HR Directors Speak Out: Four Human Resources Department Leaders Get Candid about How They're Meeting Campus Recruitment and Retention Challenges and Other Concerns

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Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis, the human resources officer at Central Wyoming College, has worked in higher education human resources for the past 17 years. She serves on the National CUPA-HR Board of Directors, chairs the TIAA-CREF Direct Client Advisory Council, and was a member of the 2005 CUPA-HR Think Tank on the topic of the Future of Human Resources. Davis has also served on the HR-Client Advisory Team for Datatel and the State of Wyoming Employees' Insurance Advisory Board. Davis's department at Central Wyoming supports 430 faculty and staff.

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Jeff Strese

Jeff Strese was already a veteran counselor and consultant when he joined Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 1995 as an organizational development specialist. In December 2007, after more than 12 years with the university--during which time he served as director of recruitment and retention, and associate director of human resources--he was appointed as SMU's director of human resources. An adjunct faculty member in the Cox School of Business, he has taught undergraduate and MBA courses in change management. SMU currently has 686 faculty and 1,541 staff members.

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Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee is associate vice chancellor of human resources for the Virginia Community College System, which includes 23 community colleges on more than 40 campuses and currently has more than 6,200 full-time and 7,400 part-time faculty and staff. Each campus has its own chief HR officer, and Lee's office leads with policy development, training, support, and operational advice. Lee has served as the chief HR officer at three other higher ed institutions. He is a member of the Human Resources Certification Institute board of directors and has participated in "thought leaders" summits for CUPA-HR and the Society for Human Resource Management. Lee has also authored two HR-related books.

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Lori Mulder

Lori Mulder was named director of human resources at Hope College (Mich.) in 2000. She had worked in Hope's business office since 1996. An active member in the Michigan College & University Personnel Association and the Lakeshore Human Resource Management Association, Mulder co-coordinated a 2006 state effort to draft and adopt legislation for a Michigan subminimum wage bill (in response to a large minimum wage increase). She has spoken regionally and worked with various groups to address wellness program best practices. Hope's HR department supports about 750 faculty and staff as well as manages about 1,600 student employees.

FROM KEEPING BENEFITS COSTS IN CHECK WHILE OFFERING GOOD ENOUGH packages to attract candidates, to participating in strategic discussions and decisions with top leadership, the demands on institutional human resources departments are ballooning. Yet as in other departments, resources aren't typically expanding along with these demands. For this virtual roundtable discussion, University Business asked four HR directors about the role of their departments in campus leadership, how they're meeting both day-to-day and long-term challenges, and the current state of HR in higher education.

What is the biggest challenge facing your department and HR in higher education?

Wendy Davis: Getting it all done! It seems that the more we do, the more we have to do. In order to get our arms around the challenge, we are moving many routine processes to online service, which frees up staff time for more strategic efforts.

Jeff Strese: We try to provide as many services in an automated way as we can--not to take away the human element but to free up our staff to provide the human element when it's really needed, such as for counseling. We have just under 20 people in our department. It's a fairly good-sized staff for the size of our university. For the past five or six years, we have really put a lot of resources into leadership development. …