Jonathan Walters is from a small town called Conneautville, Pennsylvania. He has always been inclined to help people learn. As a young student, he was usually the first to volunteer to help other kids in class. During his time in the Air Force, he was responsible for teaching job skills and delivering presentations on safety topics. After one particular presentation, he realized he worked so hard on them because it’s what he enjoyed the most. Jonathan’s wife, who already had her degree in HR, explained that he could make a career out of that if he studied Learning and Development. This suggestion led him to pursue HR!
For Jonathan, the most beneficial part of the UNT HR program has been his professors. Since he started pursuing HR, every course and professor at UNT has reaffirmed that he made the right choice. He would like to give a big thank you to Professor Cathy Westurn in particular. She encouraged him to apply for an internship at DFW Airport, which turned out to be an incredible experience. He gives additional thanks to Professor Roxy Verrelli and Dr. Doug Killough for
sharing their experiences and wisdom, and Professor Marc Grether in the math department. Professor Grether gave Jonathan a single piece of advice during his first semester at UNT and he attributes all his academic success to that moment. Finally, Jonathan is thankful for all the resources provided by UNT such as career fairs, academic advisors, and student organizations.
The most important thing Jonathan has learned in the HR program is how important it is to meet people, both in and out of your degree circle. By talking to just a few new people each semester he has made connections across campus that make it easier to form great groups in his courses, learn about upcoming events, and someday lead to potential job offers. Like one of his dear colleagues told him, “your network is your net worth.”
Professionally, Jonathan’s greatest accomplishment came just last summer during his internship at DFW Airport. He had the chance to work closely with a Learning and Development manager Charles who invested his time to teach the basics and explore potential career options. While working together one Monday afternoon, Charles mentioned he was preparing to deliver a 2-hour course called Developing Interview Skills, and that it might be a good opportunity for Jonathan to get his feet wet. However, the course was scheduled for Thursday morning, so with only two days to prepare, he worked tirelessly to learn the material and practice his portion of
the presentation. Jonathan delivered the full first hour of the presentation entirely by himself to a group of seven employees. The feedback he received from Charles surpassed his expectations, and the formal course reviews from the students were astounding– everybody in the class assumed he was a professional facilitator and had no clue he was an intern! Jonathan believes this is his greatest accomplishment because it gave him the greatest feeling of joy he has had in recent memory, and it reinforced his confidence to pursue HR as a career.
Jonathan’s first big takeaway from his internship is to understand that even without experience, you have a lot to offer. When he was selected to join the Total Rewards team, he knew nothing about the details of compensation and benefits, but what he did have was a good attitude, strong work ethic, and an eagerness to learn. Although these things don’t require talent, Jonathan believes they will help you just as much, if not more than experience alone. His second takeaway is to express your interests early and often– let people know what it is you’re passionate about. Jonathan pursued HR to explore Learning and Development, but while
working so closely with all the sections in HR, he got to shadow managers within Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the L&D Team, and even got the opportunity to lead part of a project for the Innovation Department outside of HR. The people he worked with in Total Rewards encouraged him to explore his interests. Jonathan attributes this opportunity to “early and often” vocalizing his interests to his peers.
Jonathan is sure that he wants to start his career in Training and Development as a facilitator/instructor. Following that, he would like to give himself the opportunity to explore the Instructional Design aspect of L&D. He is happy to start with just a couple of goals, and believes he will learn more about what he wants as he gains new experiences. Jonathan advises new students to try new things, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and be present.
“Never underestimate the power of positive relationships.”
Connect with Jonathan here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonwalters21/
Matthew Jimenez was born and raised in Lewisville, Texas. He decided to pursue HR because he knew he would be learning more about employment law, and it had been a dream of his to become an established attorney. The learning experience Matthew has had in the HR program outshines any of his previous courses, because each class takes such a deep dive into their respective materials for a student to better understand the process and know what to expect for post-grad jobs. One example is in a compensation and benefits course he took with Dr. Gavrilova-Aguilar. The course included a semester-long simulation where four students in each group were managers of certain HR functions and had a fixed annual budget. It was stressful at the time of taking the class but in the end, the students had learned a lot through trying new strategies to boost productivity and employee morale.
One of the most important things Matthew has taken away from the HR program is the analogy: “Human Resources is a giant tree with plenty of branches to get into”, whether it is recruitment, talent management, or even payroll. He knows that his career path is versatile and not prone to being stuck in one specific area. Matthew holds his four Dean's List certificates in high regard because they indicate that his time management abilities are further improving. He admires students that take heavy academic workloads and succeed while working.
Matthew is currently interviewing for recruiting jobs in the DFW area. After graduation this May, he plans to take a gap year to do LSAT prep and eventually enroll in law school. He would like to pursue employment law because he has already gained far more insight on it in the HR program than any other form of law. Upon receiving his Juris Doctor, Matthew wants to gain more experience in a firm and eventually open his own in Lewisville to give back to his community.
