Kirsten Frey never expected to be a professor. But with over twenty years of experience in Human Resources management, her expertise has been invaluable in the Antioch Online’s Masters in Business Administration program. Frey has used her position not only to educate but also to advocate. As the Regional Human Resources Senior Director for Walmart Frey also chairs Walmart SERVES—an association that supports employees of Walmart that served in the military. As an Army veteran and (former) military spouse, Frey works to make sure her community has support in the workplace.
It’s work like this that’s garnered Frey the Regional People Director of the Year award by Walmart. This award recognizes one regional director every year, and there are fifty regional directors that are considered. The winner is chosen based on how they perform against their set objectives, and the work they do outside of their role. As Senior Regional Director, Frey herself manages about 50,000 associates in her Northeastern region, encompassing about 175 stores, and oversees all-things HR from staffing and hiring practices to employee training and development. In addition to all this work and her advocacy, Frey teaches two courses at Antioch in Human Resource Management, sharing her unique perspective with students.
Her success in this role shines through in Frey’s classes as well. Student Emily Sollie had Frey as the instructor for her first class in the Master’s of Business Administration. It wasn’t just an informative and engaging class but reflected Antioch’s values in a field where they might not always be centered. “Our weekly discussions included not just the specifics of HR but also deep reflection on how systemic racism has affected our society— including our hiring, promoting, and other HR practices,” Sollie says. “She set the bar high for her colleagues.”
“Being a part of Antioch was part of the rationale for being awarded Regional People Director of the Year,” says Frey. Teaching is work she came to from her experience in the Army. As a veteran, Frey was originally hired by an organization to be an instructor, offering college-level credit courses to help transitioning veterans ease into civilian life.
Frey taught there for two years part-time and then was invited to help rewrite a course for Antioch’s Graduate Management Studies program. “I was offered the opportunity to rewrite the course to help update it and make it relevant to what’s going on in the world today,” says Frey. It is this passion and attention to contemporary discourse that makes Frey’s classes so relevant. Sollie shares, “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.”
Frey is still passionate about supporting folks leaving active service and their transition to civilian life. She’s always looking for ways to visibly recognize those who have served in the military. “This past Memorial Day weekend, we launched a memorial wall where folks could send in names of loved ones who’ve passed away,” says Frey.
Supportive events like these help veterans and their families feel welcomed as Walmart employees. Frey also helps guide Walmart’s recently instituted leadership policy, guaranteeing the spouses of military service members who move for service a job with Walmart. Whether that’s a transfer, a new role, or otherwise, the spouses of service members won’t lose their Walmart position due to military relocation. It is, in part, because of initiatives like this that Frey was recognized by Walmart as Regional People Director of the Year.
“I’ve always been a bit of a lifelong learner,” says Frey. “I love the constant growth it affords.” Her work in Human Resources and in the Antioch classroom are both emblematic of this enthusiasm. But she wants students to carry this positive mindset into their lives outside of Antioch, as well. “The classroom stuff may be done, but that doesn’t mean your learning stops. Frey says “As long as you are willing to try new things and grow—that’s what’s going to help accelerate your career.”
Growth is the central theme in Frey’s life, each step has taken her to the next. From her role in the military to supporting other veterans’ transition to civilian life, to her work at Walmart, and this recent award in recognition of her success, Frey lives by her own advice. “Time is something you’ll never get back; don’t ever settle for something you’re not happy with,” she says. “Keep growing, learning, seeking until you find that thing.”
Sammie Walimaki (she/her) is a MA student of clinical psychology at Antioch University Los Angeles. Her passions lay in practicing yoga, trying out new recipes, and getting out into nature. She lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.