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Shanae Moore ’07 and Whitney Laird ’07 saw one of the ways their psychology majors could be applied to a career through externships in Lafayette’s Human Resources office. They shadowed Leslie F. Muhlfelder ’81, vice president for human resources and general counsel.

Moore and Laird are among more than 200 Lafayette students who recently gained first-hand knowledge of the professional world. They served externships with alumni and other experienced professionals in business, the arts, education, healthcare, law, engineering, science, government, non-profits, and other fields. The students observed work practices, learned about careers they may consider entering after college, and developed professional networking contacts.

Muhlfelder attempted to show a variety of general issues human resources specialists encounter.

“A HR office is very idiosyncratic,” she says. “One week you could be focused on choosing a health plan, the next week dealing with contract negotiation, the next week with an employee performance review. I tried to expose the students to the kind of issues a HR representative might be exposed to.”

Both students agree that the experience was revealing. Moore says that she is more focused with the direction of her career and the externship helped reaffirm her post-graduate goals.

“Before this experience, I had taken a class called Industrial Psychology and we learned a lot about human resources departments, how to screen job applicants, select applicants, and conduct performance appraisals,” she says.

The externship taught Laird that there is more to learn about human resources than what is discussed in a classroom.

“I really noticed from the externship that there are a lot of things in human resources that you have to deal with that you cannot learn in the classroom because each situation is so unique,” she explains. “A lot of the things you have to deal with you must learn as you go along and I can see how experience plays a huge role.”

Moore agrees that the externship was a valuable learning experience.

“You deal with so many employee problems, and you can’t learn about those distinct problems in a textbook. In class, you learn how to deal with general problems,” she says.

“You have to be compassionate about certain things, but you also have to be tough about certain things.”

The students credit Muhlfelder with showing them the flexibility, organization, and time management required for a human resources position. She also guided the students as to what classes they would need to take to pursue a career in the field.

“She kind of took us under her wing and told us what sort of things we should be looking at if we wanted to pursue this field,” Moore says.

“She did a great job of showing us how someone in an HR department goes about their day,” says Laird. “There are just so many things that come up sporadically. She would be working on one thing, the phone would ring and then she would have a completely new situation.”

Moore and Laird networked with other human resources managers and regional specialists at a luncheon for the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Society of Human Resources Managers.

“I think it was good for them to see the sense of community and information sharing among professionals, be it in human resources, engineering, whatever,” Muhlfelder says. “We can all improve the service we render to our communities by sharing the knowledge we have about the best of practices.”

She adds that just as it’s important for students to take the time to seek out new opportunities, it’s important for professionals to take time to give back to the people and places that helped them achieve success.

“It’s part of passing it on, part of the privilege and responsibility for me of having had the benefit of a Lafayette education, which has allowed me to end up having a job as interesting and rewarding as mine,” she says.

Moore is a resident adviser and member of Lafayette Dancers.

Laird is a member of Delta Gamma sorority and is organizing a women’s lacrosse club team.

Categorized in: Academic News