Monday, April 11, 2016

Remembering the 'human' in Human Resources

Professor of Human Resource Management Cheryl Crozier Garcia, Ph.D. interviews student Matthew Yetter during a ThinkTech Hawaii broadcast.
Hawai‘i Pacific University Professor of Human Resource Management Cheryl Crozier Garcia, Ph.D., said Hawaii is a unique place to teach HR.

"We here in Hawaii have unique opportunities to share about social justice, compassion, dignity and respect," she said. "My students say it's friendly and kind."

HR is not just about following regulations. "You need to keep in mind equity, equality and fairness. It's optimal to have all three. You need to have at least two."

Compassion helps to brings things in focus in HR. Growing up in Hawaii, she knows that local culture values compassion. Crozier Garcia is originally from Waipahu. She had an active childhood, enjoying softball, karate, archery and even French club.

"I'm a proud graduate of Waipahu High School."

For college, she wanted an education that went beyond books, one that included advocating for people.

"I went to Antioch University for my undergrad because it is known for social justice," she said.

Civil Rights leader Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s wife, was an alumna, she added. "This is where I learned about non violent resistance."

She graduated with a B.A. in Business Management, with a growing interest in human resources. Crozier Garcia observed that in business, human resources is the area that comes closest to addressing social justice. She returned home for graduate study in human resource management at Hawaii Pacific College.

"I was a member of the first graduating class of MBAs," she said.

After a career in HR at local companies, she began teaching at HPU. She enjoyed teaching and was encouraged to pursue a doctorate so that she could thrive in academia. Crozier Garcia attended Walden University, where she earned a Ph.D. in Applied Management and Decision Sciences.

"Walden had a reputation for social justice and projects that not only meet academic goals but also made a difference in other people's lives," she said.

What she didn't expect was how much the experience would change her own life. She chose to study how the Rule of St. Benedict — a set of precepts written 1500 years ago of how to live a monastic life — could be used in modern organizations. As part of her research, she went to Saint Benedict's Monastery, in St. Joseph, Minnesota.

"It was a life changer," she recalled. "The sisters were remarkable women and didn't fit the stereotypical expectation of nuns."

The nuns would do things like boldly joining public protests on behalf of human rights, in very tense settings. That worried Crozier Garcia. When she shared her concerns that the nuns might get arrested, one nun replied, "'I've been arrested before.'"

Crozier Garcia was deeply impressed to see such dedication from the nuns for those who were oppressed. One of the nuns, Sister Janice Wedl, was someone she considered "a second mom." Wedl practiced compassion, especially for the boys at a reform school where she served as chaplain.

Wedl told her of a time when she was questioned by a boy with a tough background, who had serious issues. He asked the nun how she'd feel if she died and learned in the end there was no God or heaven.

"Sister Janice said to him, 'My life would have still been worthwhile.'" When I'm presented with problems, I think about what would Sister Janice would do."

"These nuns joined the monastery to become intimately connected to the world. Unfettered, they are able to understand and give love to those without."

Returning home to Hawaii, she said "I came back better."

Crozier Garcia is now the program chair of the master’s degree program in Human Resource Management, in the College of Business. In class, she takes the lessons she's learned about compassion and social justice and shares them with students so they remember that workers are people, too.

"I want to train the best HR students I can," she said. "Students need to connect to their own ethical standards and apply them."

"I try to convince my students, in a lot of cases, they will be the conscience of their organizations."

Learn more about the MAHRM program at

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