Matthew advises all HR students to get involved in organizations that can benefit you, such as those that give you access to a mentor or help you with soft skills and make you more knowledgeable in HR. He also stresses the importance of joining the Society of Human Resource Management and the Professional Leadership Program (PLP) early in your degree plan. These programs combined will make the most out of getting you to be the best you can be while in the HR program.
Connect with Matthew here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewrjimenez
Mykah Austin is from Irving, Texas. She realized HR would be the right fit for her while working at Target, because she felt that she belonged in the business world, excelled in leadership roles, and enjoyed supporting her coworkers in any way that she could. HR focuses on supporting the most important asset of the business– the employees–, and offers many career opportunities. The HR program consistently encourages students to network and she has been able to build her LinkedIn network over the past year. This has allowed her access to so many opportunities, especially post-undergrad. Academically, Mykah has learned to be more resourceful by accessing UNT’s many offerings, like the campus libraries. In many of her courses, her professors have consistently demonstrated several ways to navigate and browse for specific scholarly articles and data.
Professionally, the UNT HR program helped Mykah to land a Talent Acquisition Support Specialist internship with CEC Entertainment by providing resourceful tools and tips on creating a resume and cover letter, developing SMART goals, and conducting interviews. This internship focused on the pre-employment process and hiring strategies for candidates to ensure the recruiting efforts drive business results. It has shown her how important compliance and strategy are within a business. Mykah has also learned that while working in a corporate office, it is important to understand all departments' initiatives and goals to really understand how you
can support one another. She aspires to land an international HR role with a business that would allow her to explore different cultures and parts of the world as an HR generalist or HR consultant.
Mykah’s greatest accomplishment is maintaining a full course load while also working full time. UNT’s HR program offered a great selection of courses and flexibility which allowed her to balance these commitments. Mykah has recognized how understanding and intentional she needs to be within her position, along with cultivating her network and relationships with other colleagues in the industry. She is also proud to have completed the challenging HRM simulation in Dr. Gavrilova Aguilar's Strategic Benefits and Compensation class. The simulation allowed her to apply her knowledge in HRM and make strategic decisions based on business needs while working alongside a fantastic team!
Mykah has three tips for future HR students:
- Always be open to meeting new people and networking.
- Make it a goal of yours to be involved around campus and participate in class discussions. Focus on building relationships while you are here because it really makes the experience better.
- Be a leader.
Connect with Mykah here: linkedin.com/in/mykahaustin
Ezra Poch pursued HR because they felt that it combined their desire for a career in business with a focus on "the power of the people." Networking and collaborating with new people are also huge components in the field. With the amount of guest speakers, group projects, fairs, conferences, competitions and panels that are offered through the UNT HR program, networking with professionals, professors, advisors, mentors and colleagues becomes a daily occurrence.
Ezra notes three UNT courses that benefited their HR journey: first, an HRIS course, which helped them excel at their current job since it requires them to use HRIS daily. Second, a Strategic Management course bolstered their skills in business analytics and data searches. Finally, their Professional Development III course introduced them to new professionals who provided feedback on their elevator pitch and opportunities to update their resume, cover letter and thank you notes.
They also learned about dining etiquette, which was very useful when attending educational luncheons, conferences, ceremonies, or award galas.
Ezra has served in multiple officer positions in UNT SHRM: Director of Community Relations, Director of Merit, Vice President, and now President. These roles have been essential in developing their skills as an emerging professional: learning how to follow and lead, speak and listen, teach and be taught, and win and lose. They are prepared to be on both sides and trust that either stance is critical for their professional development and team.
As Ezra reaches their final semester, they have learned how to successfully intertwine their education and career. They encourage other students to balance professional, leadership, and educational opportunities. Currently, they are a full-time DEI Coordinator and previously worked as an HR Coordinator. They feel prepared to graduate and become an emerging professional since they have experience contributing to large HR projects, initiatives, and their colleagues’
conversations. Ezra’s key takeaways from working full-time in HR would be to shadow more experienced associates and continue learning outside of school. While doing that, it is important to do it for others by letting less-experienced students ask questions about your internship and share problem-solving techniques with them. Ezra would like to start their career as a graduate assistant or staff member for a DEI division in higher education and then work as a professor– and
eventually as a university president!
“Educate yourself, but also educate others.”
Connect with Ezra here: Linkedin.com/in/EzraPoch
Brenda Mendoza is from Dallas, Texas. She pursued her degree in HR because of her dad. He is an HR professional with 15+ years of experience and has always expressed how much he enjoys his career. While she was inspired by his passion for the field, she immediately knew it was the role for her after she started at UNT. She loves how HR gives her the opportunity to help people, build meaningful connections, and she’s fascinated by how much influence an HR department has on a company and its employees.
