Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of profiles of 2014 Work Study Supervisor of the Year nominees. The winner will be announced at a luncheon Thursday, April 17.
When sophomore Brittany Kuhn arrives for her regular shift with the Office of Human Resources, she thinks of it as an honor.
That is largely due to her work study supervisor Michelle Polowchak, director of human resources.
“I have developed an enormous respect for Michelle’s dedication to her position, and for continuously making me feel like a part of the human resources team,” said Kuhn, a Palmyra resident, who nominated Polowchak for the Work Study Supervisor of the Year Award.
“Michelle not only assigns me in-depth projects that illustrate her trust in me, but I have also been given the opportunity to attend the monthly human resources meeting with the staff,” said Kuhn. “The longer I work with Michelle and the human resources team, the more responsibility she and the staff instills within me.”
The various projects Polowchak has assigned Kuhn “allows me to use the knowledge I have learned and am learning in my classes now, such as my human resources management class, my computer applications course, and my economics classes.”
And that something for which Kuhn is taking full advantage.
“Being able to take what I learned in class for the day and then apply it to the work that I do is going to be the differentiating factor between me and other candidates when it comes to receiving a job after college,” said Kuhn.
A business management major with a concentration in human resources, Kuhn says her job is “nearly perfect” for her.
“By allowing me to gain full experience into the field that I hope to pursue is such an amazing opportunity,” said Kuhn. “Knowing that if I have any questions about my career choices, or which additional classes would be beneficial, or even which branch of human resources I should pursue, Michelle is always there giving me advice.”
According to two Keuka College juniors, the Field Period internships they conducted in the human resource divisions of different global corporations were the best of times.
While she went to a Boston bio-tech company of 5,000, he went to the U.S. headquarters (Pittsburgh) of a global chemical corporation that employs 17,500 people. Both are juniors, both worked May – August 2013, and both were paid – an uncommon occurrence in the arena of collegiate internships.
She is Sini Ngobese, a business and organizational communication major from Durban, South Africa. He is Devon Locher, a business major from Baden, Pa. Both students are pursuing human resources (HR) concentrations in their business majors, while Locher’s second concentration is in marketing. While Ngobese conducted her Field Period at Biogen Idec, Locher conducted his at Lanxess, a corporation focused on development, manufacturing and marketing of plastics, rubber and specialty chemicals. While she researched best-practice policies for redrafting an internal human resources (HR) manual, he worked on internal surveys covering employee and international intern integration into the city and company culture.
Locher said he was able to visit a production site in Ohio once which allowed him to see some of the manufacturing side of the company – with its setting and safety protocols – as well as the corporate side. The Pittsburgh workplace was positive and upbeat, he said, and while Locher already conducted two HR-related field periods, confirming that HR is the field he wants to work in, his two prior internships were at much smaller corporations.
At a prior Field Period, Locher learned he didn’t enjoy accounting work, but at Lanxess, no two days were ever the same,” he said. “There was always something different going on, even if some of the tasks were the same. That’s what I liked about it.”
In addition to developing what turned out to be a 30-page PowerPoint for managers to review, Locher also researched other company plans to ensure affirmative action laws and other HR standards comply with a wide variety of state and federal guidelines.
“I learned a lot through research,” Locher said. “I think that’s why Keuka does the Field Period, because you can only do so much in the classroom and then you have to get out out there and work and see how it applies.”
According to Ngobese, Biogen Idec is the second largest bio-tech company in the world, manufacturing drugs for those suffering from autoimmune diseases. Ngobese was stationed in its Weston branch office, although the company has locations “all over the globe,” she said.
Ngobese said her duties focused on the capture and synchronization of all U.S., European, and Canadian HR policies, to be shared on a new self-service portal for employees.
“It was, by far, the greatest career experience I’ve had thus far and truly fulfilled what the Field Period mission and vision strives to achieve,” said Ngobese. In addition to confirming her career aspirations and the type of company culture she hopes to find, Ngobese said her Field Period also helped her find a professional role model: Elizabeth Abbott, her supervisor.
