M.S. in Human Resource Management and Development
Alumna, Class of 2008
Rachelynn S. Lee didn’t intend to pursue a career in human resources management. After entering a tough job market right out of college, Lee and her husband started a moving and storage company that served college students, in Richmond, Virginia. The company's explosive growth required Rachelynn to hire employees. She thought this would be the least of her challenges. However, she discovered that it was easy to hire people, but hard to hire talent. After grappling with compensation issues and team building, she realized that she was actually quite enthralled with the HR part of the business operation.
She decided to switch careers and was willing to work her way up the ladder to gain experience. "I applied for lots of entry-level jobs and finally someone took a chance on me," she says. At her manager’s suggestion, she decided to take advantage of the company’s tuition reimbursement program by pursuing a graduate degree. From the first information session she attended at the NYU School of Professional Studies, she was sold on the M.S. in Human Resource Management and Development. "The very practical aspects of the degree surprised and impressed me," she explains. "It focuses on preparing, training, and educating the HR professional to be a business professional. This is how HR operates in most corporate offices."
Throughout the master's program, Lee gained practical experience and the confidence to succeed, and she cites the capstone project as particularly valuable. "It's a simulation that many M.B.A. programs use. You are divided into groups and you lead a business in competition with other teams. The group with the highest revenue wins," she explains. "My team won. It was incredibly fulfilling."
For Lee, the capstone project allowed her to put into practice everything she had learned about being a strategic business partner. Best of all, she uses these lessons regularly in her current position as a relationship leader at American Express. "I understand all the levers now: how to control the bottom line, how to price products, when to spend on research and development," she notes.
"HR is a changing field and there’s an imperative for professionals to become more strategic and less tactical," Lee adds. A critical part of that strategic role is being able to interact with and to engage senior executives on issues and trends in play at their level. "I didn’t see myself being in that position when I started the master’s, but five years later, that’s exactly where I am," she concludes.