Brenda feels as though the HR program at UNT helped her reach her personal and academic goals through the support of two of her professors who have helped her tremendously during her time at UNT, Dr. Mariya Gavrilova Aguilar and Professor Erin Welch. Brenda states, “They are the most passionate, caring, and kind professors I have had the pleasure of meeting at UNT. Since we met, they’ve always been supportive and willing to help in any way they can.” Brenda also learned the importance of growing her network. While all the HR classes helped her in countless ways, she now understands that valuable advice, guidance, and support from seasoned professionals is very valuable.
Brenda’s greatest professional accomplishment is that she began as an HR intern at FC Dallas in January of 2022, quickly promoted to HR Assistant, and then promoted to HR Generalist within her first year of joining the organization. She’s extremely proud of her hard work which got her into the position that she is currently in, and she is very excited to see what the future holds.
Brenda hopes to continue learning from her current role and would eventually love to start her own HR consulting firm and give professionals the opportunity to work for a place that makes them feel valued and respected. Her advice for future students is, “Use any and every opportunity you are given to learn and be a sponge. UNT offers so many resources to begin or continue your professional career, so get involved on campus and make the most of them!”
Connect with Brenda here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brenda-mendoza1/
Sharon Volpe is from Wylie, Texas. She pursued her degree in HR due to her interest in both keeping a business running and protecting employees. Sharon states, “I see Human resources as the perfect blend of corporate improvement with a humanistic twist.
Sharon feels as though the HR program at UNT helped her reach her personal and academic goals through the many internship experiences found through UNT Handshake. Her access to this resource, as well as multiple career fairs and quality HR education at UNT have uniquely positioned her for success in the Human Resources industry, according to Sharon. Additionally, multiple classes have influenced her direction in HR, such as the Workplace Health and Safety class, in which she explored workplace safety.
The most important thing Sharon has learned in the UNT HR Program is the value of real-world experience. All the resources she used at UNT, such as career fairs, career advising, and even her HR classes all point towards the necessity of hard work and determination. Sharon states, “It is ultimately my responsibility to put myself out into the corporate landscape and adapt myself to each opportunity.”
Sharon’s greatest academic accomplishment was graduating in three years with two internships on her resume. By taking college credit during high school and working each summer and during the semester, she created an extensive resume that helps her stand out as she enters the employment pool. She feels as though her years of hard work have finally paid in her accelerated education and corporate experience. Her first internship was at Progress Residential as a Recruiting Intern. At Progress, she cross-checked job descriptions on Career website, Workday, and company’s internal files to ensure they matched, updated contingent workers spreadsheet to separate active and non-active workers in the company, and organized the “Human Resources” digital resources. Her key takeaway from this experience is the necessity of fitting employees with each specific departmental culture. Although skills and experience are vital for an applicant, it is equally important to integrate each new hire into the corporate fabric. Sharon’s second and current internship is at TRC Companies as an HR intern. She works in the digital sector creating “New Hire” and “Employee Recognition” posts on Yammer to increase connectivity among employees. She also developed a Social Group map to locate remote employees around the U.S. and connect them for social events. Her key takeaway from this experience is the need for flexibility. She has had to take on different roles at TRC in the HR department, in each instance teaching herself how to perform her responsibilities.
Sharon strives to continue in the human resources industry for most of her professional career. Moving forward, she would be interested in specializing in both talent acquisition and the legal administration of workplace policy. The advice Sharon has for future HR students is, “It is important to strike a balance between HR education and real-world experience. Both build off and complement each other. It is crucial to take any opportunity to make connections in the business world and expand your resume with internships.”
Connect with Sharon here: linkedin.com/in/sharonvolpe
Leslie Jaramillo is from Garland, Texas. She pursued her degree in HR due to her experience working in her parents’ janitorial business. Her mother manages everything that has to do with employees and the finances. Seeing what had to be done in order to be there for the employees and maintaining the relations with them was very interesting to her. Leslie then began helping her mother with keeping up with the company's payroll and immediately knew that this was something she wanted to pursue as her career.
The HR program at UNT helped her immensely with finding ways to reach her specific career goals within the degree. The networking events and supportive HR faculty motivated her to go out on her own and want to succeed. Taking the Strategic Rewards and Performance Management course gave her better insight and perspective in employee compensation. The class also touched on payroll which was something she could relate to based on her experience with her parents’ company. Her experience in the HR program and the advice from Dr. Aguilar has guided her to pursue an HR Generalist position after graduation.
The most important thing Leslie has learned from the HR Program is critical thinking skills. She has a better insight of employee compensation, benefits, regulations, recruiting and onboarding; she has dealt with these on an everyday basis as an intern.
