Emily Sollie has worked in the non-profit sector for most of her career, but her ideas about what is possible in the field have expanded since she started her studies at Antioch. Although her recent work has focused on communications, in pursuing a Master of Business Administration at Antioch she has learned more about roles she never considered earlier in her career.
“When I first started my career, I saw HR as very transactional,” she says. “They were the people who managed hiring and benefits.” Now Sollie has completed the Human Resources Management course and passed the Associate Professional Human Resource certification—a way to demonstrate her knowledge of the technical and operational aspects of HR management, including US laws and regulations—and this experience has shifted her perspective, expanding her ideas of what is possible in the space of HR. As she says, “I came to see the strategic benefits that a good HR team can bring to an organization. And an understanding of HR is important for anyone in a leadership role.”
Today she’s working to complete her studies and earn her Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Leadership and Teams, and this experience has taught her new skills that will support her professional development.
Meeting New People with New Ideas
Sollie is fairly new to the MBA program, and her favorite part so far is getting to know her classmates. She was drawn to the program by Antioch’s core values of social and environmental justice. But in an online program, she was unsure how much interaction to expect among classmates.
However, that was not an issue, and she has appreciated the diverse perspectives that her classmates brought from their own lives and professional experiences. The course design promotes dialogue and discussion and enables students to get into perhaps an even deeper discussion than in a traditional classroom, she said.
Her first course in the master’s program was “Human Resource Management” taught by Kirsten Frey. Sollie appreciated the way Frey asked thought-provoking questions in the discussions. She says, “One of my big takeaways from the class was the strategic role that HR can play in an organization—investing in people can really be a competitive advantage, especially now in the midst of the Great Resignation.”
Within that class, Sollie learned that the human resource industry as a whole has moved toward a more strategic role over the last fifteen or so years. This learning, both from the instructor Frey and through assigned readings and discussions with fellow students, has broadened the possibilities Sollie sees for her future, with a growing interest in organizational development, organizational culture, and the employee experience. And with a varied career path that incorporates a wide range of experience, Sollie brings a lot to offer the program as well.
More Than Administration
Sollie considered pursuing an MBA for a few years before she started at Antioch. She wanted a program that would offer the concrete learning she needed to propel her to the next step in her career. She researched many programs, but kept finding reasons not to take the leap, nothing quite fit what she was looking for. It was this past summer she decided it was time to go for it.
Antioch’s program offers more than standard administrative skills. “I was really excited about the social justice aspect,” Sollie says. “And the idea of approaching a business degree with an eye toward equity and inclusion and environmental sustainability.” It was this triple-bottom-line approach that drew Sollie in. This is a program that offers the opportunity to focus on people, social and economic advances, and supporting the planet, all of which align with her values.
The Path to Human Resources
Before delving into her master’s program, Sollie worked in international development. For the last sixteen years, she worked in various communications roles at a US-based non-governmental organization. First she worked in media relations, then as a communications director, which required close collaboration with colleagues in human resources. More recently, Sollie has focused on executive communications, advising and collaborating closely with CEOs. In that role, she worked on staff communications, employee engagement and organizational culture, including working with staff and leadership to shape a desired culture to support the organization’s strategic goals after a merger.
Sollie knows that staff who feel connected to their work outperform those who are there just for the paycheck. In order to foster this connectedness, she began questioning how organizations could invest in their staff and create healthy cultures where people felt valued and motivated to do their best work. She made a commitment to examining how her organization thanked people, for example, and if the employees felt that they were getting the support they needed. She also underscores the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, and creating an atmosphere where every person feels welcome and diversity is recognized as a strength.
Moving forward, Sollie wants to take these skills and commitment to employees to new heights. She’s currently freelancing while looking for the right fit for her next full-time nonprofit job. She’s balancing the job search with her exciting coursework. “I’m so happy to be part of the Antioch community,” she says. “And I’m really looking forward to the rest of the MBA program!”