Turbocharging an HR career with new ASU degree

Master of Human Resources and Employment Law program boosts path to success

Guy gets job in office

Jeanny Edaakie is the human resources director and director of strategic staffing at the Maricopa Community College District. She focuses on talent acquisition, but she’s a generalist in the field.

“I've been working in HR for a really long time, kind of worked my way up over the years,” Edaakie said. “But to move to the next level, I really need to have a master's degree. I can do it on equivalency on years of experience. I can prove that I've done it, but you need the degree sometimes to move forward. So I went back to (Arizona State University).”

Edaakie enrolled in the Master of Human Resources and Employment Law program in the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, and she is a member of the inaugural class.

The area used to be an emphasis of study under the college's Master of Legal Studies degree program but launched as its own degree program this fall.

The program caters to both entry-level people who are looking to get into the industry and established professionals who want a credential that will take them to the next level. Human resources managers specifically need to be able to understand what obligations their organization has under a litany of statutes, such as contracts, employment law regulation and new regulations that need to be complied with.

While the new degree might not be familiar to employers, they catch on quickly to the value of it, said Joey Dormady, director of graduate programs at ASU Law.

“When you explain to a potential employer what this degree is, it might not get you the job, but once you get it, it's going to make you much better at it. Because you'll be able to liaise between attorneys and understand that jargon, you’ll be able to anticipate problems and think critically and analytically to break down problems. And it’s just a really desirable skill set to have once you enter the workforce.”

It's a 30-credit degree. Edaakie is earning the degree in two semesters, with 15 units per semester.

“My kids are all grown. So what else do I have to do besides hang around and stare at my husband? So I figured, why not? I can work and go to school,” she said.

A theme behind ASU Law's master's degree programs is the higher you climb in any industry, you're going to be dealing with law and regulation.

“Name the industry, and that's the case, right?” Dormady said.

“If we train students how to navigate the statutory and regulatory framework of whatever area of law — in this case, employment law — how valuable would that be to employers? In terms of HR directors and folks in HR, obviously that is always an in-demand position,” Dormady said.

Job-growth projections over the next 10 years are 5% to 10%.

“We pay attention to trends,” Dormady said. “We try to be innovative. What does a job market look like for certain jobs? What areas of industry is the law school particularly well situated to offer programs?”

Edaakie said keeping up with trends is vital to staying current in the working world.

“I like learning new things,” she said. “I'm not afraid to try new stuff. So I'm really glad that ASU is listening to students, listening to what the community needs, people like me who don't follow a traditional path. We don't jump out of high school.”

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the premier professional organization for HR professionals, with more than 300,000 members globally. The organization has recognized ASU Law as the first law school whose HR programs are fully aligned with SHRM curriculum guidelines.

When students complete the ASU program, it fast-tracks them for eligibility for the SHRM certified professional exam.

“So the value there is once they complete our degree, they don't have to go out and then do additional curriculum through SHRM to be eligible for this credential,” Dormady said. “Additionally, if somebody comes into the program, let's say it's one of those established HR professionals who's looking to do their job better, or get promoted again or whatever, if they're already SHRM certified, their hours spent in our program counts toward their continuing education requirements. So it's a really great extra value for our students.”

Edaakie said she hopes the program takes off because it helps to bring professionalism to an HR career.

“I've been in HR for over 30 years, and there are still organizations that view it as personnel or as processors,” she said. “And we're not. We're part of the business decisions. We're part of the strategic planning of the business. So this is where this program can really come into play with those of us that need that sort of credential to say, ‘Hey, we're professionals, here's our career stuff.’”

Dormady said he is proud of the student response to the program.

“A lot of our students have gone on and gotten, you know, director of HR jobs at big companies, like GoDaddy and other places,” he said.

Top photo by Violeta Stoimenova/iStock

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