Leslie’s greatest professional accomplishment has been graduating with experience in an HR department. She is currently holding a position as an intern at LSG Sky Chefs located near DFW Airport. The company has given her an opportunity to get a “little taste” of what the admins, generalists and specialists do and has provided the opportunity for her to hold orientation and work with I9 verification, W4 forms, and job applications/interviews.
Leslie began her internship in January. She has received a lot of recognition due to her work ethic and her assignment was extended post-May. Leslie states, “This experience will help me so much when wanting to land a full time position after graduation.”
While attending UNT, Leslie was involved with the UNT SHRM chapter as a Director of Student Relations which is one of the greatest experiences she had at UNT. Being involved in SHRM has given her a better perspective of what people in the HR world deal with on an everyday basis. Leslie states, “The guidance and motivation from the Advisors are such great help in finding your career path in Human Resources. The organization holds guest speakers and workshop days that are very, very beneficial in the long run. Very helpful advice is given in moments of confusion when trying to figure out your career path.”
Leslie has a passion for human resources and working with employees to improve their quality of life through support and communication. One of her main goals is to develop her knowledge of human capital management and maintain a positive, value-based work environment. Her advice to future HR students is: “Being a first generation college student has been very tough especially while trying to figure out what you want to do in the long term after graduation. Never give up regardless of how overwhelming it gets. Never be scared of reaching out for help or any guidance, be social because you never know who you meet and you never know how far a conversation could go.”
Connect with Leslie here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lesliebjaramillo/
Jaeden Hollins is from Lancaster, Texas. He pursued HR due to his curiosity about the industry and discovered that HR is not intended to be the bearer of bad news, but is instead the heart of a business, a resource for employees, and an aid for organizations to grow through strategic planning. UNT’s HR program provided Jaeden with excellent career preparation services and the chance to network with students and employers, along with classroom projects centered around real-world experiences. Jaeden’s favorite courses have been with Dr. Mariya Gavrilova-Aguilar and Professor Erin Welch, who provided fun and engaging assignments and played a key role in his interest in HR.
While in the HR program at UNT, Jaeden learned how beneficial professionalism, networking, and meeting new people are. Thanks to these skills, he received an internship at the City of Carrollton within a month of declaring an HR major, as well as a post-graduation job offer with another organization. Working and connecting with his new coworkers proved to be a valuable experience. Jaeden was allowed to shadow in many areas such as payroll, recruiting, benefits, and compensation. He also discovered the HRIS field and found interest in the technology and analytical perspective of HR. Jaeden is interested in various positions for his future career,
including being an HRIS Consultant, HR Analyst and HR Business Partner. He chose these roles due to his own personal interest in learning how technical systems work and using analytics to make the best decision.
Jaeden’s time with UNT SHRM has been rewarding, especially working in community service and learning from guest speakers who discuss success and trends within the HR field. He considers it a privilege to have served as the Director of Student Relations where he performed tasks that involve building relationships with HR students inside and outside of SHRM. This May, Jaeden is proud to be graduating as a first-generation student from a single-parent household. He believes that walking the stage and receiving his diploma will open new doors for himself and his family. Jaeden advises future HR students to ignore the stigma around HR, explore the many opportunities in HR, and find their niche. HR provides a variety of opportunities and is essential to the performance and growth of an organization.
“Once you have found your niche, develop those skills, and pursue excellence in that area.”
Connect with Jaeden here: linkedin.com/in/jaedenhollins
Paige Hajek pursued a degree in HR because she discovered an interest in helping new hires succeed in the most efficient way. She also found it incredibly rewarding to be part of a department that helps new hires get acclimated to their new positions. Paige is always excited to see this process because she believes it is important to have the backbone of a company encourage management and employees to be their best.
Paige transferred to UNT in her junior year and has felt encouraged to succeed ever since. Paige is proud of herself and her dedication, evidenced by her consistent spot on the President’s List every semester since her enrollment. The many resources provided through UNT’s HR program helped her to reach her personal, academic, and professional goals. Frequent career fairs, HR networking events, and UNT SHRM’s amazing peers and advisors encouraged Paige to talk about her passions and guided her journey into the professional world. The most crucial thing she has learned is the importance of networking–speaking with other like-minded people at career events, but also with fellow classmates and professors. It is about who you know, and you can learn so much about different points of view in HR when you take the time to listen to those in the same profession.
In April 2022, Paige began an internship at Wiley X and was given the opportunity to remain with them throughout her senior year of college. She has enjoyed learning from her mentor and boss and is greatly appreciative of the wealth of knowledge she now has about the industry. Paige’s time with Wiley X taught her that everyone has a different outlook on certain situations, and it is important to both listen to others and voice your opinions. She also learned that HR practitioners are never done learning, and should be willing to learn every day to grow with the technology, the economy, and their respective companies. The personal and professional growth she has gained has made her genuinely love her chosen profession. In the future, Paige hopes to continue on as an HR Generalist or HR Manager at an amazing organization where her coworkers care about her opinion and her superiors see the importance of HR as a strategic partner for the company.
