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Spring 2021 Advisory

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A Unified Proactive Strategy: How DEI and HCM Advance the Workforce

This past fall, award-winning author and educational thought leader Dr. Edna B. Chun joined Columbia’s Master of Science in Human Capital Management program as an Adjunct Lecturer. Having received a Master’s degree at Columbia University, Dr. Chun reflects that, before coming on board as an instructor, “I was aware of its premier educational programs, global reputation, and outstanding faculty.” Dr. Chun brings more than two decades of strategic human resource and diversity leadership experience in public higher education. The co-author of a dozen books, two of which received the prestigious Kathryn G. Hansen Publication Award from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR), Dr. Chun is a respected voice in the areas of talent management and diversity strategies.

Dr. Chun explains, “All of my work seeks to identify practical and concrete approaches that operationalize diversity and inclusion within institutional culture, practices, processes, and programs.”  Her work in the field, which includes a research process involving extensive in-person interviews, has helped develop her perspective regarding the ways that DEI should inform HCM as a whole. A unified and proactive strategy will drive advancement, leading to success not only with individual performance within the workforce, but for organizations as a whole. “In light of the competitive global environment faced by corporations, non-profits, and higher education, a competitive talent proposition is a necessity, not a luxury,” Dr. Chun declares. She goes on to explain that the integration of aligned DEI and HCM practices “includes actionable leadership commitment and a vision that articulates the business case for diversity.” 

Dr. Chun’s most recent work explores the challenges of the rapidly changing workforce environment in higher education.  “My current work continues to focus on the ongoing journey of colleges and universities to create more inclusive and welcoming environments that support the contributions of diverse and talented faculty, administrators, and students,” Dr. Chun explains. The COVID-19 pandemic, has rendered her new co-authored book, Leveraging Multigenerational Workforce Strategies in Higher Education (Routledge, 2021), all the more timely, given significant reductions in the higher education workforce. “As the economic crisis deepened in 2020,” she says, “colleges and universities had to make decisions about which programs to cut and which faculty and staff to retain—choices that could reflect underlying ageist assumptions.” 

Reflecting on own career path, Dr. Chun acknowledges “I was not aware of HCM as a profession in graduate school or of the potential for a career in this area.” Despite the fact that many of her colleagues similarly found themselves in an HR career without a degree in the field, she notes that, with the expansion of HCM in the public and private sectors and its transition to a more strategic position, this is no longer the case. Dr. Chun states, “it is clear that the practical requirements of the profession are substantially enhanced by obtaining a master’s degree in HCM.” Moreover, “the graduate program at Columbia offers a unique combination of scholarship and practitioner knowledge and skills that will significantly benefit individuals seeking to further their careers in HCM.” 

This rich community has not only benefited Columbia HCM students but, in Dr. Chun’s estimation, has also actively supported her work. Members of the Columbia community and scholar practitioners from other institutions have participated as guest lecturers and panelists in her course, and Dr. Chun has been working actively with the Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion sub-committee in the Columbia School of Professional Studies on a series of events focusing on DEI. This spring, Dr. Chun will facilitate a virtual panel titled “The Challenges of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” exploring the role of HCM professionals in building integrated HCM and DEI talent practices that foster innovation, organizational excellence, and change. So, mark your calendars for April 8, and join Dr. Chun and other HCM leaders for what is sure to be an illuminating event. Dr. Chun shares, “the rich connections I have made within the Columbia community support my work as a scholar-practitioner,” and in turn, these scholar-practitioners support the work of the HCM program’s students and alumni.  

Learn more about Columbia’s Master of Science in Human Capital Management.