Wright wears many hats

December 21, 2012
Nathan Wright

Wright and Beach
Wright with WV senator Bob Beach

Nathan Wright wears many hats at B&E. His undergraduate degree in management makes him an alumnus; his enrollment in the Master of Science in Industrial Relations (MSIR) program makes him a student; and he also plays roles as instructor, graduate assistant and president of the WVU Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Wright said that his role in SHRM has taught him the important lessons of teamwork and leadership. One of only four graduate students recognized as a SHRM Foundation Scholar, Wright was recently featured in the Winter 2013 edition of SHRM's Student Focus magazine, a publication distributed globally to roughly 16,000 members, for a story about the WVU chapter's meeting with West Virginia State Senator Bob Beach. Beach visited with the chapter to discuss HR issues and internship opportunities in the West Virginia Legislature. Wright said he was very excited to have the WVU Chapter displayed in such plain view to a SHRM audience of great size.

"(It was) very cool and exciting. I didn't realize when I submitted (the story) what the scale of the magazine was," he said.

But getting the chapter some visibility in the magazine isn't the only thing Wright has done to heighten the profile of SHRM at WVU. Since the Fairmont, W.Va., native took over as chapter president, there has been a huge increase in membership on campus.

"We only had about 10 to 15 members," Wright said. "I created a promotion where we set a base price of $45 for dues. For every person that joined, we would drop the price by $0.50. It gave everybody incentive to join, and before long the fees were down to $25," Wright said. The chapter now has 54 members.

"Traditionally, the program was only for undergrads, so we've really expanded our base this year," Wright said. Including graduate students in the program is beneficial not only for increased enrollment, but also for competitive reasons.

In the spring of 2012, Wright and three classmates traveled to Clemson, S.C., to compete in a SHRM case-study competition.

"Last year, we placed second. We were beaten by a grad team, and we were an undergraduate team," Wright said. This year, the chapter will be able to send both graduate and undergraduate teams, and he's excited.

For Wright, participating in last year's case-study competition was "really the moment that I realized I wanted to be in HR and that HR felt just right for me. I had a real world experience by developing a program and working with others, and being rewarded for it felt great," he said.

"It's not something you can cram for last-minute," Wright said of the competition, adding that the best preparation was the culmination of everything learned in his classes. "The professors really care. They show us that they want us to succeed and do well, and that makes me believe they are preparing me."

He said that the amount of information in just his first semester of the MSIR program has taught him so much. "I'm excited to take what we're learning and put it into practice for the competition," he said.

He'll get to take his knowledge to the competition in March and also to his internship in Chicago next summer.  The two-year MSIR program requires an internship and online course to be taken between the first and second year. Wright will head to Idex, Inc., to work as an intern in the Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) department.

Wright, who is also a member of the Industrial Relations Student Association, felt hat his graduate studies coupled with participation in SHRM have given him many opportunities.

"I like so much how well known (the MSIR program) is with companies. Many different companies come in to recruit. Our program is ranked right up there with some of the best, and it makes it much easier to find internships," he said. "And the connections (SHRM) has on a global scale provide a lot of opportunities to bring to the students here. Every chapter meeting, we have professionals from the community come speak." In addition to Senator Beach, speakers have included Milan Puskar Dean Dr. Jose Sartarelli and leaders from WVU Hospitals and the WVU Office of Student Employment.

When Wright isn't studying or organizing SHRM functions, he serves as a graduate assistant for Dr. Suzanne Gosden Kitchen. He served as an instructor for a training and development class for undergraduates in the management program this fall. Although this was an added responsibility, he found it to his liking.

"It's high paced. There's so much going on in that office every single day, but it's very enjoyable. I never feel like I don't want to go to work," Wright said. Dr. Kitchen, who is the faculty advisor for SHRM, had a glowing review of Wright's work.

"I depend on him greatly, but so do many of my colleagues and so does my department chair. Other student workers emulate him, as he sets a high standard for quality and quantity of work," said Kitchen.

Wright still has one and a half more years before he's finished with his master's program, and he's excited for what's in store. He's been instrumental in the positive changes in WVU SHRM, but he's also taken notice of positive changes throughout B&E.

"I love B&E's ambition. (They're) putting so much emphasis on becoming a better program and a better school. I feel like I've seen changes take place since I started, and that's great! When I look back 10 years from now I will appreciate it even more because of what (the school) is becoming," he said.

Wright is keeping his future employment options very open. "I don't want to focus on one thing unless I find something I truly love. I'd like to get experience with several of the HR disciplines and then try for an executive position," he said. He still has a while to think about it, but with a sterling reputation at B&E and within the SHRM community, Wright seems poised for success regardless of where his degree in MSIR takes him.