Miranda AkerleyI knew that when I selected a college, I wanted to choose a place where I would be able to learn, grow as a person, and open up many opportunities to best prepare myself for a successful future. I will be the first person in my family to graduate from college, so I knew this was a very important decision to make. After seeing what IUP had to offer, I knew that I would find all of that in Eberly.

I was really excited that my high school exam scores qualified me to be accepted into the 4+1 program so that I would be able to earn my MBA in five years. I will also be the first one in my family to earn a master’s degree. I knew I wanted the opportunity to continue my education beyond my bachelor’s degree, and this program gave me a time and cost-effective way to pursue my goal. Additionally, I was very impressed with the AACSB accreditation, which made IUP stand out from other schools in the area that were definitely not as affordable.

IUP also had a beautiful campus and the perfect campus size. I wanted a school with a large enough and diverse enough population to meet new people and experience large campus events, but also small enough that I would be able to build relationships with my peers and professors without just being a number. I was also enticed by IUP’s Cook Honors College and the chance to learn through a smaller cohort with a discussion and paper writing format rather than an exam-based grading system. All of these educational opportunities aligned perfectly with my goals and what I was looking for, and I am so glad I chose IUP.

When first starting my education at IUP, I was eager to start taking advantage of every new opportunity that had opened up for me. During my first year, I signed up for two different leadership workshops, several clubs, and a study abroad trip. I tried to be as involved as I could and still maintain my GPA. I joined the Society for Human Resource Management during my first year, and quickly took on a leadership role, which positioned me to take on the presidency role for the past two years. I have also served as the College of Business Student Advisory Council vice president for the past year, after previously being a general member. These leadership opportunities have taught me invaluable life skills and have provided me with so many great memories, experiences, and friendships.

Being an Eberly student has also opened many doors for me to travel. I had the opportunity to travel to Norway in spring 2022, and I will be going on the Discover India trip in January 2023. I am so grateful that Eberly has created these opportunities for me. I have grown so much as a person and gained a much broader perspective on life, and leadership, and I have certainly made memories through Eberly that will last a lifetime.

Unfortunately, the pandemic really limited a lot of opportunities for me during college, with many programs being canceled or delayed. But, I still managed to volunteer and participate in many activities through creative, virtual formats. My graduating class has shown a lot of resilience through trying times, with the pandemic coming before we completed a full “normal” year of college, navigating virtual and hybrid courses, and having academic programs restructured. Through all these changes, I have persevered and maintained my goal of making the most of my college experience, no matter what hurdles came my way. My college experience is a testament to the saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” During my time at IUP, I have been an actively involved student, represented IUP in a positive light, maintained a high GPA (only one B ever), and have left a positive impact on the campus through my volunteer service, mentorship, and leadership.

One of my greatest accomplishments as a student leader at IUP has been my role in SHRM. My first semester participating in SHRM was great because I had the opportunity to meet so many upperclassmen that I admired, and I was able to learn so much by the example they set as leaders. When spring 2020 came, I was elected as director of communications and was very excited to take my first step into a leadership role; and then, the pandemic began. With everything changing so quickly, and courses being delivered in a remote format, we had to rapidly adapt our priorities and change our way of doing things. All the events that SHRM typically organized in a semester were in-person, so we had to rethink our approach. I worked very hard to boost SHRM’s online outreach and engagement for fall 2021 and spring 2022, because many students were not looking to become involved in extracurriculars during such times of uncertainty and were already overwhelmed with academic requirements.

In fall of 2022, I officially started my role as president and had to rebuild the club almost from scratch. With our existing members graduating and not gaining any new members during the pandemic, it was only myself and one other member (who was not interested in a leadership role) remaining. Our faculty advisor at the time was very hands-off and was unable to answer several of my pressing questions. I recruited an entirely new officer team, who had no SHRM experience, and got started with contacting alumni to try to gain access to social media accounts, our information drives, and bank account on my own. I had to regain all our lost connections for events that we previously arranged and had to start connections for new ideas. This included establishing a partnership with Indiana County Area SHRM (for monthly meetings), connecting with Pittsburgh Pirates representatives (for a Career in Sports networking night), getting in touch with the Indiana County Technical Center (for mock interviewing high school-aged trade students), and selecting a photographer (for members to get professional headshots for their LinkedIn profiles), among others.

Without experiencing a full year of “normalcy” and events that SHRM would typically participate in, I was left to come up with events to schedule that would make students want to be involved. I got really creative for our events. I coordinated various volunteering opportunities, guest speakers, trainings, presented workshops, and social events for our members over the past few semesters that I feel have really added value to our members' college experience. I have definitely created opportunities for our members to add value to their resumes, as well as helping to write them.