“All of us were “wowed” by Sini’s professionalism, communication, work ethic and work product,” said Abbott. “Sini has many strengths, but her ability to communicate effectively, professionally, clearly, and persuasively in both written and oral communications is what really stands out to me. I was proud to have her represent my department and proud to call her a member of my team. She will be a strong contributor, I believe, wherever she goes.”
Thanks to Abbott, Ngobese said she now knows exactly what kind of female leader she wants to be, and has a clear sense what future purpose she can have within the HR field. She befriended other HR interns and was able to benchmark herself against those coming from bigger schools and gain confidence that she could still hold her own with them. The experience was so fulfilling, Ngobese may be invited to return to intern a second time, and if so, that would be in the company’s Cambridge, Mass., offices where the HR department will be moved.
“It was intrinsically rewarding in that it truly helped me see that this is what I want to do as a career for the rest of my life,” she said. “I woke up thrilled to go to work and that really was an amazing experience for me.”
The healing power of laughter was the theme of the third annual administrative professionals luncheon held at Keuka College Tuesday, April 2.
While Administrative Professionals Week isn’t until April 21-27, Keuka held its luncheon during the College’s spring break to accommodate a larger attendance.
The featured speaker was Dr. Catherine “Dr. Kate” Ansuini, chair of the Department of Health and Wellness at Buffalo State College. She spoke on “You’ve Gotta be Kidding Me! The Healing Power of Humor” to some 45 office support staff members.
“We have been trying to have Dr. Kate as the speaker for all three years we’ve had a luncheon,” said Diana Rockwell, administrative assistant for IT Services. “I took a seminar from her in the mid-1990s and always wanted to hear her speak again.”
According to Sue DeLyser, human resource manager, Ansuini is a nationally recognized keynote speaker and inspirational health and wellness professional.
“She is best recognized for her energetic and humorous delivery of accurate health and wellness information that is described to be both inspirational and motivational,” said DeLyser. “She is active within her field as an author, nationally recognized keynote speaker, grant writer and leader in her community.”
In keeping with the theme of the lunch, four models participated in a short skit based on the TV show “What Not to Wear.” DeLyser; Carol Sackett, library circulation supervisor; Sandy Miller, instructional resource coordinator in the Center for Professional Studies; and Lynne Heath, executive secretary for the Center for Professional Studies, modeled clothing that was wrinkled, mismatched, not appropriate for work, and stained. A final outfit displayed professionalism.
“We decided to have a skit for a little fun, and since it was during break and we could take a little more time [at the luncheon], said Paulette Willemsen, secretary for the Division of Education and Division of Social Work.
DeLyser said the College has celebrated Administrative Professionals Week as a way to say ‘thank you’ to the office support staff that assists administrators and faculty on campus. This year’s luncheon was sponsored by the Staff Advisory Council and Office of Human Resources.
Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series of profiles of new, full-time faculty members who have joined the Keuka community.
Robert Dischner loves being in the classroom and said it’s always been his dream to be a college professor.
The former director of learning and development for utility companies such as Niagara Mohawk and National Grid, joined the full-time Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP) faculty this year and sees many similarities between the corporate night classes he once led for utility company staffers and the ones he now teaches for Keuka management students in cohorts in Corning and Elmira.
Business experience was woven through his professional career, which includes nearly 30 years of human resources and professional development work. Dischner even had a brief stint as a stockbroker, before he landed his first teaching job: instructing company employees of Niagara-Mohawk in finance and accounting.
In addition to developing employees in technical disciplines, his department set up a corporate university that sought to expand the role of a traditional training department.
“We wanted to educate our employees, not train them, and doing that at night was the way the industry was headed. I didn’t realize at the time, but I was practicing, in a classic way, the model that Keuka has,” Dischner said of ASAP’s once-weekly evening classes, small-group cohorts, and modular format. “It’s a great way to do research and learn at the same time.
“I started off working in the field, then in the training department teaching and getting involved with major change initiatives,” added Dischner, who ultimately found himself in charge of technical training in gas and electric utilities, with approximately 80-90 people reporting to him. But the classroom called to him still.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s in education, and a Ph.D. in education, all from the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB). While his dissertation was in education, it included a focus on business development and reinforced a passion for the difference between training and teaching, he said. (more…)
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