit for the competition.

Instead, the students participate in case competitions and other SHRM activities because they love it, and because they want to better themselves for the job market. 

“I think it’s really great for people looking into HR to make connections through SHRM,” Gobble said. “Our past members have gone to work for places like Marathon, PPG and Idex, so our members really get a lot of opportunities to meet HR professionals in the community.”