Paige joined UNT SHRM in Spring of 2022 and loved socializing and learning with other members, officers, and advisors, so much so that she became even more involved in the chapter as Director of Communications during Fall 2022 and now Director of Merit. Paige advises future HR students to get involved in everything they can. It is very important to go to student organization meetings, networking events, and even the library to meet and study with friends.
“It is so important to make the most out of your short time in college, so just remember if you’re asking yourself if you should go, you should. And if you’re too scared to go, you should still go…”
Connect with Paige here: www.linkedin.com/in/paige-hajek
Mya Koko pursued HR due to her exceptional people skills and desire to help others succeed in the workplace. UNT’s HR program helped her to broaden her knowledge of the field’s many complexities beyond “hiring and firing”. Mya believes that employee wellbeing is essential because a company’s success is only as strong as its internal relationships. The most important thing Mya learned from the HR program is that people matter, especially those working for a company they are passionate about. Providing them with the right benefits, compensating them for their work, appreciating their culture and ethnicity, allowing people to express themselves, ensuring that the onboarding process goes smoothly, and overall being fair are all aspects of taking care of the employees. Mya currently works as an Associate Banker at JPMorgan Chase. This position inspires her to have confidence and build relationships with clients of all ages. She has also learned to be professional, have patience, and neutrally solve any uprising problems.
As a small-town girl from Yangon, Burma, Mya is proud to have fulfilled her dream of attending UNT and learning from amazing professionals. She is thankful for the support from her parents, teachers, mentors, and professors, who took her under their wing and showed her that some dreams do come true! Mya will graduate with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Human Resource Management and pursue a Master’s degree. She also plans to get her SHRM-CP certification, which will help her advance from an entry-level position to Vice President of HR .
Mya currently exercises her people skills as Vice President of UNT SHRM, having previously served as Director of Community Relations in her junior year. She is also in her second year volunteering for North Texas SHRM’s annual conference. She finds that being a part of UNT SHRM has strengthened her team work, communication, and leadership. Mya advises future HR students to participate in UNT SHRM as well:
“It may sound difficult, challenging, and you may not like being in front of people, but put yourself out there and overcome those challenges in a room where everybody is in the same position as you and will not judge you harshly. You will learn so much about yourself and your capabilities.”
Connect with Mya here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/myakoko/
Michelle Grisham-Wallace believes that a successful HR professional puts the “Human” in “Human Resources'', and both her academic and career accomplishments are clear proof of this philosophy. She began her journey at UNT as an Accounting major, but while enrolled in a Technical Writing class she discovered the efficacy behind concise, positive writing. This skill came in handy years later both in her HR career while communicating with employees and in advice to her five-year-old son: “Your words have power”. Michelle praises her UNT professors’ ability to respect her obligations while motivating her to reach her fullest potential. While projects like public-speaking presentations or collaborative team projects have proved the most challenging, they are also the most rewarding and reflect skill sets found in professional settings. Michelle advises other HR students to push past the discomfort and develop these skills in a safe environment: the classroom.
In Michelle’s experience, the most rewarding part about working in HR is helping people. She strives to actively combat the negative connotations around HR by treating her employees with empathy, and making HR a place her employees want to come to instead of a place they must go. By acknowledging their issue, validating their feelings, sharing her resolve to find a solution, and making sure to follow up throughout the process, Michelle effectively takes ownership of a problem. She promotes an environment where people feel comfortable asking questions and reaching out for help, understanding that it is common for employees to be overwhelmed with the complexities of compensation and benefits. Instead of simply giving someone a phone number to call, Michelle finds the answer herself and seeks out savings programs to lower their prescription fees. She genuinely loves learning what is covered, how it is covered, and how to find the cheapest, most beneficial combination for her employees and their families. This additional effort has inspired gratitude among her employees, as they have more important things to do than to wait on their phones fighting over medical claims!
