USC MS in Human Resource Management Student, Nicole Garcia, Awarded Prestigious Fellowship

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USC MS in Human Resource Management Student, Nicole Garcia
Photo: Nicole Garcia

MS in Human Resource Management student, Nicole Garcia, SHRM-CP was recently the recipient of the prestigious Susan R. Meisinger Fellowship for Graduate Study in HR, which was awarded to her in recognition of her success in the Human Resources field and commitment to volunteering in her community.

Nicole lives in Los Angeles and earned a BA in Business Administration and Management from Concordia University. After graduation, while working as a Claims Manager at Cigna, she had the opportunity to interact with HR Managers which sparked her interest in HR.

After getting her SHRM-CP, Nicole says, “That’s when I started thinking that this can be my career, that I can grow, learn and strive to be in a better position to make a positive impact on employees’ lives.” To accomplish this, Nicole decided to pursue the online Master’s in Human Resource Management at USC.

Nicole has a passion for HR because of the direct impact she has on empowering employees, much the same way she approaches giving back to the people in her community. Whether it’s as a volunteer, mentor, or as the Communications Chair with PIHRA West LA, a common thread that drives Nicole is advocating for others.

Tell us about the Susan R. Meisinger Fellowship for Graduate Study in HR and how you were selected to be the recipient?

Nicole Garcia receiving the SHRM Susan R. Meisinger Fellowship Award
Nicole Garcia being presented with the Susan R. Meisinger Fellowship for Graduate Study in HR. Photo: Nicole Garcia

The fellowship, sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Foundation, recognizes one graduate student each year and is not only SHRM’s largest scholarship, but the largest scholarship award granted in the HR field. The fellowship award provides up to $10,000, which is renewable for one additional year for a total of up to $20,000. I was selected based on my work experience, community involvement, and demonstration of HR leadership. Given that SHRM is the world’s largest HR association, the application process is competitive. The scholarship is open to national and international students, and asks applicants to share their experiences in HR, where you think the field is headed and what discipline within HR you are most passionate about. After months of waiting in anticipation for their decision, I was advised via email that I had been selected! I am incredibly grateful to have been recognized for all my hard work and dedication to HR.

What advice do you have for people considering pursuing scholarships?

Be intentional. Take the time to self-reflect about your “why” in all areas of life. The application questions are not just about HR, but about why you are unique and are positioned as a future business leader.

How do you apply your volunteer experiences to your approach as an HR professional?

My volunteer experience and approach as an HR professional are the same. I strive to build connections and respect all while providing support, so people feel valued and appreciated. As a mentor at A Place Called Home, I helped my mentee remain in school by helping her plan for college, solve problems, build her self-confidence and help her understand new perspectives by sharing my experiences. This approach helped us have a stronger connection and allowed her to open up more to talk about her dreams and aspirations. My role was to be her champion, her number one supporter! As an HR professional, my approach is to create a better workplace for the individual, help organizations thrive, and support the communities we work in by sending employees back out as healthy, balanced individuals.

Tell us more about your vision for what you want to accomplish in your HR career in the next 5 to 10 years?

I’ll first share my ultimate dream, which is to become a Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) at a global organization, leading a transformative culture change and achieving gender equity and minority representation across the organization and its leadership ranks. Reverse engineering that dream, my goal in ten years is to be an established HR Director at a global organization. And in five years, I hope to be a Senior HR Business Partner with increased experience in public speaking, exposure to business financials, and have managed at least one transformative, workplace experience. My guiding principles to achieve this are specific — be a visionary, a reformer. Challenge the status quo. We can always do better.

Why did you choose USC’s MS in HR Management program and what has been your experience so far in the program?

Nicole Garcia at the Volunteer Leaders' Business Meeting
Photo: Nicole Garcia

I was seriously debating between an MBA program or MS but decided that while I think it’s important for HR professionals to also be business leaders, I wanted to be a leader with an expertise in people. HR is so complex because humans by nature are complex. There is no one approach or solution and every scenario can literally be approached differently based on a person’s culture, experiences and personality. 

I chose USC because it is a top-rated school with top professors who are experts in their field. They push me to think and learn in new ways to get me to that next level. I have been challenged from day one to be the best version of myself.

The faculty have really stood out and have been very involved and generous with their time outside of class. They have been advocating and supporting my educational goals and career aspirations. They are experts in the HR field, and because of this, they have relevant, applicable experiences to pull from.

What are you focused on currently?

My classmates Melanie Rodriguez, Ralph Larsen, and I are working to finalize an HR Student Chapter at USC. Current students and alumni have been really excited about extending learning beyond the classroom, making it that much more exciting to get off the ground!

I also just started a new role as the HR Manager at Farm Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire change and promote compassionate living. I have the fantastic opportunity to build an HR department, allowing me to directly apply what I’ve learned in class to my role. I’m thrilled to have joined this amazing group of individuals and found an organization that aligns with my values of respect and kindness.

Lastly, I am focusing on creating a personal brand to leverage my unique value proposition and begin working on my presence as a public speaker. I’m confident that if I can dream it, I can achieve it through hard work and dedication.

Learn more about the USC Master of Science in Human Resource Management program.

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