CMU student excel in HR competition

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Travis Fox now knows from personal experience the things he’s learned at Colorado Mesa University will serve him well in a career in human resource management.

Fox, a senior at CMU, served as captain of a team of five business students that tied for third in a regional case study competition staged by the Society of Human Resource Management. The team also included Kagen Jones, Krissy Neumann, Danielle Pena and Kayla Reece.

CMU tied with San Diego State University in the undergraduate division of the competition, conducted as part of a SHRM student conference in California in March. A team from the University of Phoenix won the competition, while a team from Brigham Young University finished second.

CMU was among the smallest of the 17 institutions with teams in the event, but fared well, Fox said. “We held our own.”

Pat Schutz, a business professor who serves as an advisor to the SHRM student chapter at CMU, praised the team for its preparation and performance. “They really understood the material and engaged in critical thinking.”

The teams had to analyze a 15-page case study detailing problems in a hospital setting, including retention and turnover issues with nurses, low morale and poor community relations. The teams had to submit written findings for grading and then outline their evaluations and recommendations in person before a panel of three experts.

Fox, who also serves as president of the SHRM student chapter at CMU, said his team went through a process of analyzing the situation, identifying key problems, developing several alternatives to address those problems and finally recommending a course of action.

Fox said one problem in the case study involved a gap in the organizational structure between the HR manager and chief financial officer. As a result, the HR manager “didn’t have a voice at the C suite,” Fox said.

The team suggested the creation of a new position of vice president of human resources that would play a greater role in operations, Fox said. The team also recommended additional efforts to address turnover and morale, including exit interviews and employee satisfaction surveys.

Schutz said the competition  challenged students to work together, correctly identify underlying problems and present alternatives to correct those problems. “I think it is extremely beneficial.”

Fox said the competition instilled confidence in the students they’ve learned and can apply things that will help them in their careers. “We brought back a lot of confidence.”