As a first-generation, non-traditional college student, Michelle finds great pride in finishing her degree at UNT with Dean’s and President’s List placements, as well as Latin Honors. She is also honored to be awarded the HR Excellence scholarship by Fort Worth HR– she attended an “Autumn Soiree” at The Reata, where she was honored in front of Fort Worth HR’s members with an acrylic award and a $500 check. Michelle holds a unique perspective and encourages other non-traditional students to pursue as much of the traditional college experience as possible. In the past, she frequently engaged in negative self-talk and was apprehensive about engaging in extracurriculars, but ultimately shifted her viewpoint from “No,” to “Why not?” This new mindset led Michelle to join UNT SHRM where she met emerging HR professionals with bright futures and two advisors who earnestly supported her in 2022. She also notes two other “Why not?” moments that changed her life for the better: although Michelle initially hesitated to apply for the HR Excellence scholarship as a non-traditional student, she gathered the courage to request recommendation letters and submit an application. She also told herself not to run for office UNT SHRM due to time constraints, but ultimately pushed past this uncertainty and now enjoys her new duties, challenges, and priorities as Director of Corporate Relations! In this role, Michelle is responsible for coordinating guest speakers for meetings, and in doing so, she has made connections with senior HR professionals, honed her networking skills, and involved her family in community service opportunities.
Connect with Michelle here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michellegrishamwallace/
Alexis Rucker is a problem-solver– she has always loved complex puzzles and was drawn to HR’s combination of business and management. Throughout her college career, Alexis mainly focused on maintaining her 4.0 until UNT’s HR program recommended extra enrichment for her major. The leadership team guided her to a mentorship program, where she discovered UNT SHRM and enthusiastically took on an officer role. This position calls for large-scale people management, working
with others to find solutions, and promoting engagement, all of which prepared Alexis for the industry. She also gained experience by representing UNT at the 2022 Purdue HR Case Study. Along with fellow SHRM officer Ezra Poch, Alexis was motivated by competing students from across the country who were as passionate about HR as she is!
UNT’s HR Networking Event also introduced Alexis to her current internship at Safran, a prolific aviation manufacturing corporation. There, she learned four key concepts:
1. Never to be afraid to ask questions.
2. Understanding a concept and applying the concept are two different things.
3. Ask for what you want.
4. Excel is so much more important than you think.
In the future, Alexis intends to become CHRO of an organization and demonstrate how a good HR structure can completely change an organization, as it is a crucial part of successful companies, but still so often overlooked. She believes that an open mind and willingness to learn are essential to great management, and will apply the multiple networking skills she learned in UNT SHRM to her future career. As Alexis continues to grow in her HR journey, she reflects on how she truly wouldn't be where she is now without the help of her advisors and professors. Her advice to other HR students mirrors this sentiment:
“Get involved! Not just to build a strong network but to have an amazing college experience!”
Connect with Alexis here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexis-rucker/
Shalen Alfaro has made the most of his major during his time at UNT. He decided to pursue a degree in HR because of the endless opportunities to build meaningful connections. Under the guidance of Professor Erin Welch and Dr. Mariya Gavrilova-Aguilar, Shalen excelled personally and academically. He notes adaptability and sustaining meaningful connections as keys to success. He began as a member of UNT SHRM before serving in a leadership role of Director of Student Relations, where he confidently oversaw student recruitment, mentoring, and program enrichment.
As a May graduate, Shalen reflects on his final semester at UNT with great pride. He is incredibly grateful for his parents, siblings, friends, and teachers, whose support helped him to finish four years of college strong. Shalen encourages any current or future HR students to take advantage of their time at UNT to embrace the unknown.
“Open yourself up to new experiences, new opportunities, and new people. Opening yourself up can be frightening but having the courage to put yourself out there can bring you endless opportunities. Do not be afraid and always remember that you are not alone!”
Connect with Shalen here: linkedin.com/in/shalen-alfaro-82b615263
Allison Nuenke was eager to study HR, knowing even from a young age that she felt fulfilled by helping those around her and giving back to her community. She was involved with volunteer work as a child, and is grateful that she can pursue a career that allows her to continue working with nonprofit organizations. Since HR is an inherently people-oriented field, Allison understands the influence a strong department can have on team morale. Many of HR’s basic functions, including onboarding, off-boarding, and simply giving employees an outlet, have a huge influence on the general workplace environment. She believes that when companies make an effort to contribute to employee wellbeing, they distinguish themselves as a caring, welcoming business that values its workers.
Allison is a full-time HR Operations Administrator at JDA TSG, a consulting and outsourcing company. Having worked in this position for over a year now, she is confident that her achievements are a result of compatible morales, passions, and values. She encourages students searching for internships and careers to first consider whether the company is a good fit for them, since this is often neglected. To guarantee further academic success, Allison strongly advises other HR students and practitioners to participate in class. Even when it may seem like some classes are extraneous to your degree plan, it’s important to remember that every assignment can give you valuable background knowledge to transfer to a career. Allison discovered that her coursework assisted her with understanding the reasoning behind certain procedures, completing her tasks efficiently, and preparing for the workplace.
