Nine University of Wisconsin-Platteville students recently attended the 2022 annual Society for Human Resource Management Conference and Expo in New Orleans, Louisiana – the largest gathering of human resource professionals in the world. Dr. Sameer Ahmed, assistant professor of human resource management at UW-Platteville, made this opportunity possible for students – for the first time – by arranging with conference organizers the possibility for students to volunteer at the conference in exchange for admission.
In addition to volunteering at registration and as session hosts, students attended professional development sessions related to human resource management and management, as well as networked at and attended the Society of Human Resource Management Expo. They also heard keynotes from former President George W. Bush and Arianna Huffington.
Dr. Caryn Stanley, assistant professor in UW-Platteville’s School of Business who attended the conference with the students, said that in addition to learning from each conference session, the experience of volunteering proved to be just as valuable for the students.
“The students said that when they were registering people, it became an exercise in learning how to network easily,” said Stanley. “Working registration was an opportunity to literally practice the soft skill of small talk. Attending the sessions served two purposes because when they were monitoring and introducing speakers, they got to network with higher up, well known folks leading the sessions, as well as learn the material being presented. Volunteering made it possible to attend, and they got to network with authors and other influential people. There were a number of times students came back to the hotel and said, ‘guess who I’m connected with on LinkedIn now?”
Aaron Lehman, a senior business administration major from Des Moines, Iowa, agreed that learning the importance of networking and building relationships in business was one of the most valuable things he took away from the conference.
“The conference adds a tangible example of how to network and just how easy it is,” said Lehman.
Stanley said attending the conference with students provided a new perspective for her too, especially as they attended the expo portion of the conference, which hosted more than 500 solution providers related to the human resources field.
“Students were really surprised by the expo and didn’t realize how much of business was related to human resources,” said Stanley. “We do a great job preparing our students to be in a human resources position, but this really made me think about how to explore more possibilities with the students and explain to them all of the job possibilities related to human resources.”
“Through this conference, I was able to capture a better idea of different sections of human resources from personal experience, which is much better than reading it in a book,” said Cody Post, a senior human resource management major from Markesan, Wisconsin. “My major takeaway from this conference is that human resources is a much larger field than I originally thought, with many moving parts and a large impact on the organization they are a part of. The expo helped me understand this while seeing the hundreds of different companies that focus on one facet of HR.”