by Claire Miller
Heather Henley began working for the College of Education as a student assistant in the Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education.
Since that first job, she’s moved through the ranks, serving as a staff assistant, administrative assistant and business manager before becoming the COE’s senior administrative coordinator for human resources earlier this year. She was also the recipient of the COE’s 2012 Outstanding Staff Service Award, given annually to a staff member who demonstrates extraordinary service.
Henley recently sat down to discuss her career path, the university’s human resources services and why she loves working in the COE.
Q: How did you first become interested in working in higher education?
A: I had a whole different plan in mind, initially. What I wanted to do was marriage and family therapy with a focus on African-American families, but as you can see, my career took a different path. My first job was as a student assistant, and I think that as a student, you have a whole different perspective on the way the university operates. Once I became a full-time staff member, I think that’s when I was really able to see the inner workings of the university. And I really enjoyed it.
Q: In your own words, how would you describe the role of human resources at the university? What does your job as senior administrative coordinator for human resources entail?
A: As senior administrative coordinator, I handle all the graduate assistant and part-time instructor hires for the college. I also handle all the HR issues and inquiries for COE staff.
I think that one of the most important things human resources handles is faculty and staff recruitment, and helping the departments to make sure that they make good hiring decisions. I think that’s really important because departments are able to hire quality employees, people with good experiences and a good work ethic who can make an impact on their students and the college as a whole. Also, it helps reduce turnover rates – if you have a high turnover rate, jobs aren’t getting done effectively and efficiently.
Q: What are some of the services human resources provides that employees may not know about?
A: I think people are starting to learn more about the employee and organizational development aspects of HR. There are a lot of services we as employees at Georgia State can take advantage of, like the guided meditation and yoga classes, and Quit Tobacco Tuesdays for people who are trying to stop smoking. I think that the university is doing a really great job of doing more for employee wellness.
In terms of organizational development, they have seminars you can attend, such as Five Dysfunctions of a Team. So if you get your front office staff to take one of these workshops, I think people are able to better understand one another and are then able to work better together.
Q: Are there other groups or organizations you’re involved with in your spare time?
A: Off campus, I participate in two organizations: Hosea Feed the Hungry and Hands On Atlanta. With Hosea Feed the Hungry, one of its biggest projects is during Thanksgiving, when we bring meals to the homeless and the elderly. My husband and I would pick up boxes of food and deliver them to nursing homes and families in Atlanta.
Hands On Atlanta is a more broad-based organization that helps a lot of different people. We’ve painted homes, conducted clothing drives, fed the hungry and done other projects. All of this work is really gratifying because we’re directly helping so many people.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job and working in the College of Education?
A: When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor or a pediatrician because you think, that’s the profession where I can help people the most. But as I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that in almost any job or profession, you can help people. And in this job and in all my previous jobs within the college, I’ve been able to do that. If someone needs something, I’m able to help them get it done or if I can’t do it, I can direct them to someone who can.
I really do enjoy working in the College of Education. I love interacting with so many people and getting to see what they do. I love talking to faculty and staff about their jobs and the research that they’re doing because they’re so enthusiastic about it. I’ve been able to learn a lot working here.
For more information about the human resources services provided at the university, visit http://www.gsu.edu/hr.