Returning to the Source: Alumni Find the University a Fount of Knowledge and Experts

Posted: October 7, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Colleen Kearney Rich

When Nancy Woolever, manager of education for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), was looking for someone to teach a business law course, the first place she thought to look was her alma mater.

A national association located in Alexandria, Va., SHRM sponsors the SHRM Academy, which offers a broad spectrum of highly focused one-day courses that provide human resource (HR) professionals with a working knowledge of key business topics.

“We have a two-part mission: to serve the professional and to advance the profession,” says Woolever, who earned a BS in Management in 1983 and an MA in Integrative Studies (MAIS) in 1993. “Many people in HR come from all walks of life. They don’t usually come into the profession through a traditional business unit. Yet, this is the environment in which they work, sometimes alongside the CEO and CFO. We try to teach them the business skills—and the thought behind them—to succeed in this environment and work successfully with the other members of the ‘C’ suite.”

SHRM had done some market research regarding what classes to offer through its academy, she says, and two topics that surfaced were business law and business decision models.

Woolever told her co-worker and SHRM Academy manager Jeanne Morris that the best business law teacher she ever had was Rick Coffinberger, associate professor of legal studies in the School of Management (SOM). So they decided to ask him.

Woolever contacted Coffinberger and set up a meeting with him. Morris, who also graduated from Mason with a BS in accounting in 1991, has been working with Coffinberger to develop the course. Business Law for HR Professionals will debut in November as a one-day course at the academy.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to work with the SHRM Academy and appreciate their confidence in my teaching skills,” says Coffinberger.

In addition, Morris says that Coffinberger was able to connect them with Mahesh Joshi, associate professor of management in SOM, to teach the one-day course on business decision models that they had also hoped to offer.

Now Mason is prominent among the universities from which the organization draws academic talent. These include Cornell, Georgetown, and George Washington Universities; the University of California-Los Angeles; the University of Michigan; and the University of Southern California.

The Mason spirit is also strong in SHRM’s Professional Development Office. A number of the people working with Woolever and Morris are Mason alumni. Exhibits manager Triscia Doxey McGuinness graduated from Mason with a BA in Communication in 1992; Emile Davis, the exhibits assistant, received his BS in Marketing in 2002; and Sherrie McManus Thuot, who is SHRM’s educational products manager, graduated in 2001 with an MA in Telecommunications.

And, according to Woolever, the Mason connections don’t end there. Mason’s Office for Continuing Professional Education has begun offering a number of SHRM’s courses. In addition, several of the university’s own human resource professionals have taken SHRM training and certification programs.

To learn more about SHRM, visit its web site at

This story originally appeared in the Fall 2004 Mason Spirit in a slightly different form. Used with permission.

Write to at