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‘Complex dynamics’

Master of employment relations program benefits from interdisciplinarity

Teaching and Learning

By Janet Harron

Memorial alumna Amy Warren is a perfect example of how the master of employment relations program’s flexibility can benefit students — and their careers.

Dr. Amy Warren

A member of the program’s first graduating class in October 2003, Dr. Warren went on to earn her PhD in human resource management at St. Mary’s University in Nova Scotia. She has been involved with the program in various roles since then and is now its director, succeeding Dr. Alan Hall.

A partnership between the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Business Administration, it is MER’s inherent interdisciplinarity that Dr. Warren believes makes the program unique.

“There are so many complex dynamics in the workplace. In this program, students are exposed to everything from sociological concepts to human resources management policy and theories and therefore have a broader understanding of what makes people tick and how employees react to things the way we do,” said Dr. Warren, who will host an information session on the program on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at 12 p.m. in A-4049D of the Arts and Administration building.

Dr. Warren says that HR practices are continually evolving, from an emphasis on simply managing employment to the intricacies of providing a workplace where employee health and well-being is at the forefront.

“We are seeing organizations of all sizes encouraging a more balanced relationship between managers and employees,” she said. “Society overall is more aware now of human rights issues. HR is really contributing to this awareness as we teach new philosophies of management.”

Improved workplace

Dr. Warren entered the program with an undergraduate degree in commerce, but she believes the program is for anyone who is genuinely interested in how to make the workplace better.

“I knew I needed to modernize my skill set.” — Patricia Allen

People like Patricia Allen, for example. Ms. Allen graduated with a BA from McGill University in film and communications and, after an extended hiatus from the labour market, enrolled in the MER program in 2015.

“I knew I needed to modernize my skill set and found the program to be a perfect fit,” said Ms. Allen, who says she gained the necessary tools to excel in a multi-generational workplace thanks to the varied demographics of her fellow classmates.

Ms. Allen is currently working with the vice-president of HR at Toronto’s Boat Rocker Media, a global entertainment company that creates, produces and distributes premium content and brands for all platforms. She credits her graduate degree in employment relations for securing her position.

“I recommend the program as often as possible and have described the program at each of my job interviews and to my current employer.”

Benefits of interdisciplinarity

Ms. Allen agrees with Dr. Warren about the benefits of interdisciplinarity.

“A fellow student with a strictly business background told me that the sociology requirement was most beneficial for him because it required him to look at the business relationship between management and worker from different perspectives,” she said.

“Prior to taking the sociology course, his main focus would have been on increasing a company’s bottom line. After completing the course, he became more considerate of employees and their role.”

Stephanie Kennedy worked as a career information assistant at Memorial while completing her undergraduate degree in anthropology and archaeology.

“That course helps me do my job every day.” — Stephanie Kennedy

She discovered that she loved working with people and helping them discover what they wanted to do in their future careers.

“A woman who also worked at the centre was one of the first to go through the MER program, and I felt like it was a good fit for what I wanted to do.”

Since completing her master’s degree in 2011, Ms. Kennedy has worked for the Canada Revenue Agency, a program manager for the Try the Trades program and is now a human resources manager with the provincial government.

“The interdisciplinary approach teaches students about the human side of human resources,” Ms. Kennedy said. “I work in an unionized environment and the labour law and the history of labour courses have been invaluable tools. I am aware of the origins of the labour movement in North America and from that can see how the labour movement has grown and evolved. That course helps me do my job every day.”

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