Allison is familiar with a demanding work-school-life agenda, diligently working 40-hour weeks alongside her 19 credits hours at UNT. She finds that this schedule is challenging, yet a core factor in her success as a student and employee. A constant stream of commitments has honed Allison’s time and stress management abilities, and although she is now adept at prioritizing projects, she openly accepts the need to constantly develop her skills. As her career progresses, Allison aims to transition to an HR role in a leading hospital. She is passionate about helping others and believes that working within the medical field–while challenging–would further fulfill her ambitions. She also hopes that her expertise will help change the negative perceptions patients may have about HR.
First and foremost, Allison advises HR students to seek out self-fulfillment and self-inspiration. While marketing your skills is important, actually finding a job that you enjoy will elevate your performance even more! When students put effort into their coursework and form relationships with professors, they have a greater chance of succeeding personally, academically, and professionally. Allison cites Handshake as a prime resource for students looking for a new direction– once you are able to define and apply your passions, success is more attainable.
Sung Mawi lived in Chin state in western Myanmar before moving to Dallas, Texas in 2011. She originally enrolled at UNT as an accounting major, but soon decided to explore other fields of interest. While researching several prospective majors, including real estate, engineering, and finance, Sung was drawn to HR and set out to gain hands-on experience in the field working as an assistant. Fortunately, Sung was able to apply for an internal role at Suntronic, an electronic manufacturing company, and although they did not have any entry HR positions available at the time, she secured an interview with the help of a character recommendation from the receptionist. After working with Suntronic’s department for a while, Sung found her passion for HR and decided to change her major.
Having worked in HR for over four years now, Sung has learned valuable lessons in accountability and effective management. She notes the differences between textbook HR management techniques and real-world organizational structures, particularly within a family-owned business. HR’s countless functions introduced her to a new world of improving workplace quality, and she strives hard to reach Suntronic’s three key outcome variables: productivity, quality of work life, and profits. Sung has also contributed significantly to her organization’s workflow through improving their new hire paperwork system and presenting the Annual Performance Review.
Prior to her time at Suntronic, Sung’s academic excellence earned her a full-ride scholarship through the Gates Millennium Scholars Program for APIA students. She recounts the surreality of spending nights writing college application essays in high school as a 1st generation, non-English speaker to working full-time in the HR field! Today, Sung diligently continues to advance her career, pursuing a Chief/VP of HR position.
Sung encourages students to find an internship in order to truly explore all that HR has to offer. She believes that anyone who enjoys being around people and helping others
feel accepted should try HR management– since a huge part of the population spends most of their time in the workplace, a genuine desire to support and value your coworkers is an essential component of HR.
Mallory Smith is from Paradise, Texas, a small city just north of Fort Worth. After spending several years mastering her craft in the cosmetology and pharmacy fields, she realized that HR would be the perfect career path. Many of the day-to-day responsibilities she enjoyed reflected core HR principles, such as completing detail-oriented clerical duties, interacting with her peers, and helping others advance professionally.
Mallory is an accomplished, driven multitasker, actively maintaining top grades throughout school while working and parenting. In March, she began an HR internship at the Omni Hotel in Fort Worth. This opportunity has shown her how companies can thrive internally by developing a culture that emphasizes employee values and appreciation. When Mallory completes her internship, she intends to take on an HR generalist position and continue to develop her skills.
Gaining as much experience as possible is key– Mallory’s main tip for students is seek out internships while in college. Although UNT’s academic programs prepare students with theory, hands-on experience is vital for professional growth. Even after graduation, Mallory stresses the importance of consistent, cognitive training in order to remain competitive in the business industry.
Maria Russell is originally from the scenic city of Tacoma, Washington. She was drawn to the versatility of HR– not only its numerous opportunities for internal growth, development, and innovation, but also its diverse responsibilities. When considering UNT’s multifaceted HR program, Maria notes the Professional Development courses as some of the most beneficial lessons in self-improvement. Prior to taking the classes, she struggled with getting over her nerves during internship and job searches, but the tips outlined in the coursework helped her gain valuable feedback on ways to improve her presentations.
In May of 2022, Maria interned for Safran Seats, a globally renowned aircraft equipment manufacturer. She was encouraged to concentrate on components of HR she found interest in, while also exploring benefits, training, recruitment, and other sects in the department. Interning with Safran Seats taught Maria the benefits of working for a company that values her time and effort, and actively guides her towards her professional goals.
As a first generation student, Maria is proud to finish out her final school year and graduate this Winter! She hopes to be a part of changing the stigma around HR and become a leader that employees feel comfortable reaching out to for help.
Kamerin came to UNT from Napa, California, having also gained travel experience from his journeys to multiple countries while serving in the Army. After re-entering civilian life and witnessing poor employee treatment in the workforce, he set out to translate the care and attention demonstrated in military leadership over to daily HR operations. Recognizing that indifferent management can severely stunt employee morale, Kamerin believes that organizations should strive to treat their workers ethically and subsequently boost company growth.
