By Jamie Shoaf, '11

Listening to a debate between an Ivorian and a Turk, Neha Patel, C'12, leans back in her seat to take in the diverse backgrounds of those sitting around her. Another student, currently enlisted in the Army, chimes into the discussion and provides a satisfactory answer for the professor. Normally expecting to find this kind of diversity in an international studies or language course, Patel momentarily forgets she is in the middle of a Labor and Immigration class as a part of her graduate Human Resource Management program at Richmond’s School of Continuing Studies.

After graduating from North Carolina State University with a major in finance and marketing, Patel knew she had a passion for a career in business. She did not know, however, that a brief stint in Genworth Financial’s Leadership Development program would spark an interest in Human Resources.

In the Genworth program, employees rotate in four 6-month programs ranging from marketing and sales operations to corporate IT. Patel began a program with Genworth’s Human Resources after realizing that marketing and operations might not be the best fit. Here, she realized that working with people made for the most enjoyable work experience.

“People are the moving factors of business,” says Patel. “As soon as I made this realization, I decided I wanted to involve myself more with people on a daily basis.”

With the goal of working with people in mind, Patel began working as an audit consultant for Genworth after the Leadership Development program ended. Eventually she secured a role as Executive Compensation Analyst, a position she currently holds, managing global equity administration, processes and communications strategy.

With a job in the Richmond area that did not require as much travel as the audit position required, Patel began to develop a road-map for her future that started with a solid education in HR.

After speaking with several co-workers and receiving the support of her managers, Patel found the perfect program at the School of Continuing Studies: the Master of Human Resource Management. “UR has a great local reputation, is close to my work and home, and was reasonably priced,” she proudly remarks.

More importantly, the professional networking experience that Richmond provides simplified her enrollment decision. “When someone like me is early in a career, networking opportunities are often hard to come by, especially in a short amount of time. The graduate program at Richmond provides these opportunities in a short time, as I hope to obtain my degree in two years.”

Taught by established professionals in human resources, HRM courses provide the theory, research, knowledge, and procedures used by HR executives, generalists, and specialists. Workforce diversity and the impact of globalization are among some key issues studied, as she can witness these effects in the classroom.

An avid traveler, Patel loved the spring break study abroad trip to Spain with her Labor and Immigrations class. Opportunities such as this are hard to come by in most other graduate programs, especially those offering the flexibility often required by full-time working professionals.

Expecting to graduate in May 2012, Patel looks forward to experience in different specialty areas of HR and eventually assuming an upper-level human resources management position.

Both in the classroom and the office, Patel lives the experiences of workplace diversity and employee engagement. Seizing this opportunity at a young age, a whole new set of career path doors have opened for this young, driven individual.