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2017 SHRM Conference: a collaborative endeavor across the B&E family

two WVU B&E graduate students and two professional staff members attended the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2017 Annual Conference & Exposition in New Orleans, LouisianaWhile campus is not jam packed with students this summer, the hustle and bustle has not ceased for students, faculty and staff at the WVU College of Business and Economics. B&E folks are catalyzing – striving to build new skills and continuing to transform the business landscape as we head into the Fall 2017 semester.

One major example – in June, not only one student, but two graduate students and two professional staff members attended the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2017 Annual Conference & Exposition in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“My experience with the SHRM National Conference was rewarding and obviously extremely educational. I believe the personal growth and knowledge I received will differentiate me as I begin my career. At the conference, I was able to learn and develop my influencing, motivation, communication skills, and more, while also enhancing my technical proficiencies as well,” said Emily Myers, Master of Science in Industrial Relations and Human Resources (MSIR) graduate student and conference-attendee from Morgantown, West Virginia.

The other student-attendee was another MSIR graduate student, Sydney Adkins, from Lewisburg, West Virginia. The two students had the opportunity to attend the conference alongside two human resource management professionals, who are now on the academic side of recruiting and development – Kellyn Smith, director of the B&E Center for Career Development (CCD) and Ryan Noon, assistant director of the CCD.

“Having Kellyn and Ryan travel with us provided an opportunity for an additional perspective on the conference. They are both practicing HR professionals who have knowledge and experience that they shared with us during this conference,” Myers said. “Additionally, they operate in the nonprofit industry which has specific differences than other industries, so we were presented with additional perspectives.”

Clearly, that interaction was beneficial for the future professionals, but attending the SHRM Conference was also vital for Smith and Noon as they help to prepare and jumpstart students’ careers.

“It's important for us to stay current on trends within the industry and within the field of HR, so that's a great opportunity for us to maintain those relationships and that proficiency on the topics that our counterparts and corporate America are going to be coming to us with issues about when it comes to staffing and recruitment needs,” Noon said.

The conference was also a great networking opportunity for all parties, and gave each a leg up when it comes to what’s happening in the industry. In addition to her role as director of the CCD, Smith also teaches the staffing course in the MSIR program, so professional conferences like this help her to develop the curriculum.

“A lot of our students have never had the opportunity to attend a professional conference before, so it's a really great experience for them to see what attending a professional conference is like and to get a better feel for what to expect in the future if they attend those types of events once they're in their full-time positions,” Smith said. “And for me as an educator in the MSIR program, it's always important to stay on top of changing legislation, trends, in terms of seeking talent, what's going on with a lot of Fortune 500 companies and the strategies that they're implementing to manage talent and retain it, moving forward. So, a lot of the session content was really helpful in developing course content and, also, helping us in the center to be able to address issues that organizations are facing with our students as they're seeking opportunities.”

Each attendee walked away from the conference and the collaboration with new perspectives and a new appreciation for the HR field. It helped to expand upon that motivation and determination that symbolizes what it means to be a Mountaineer.

“The greatest takeaway from the conference is to know the business that you’re in, as you have to know how the business operates to successfully support it,” Adkins said. “HR is supposed to fuel the culture of the organization, and it has to keep adapting to keep pace with the innovative nature of today’s businesses.”

There is also another important piece to this adventure – another member of the B&E family played a major role in helping the students to attend this conference. Bob Sovine, a retired vice president of human resources and administrative services at Marathon Oil, is a 1979 graduate of the MSIR program here at B&E. A generous man and inspiring HR professional, Sovine established a student enrichment fund to support external experiences for students, like the SHRM Annual Conference.

“I do feel indebted to the program just from the standpoint that both the program at WVU provided me the foundation for a pretty rewarding career,” Sovine said. “I think it's important for students to be able to see what other students are doing, what other professionals are doing actually at work. I wanted to support an external experience that would allow the students to network with other students and future peers outside the classroom.”

And for this generosity and support, the College of B&E and the students are beyond grateful.

“To have incredible alum like Mr. Sovine invest in the development of students truly displays the generosity of our alum. Mountaineers desire to help other Mountaineers succeed, and this is clearly the case with Mr. Sovine,” Myers said. “It also speaks volumes that alum see the value in student enrichment programs, like the SHRM Conference, as important aspects to beginning a career.”