Kamerin finds great pride in both successfully fulfilling his military service and applying his G.I Bill to complete his degree at UNT. As of May, he is interning for the City of Richardson’s HR department. He finds that being genuine, making himself dependable, and actively trying to learn from those around him contributed to the confidence he has in his internship today. Kamerin is working toward his goal of overseeing an HR department, where he can help to guide and develop the next era of HR professionals.
UNT offers a plethora of student resources and Kamerin strongly advises students to utilize as many as they can. He especially vouches for the Career Center and student organizations like SHRM, where he was able to garner industry knowledge and keep updated on ever-developing employer interests. Kamerin also speaks to the value of networking, which he views as the backbone to any business major. Lastly, he stresses the importance of expressing yourself courteously and professionally– you never know if you’ll run into a future employer!
Allison Nguyen comes from Dallas, Texas, pursuing an education and career in HR with a heart for people and a clear goal to produce compelling work. She practices valuable skills in her studies and career with Toyota Industries Commercial Finance. She currently works as their HR Coordinator where, among other duties, she owns the New Hire Experience, ensuring that every new hire feels welcomed, valued, and equipped for success. She also discovered the abundant paths available in HR, including the flexibility of being a generalist or the freedom to pursue specializations like recruiting, benefits, and onboarding. Allison highly encourages students and professionals alike to explore all that HR has to offer in order to find their niche.
While HR is often misconstrued as a wholly data and compliance based industry, Allison believes that courteous efforts– such as taking the time to welcome a new hire on their first day– are what truly helps workplace environments to thrive. Genuine gestures help employees to recognize their individual talents: “every action matters”! Allison views the lasting impact she had with Toyota Industries as her greatest professional accomplishment. Her peers and supervisors vouch for her trustworthiness, ability to foster a comforting work environment, and commitment to going above and beyond.
Down the road, Allison aims to be an HR Business Partner and help align an organization’s “people strategy” with their “business strategy”. She advises others to cultivate lasting
relationships both in and out of the classroom, especially in our hybrid digital age. Building connections, whether through GroupMe, LinkedIn, or email opens up countless opportunities for us to learn from each other!
Hayley Dial came to UNT from Frisco, Texas, finding herself drawn to HR’s stable, yet demanding environment. She finds that HR is centered around the idea of being comfortable with the uncomfortable and supporting peers, and openly embraces the challenges that come with it. UNT’s HR program offered Hayley many opportunities to learn skills applicable to the workplace– she highlights her Public Speaking and Professional Writing course as one of the most influential classes in her studies. This course helped Hayley to present and dictate negative news professionally, two vital skills that she carried on into her internship and career.
As the current Director of Development for UNT SHRM, Hayley takes the lead on community service and fundraising. She is enthusiastic about presenting new ideas to her team and continued support for Denton! Two years with SHRM have taught Hayley to get involved, network with professors and peers, and join campus organizations, all of which she encourages other HR students to do as well.
This March, Hayley interned for the manufacturer company Hilti North America as a Talent Acquisition Intern. During her time there, she worked under the University Relations Team on multiple strategic projects, all of which were accepted and are still being implemented as Hayley completes her senior year. She reflects on the internship program as a solid opportunity to exercise creativity in a workplace setting and form independent ideas. Hilti also supported Hayley’s journey by exposing her to the different angles of HR. She was encouraged to speak with several colleagues who offered advice and stories. These repeated successes paid off–
Hayley was offered a full-time position in Hilti’s HR department and will begin in January of 2023, a new chapter she is eagerly looking forward to. In the future, Hayley aspires to work her way up to being the VP of HR for a company she has been affiliated with long-term.
Amra Zametica is a first generation college student, hailing from Dallas, Texas. As an academic trailblazer, she views her high grades as one of her greatest accomplishments. Amra has also shown prowess in the HR field by rising to the ranks of Director of Community Relations this Fall, coordinating community organizations and developing strategies to give back to the community. She finds that her time there– both as a member and a leader– enriched her knowledge of HR practices and helped her confidence to grow. SHRM also allowed her to interact with professionals and practice effective teamwork, a fundamental element of successful HR relations.
Amra’s experience working in retail inspired her to pursue HR at UNT. As someone who enjoys a challenge, she felt driven to create a welcoming environment, create meaningful change, and help organizations to grow. Working in HR programs taught Amra the importance of communication– having a genuine desire to reach out and help others is a necessity. She also cites problem-solving skills as a crucial part of keeping employees and patrons satisfied and companies operative.
Currently, Amra is searching for a Fall internship and opportunities to grow in the HR field. In the future, she looks forward to coming home everyday with the knowledge that she did something right for her peers.Amra encourages future HR students to join SHRM and make connections. Although it may seem nerve-wracking, the benefits of speaking and learning with others is rewarding!