During my presidency, SHRM has increased membership from only two individuals to approximately 30 members currently, and that is something of which I am very proud. In the beginning, it was certainly difficult and discouraging at times. Sometimes I felt like Eberly clubs were not going to get back to that “normal” engagement or that students would ever really be excited to be involved beyond their coursework again. I was passionate about this organization and really wanted people to want to be involved as much I did. So, I stayed persistent and planned more activities and refined the ideas that were most successful. Now I can say this was the most involved membership group I have seen since I took on a leadership role within SHRM.

I have also organized our information and officer responsibilities so that the upcoming officer team will be well prepared to tackle the upcoming semester with a full schedule of events. I am so excited to see what they will accomplish once I graduate! I hope that my leadership and guidance during my presidency has inspired SHRM members and empowered them to take on leadership positions of their own.

I am proud of many things I have accomplished over the years at IUP, but by far, I am most proud of myself for being chosen as one of the 10 students to travel to Norway this past May. I have always had an interest in studying abroad. I signed up for the trip to Vietnam with Dr. Webb my freshman year and had already purchased my plane tickets and wrote an extensive application to receive grant money to make the trip possible. I was so excited to go, but it was understandably canceled due to the pandemic. I eagerly signed up again the following year in hopes that the pandemic had been controlled enough, but it was canceled again. So, when I first heard about the opportunity for 10 students to travel to Norway with all expenses paid, I was determined to make sure I was one of those students. I spent hours on my application and essay, making sure that my research was interesting and that my resume was as up-to-date and impressive as possible. I had several friends, professors, and even the Writing Center review my application before I submitted it, because I wanted to make sure I had expressed how badly I wanted this opportunity.

I was selected based upon an application that summarized my contributions to IUP, what I knew and wanted to know about Norway, a research component about Norway, and two letters of recommendation from Eberly faculty members, as well as my resume.

My trip to Norway was amazing. I got to learn so much about the culture and how the country operates that is so different from the US. I was really fascinated with the way their government and policies are structured, and I took extensive notes on our lecture days. I also kept a travel journal of all the new things I got to experience and what our travel itinerary was each day, along with many photos to preserve the memories. We were traveling with students from India and Lithuania with whom I was eager to speak with to get to know more about them and their cultures. I became close with the international students and learned a lot about our countries' similarities and differences and how their country perceives the US. Overall, I learned so much and the trip really expanded my perception of the world and how people live and experience life so differently. This solidified my desire to travel more, and I am so eager to travel to India this year.

I have received awards, recognitions, and many nominations over the years from IUP, but none of them compare to the feeling that I had when I found out I was selected for the Discover Norway travel experience. I work very hard as a student, and I was very proud that my application was impressive enough that I was able to have such a life-changing experience. Being chosen to go on this trip is definitely one of my proudest achievements in life so far. I am looking forward to pursuing my passion to travel and learn about other countries even beyond my years at IUP.

Community service and giving back to others is something my family has ingrained in me from a young age. I have always been passionate about finding ways to volunteer and help those less fortunate. This passion continued during my experiences at IUP. As a member of the Cook Honors College, I volunteered at least 60 hours almost every year of college to various organizations in the local community and back home. One of my favorite organizations to volunteer for is Toys for Pittsburgh Tykes. This organization collects Christmas present donations from the community and distributes them in local impoverished areas. I have helped with many aspects of this process, including present sorting, wrapping, labeling, and actual distribution. Seeing the appreciation from the parents who receive gifts is such a touching experience because financially, many of the recipients would not have been able to provide Christmas presents for their children. I have volunteered with this organization since 2018, and it has become one of my favorite family Christmas traditions.

Another volunteering endeavor I have been involved in throughout my time at IUP is the Homeless Heroes Stocking Project. The project aims at collecting and distributing hygiene and necessity items for local homeless veterans before the holidays. SHRM members volunteered to help stuff the stockings during my first semester, and since then, I have continued that volunteering connection, and I and other SHRM members have participated in donating and stuffing stockings during my presidency. Aside from Christmas-oriented events, I volunteer year-round to help with various causes at IUP. I have worked with IUP’s Haven Project and partnered with SHRM to get all of our members Green Dot bystander awareness training and promote safe intervention to stop sexual harassment and domestic violence on campus.

I was also a member of Active Minds, where I volunteered for events to promote awareness and understanding for mental health. Since becoming a member of Tri Sigma, I have actively participated in our Philanthropy Week events to raise money and awareness for March of Dimes, the Tri Sigma Foundation, and the Robbie Page Memorial Fund. I have volunteered to run and host various events for our philanthropies, such as campus competitions and bake sales to raise funds for these great causes. I really enjoy volunteer work and it is something I plan to continue doing for the rest of my life. As a student in Eberly, I am always volunteering to help with any event that we host. For events ranging from assisting with the Biz Wiz competition and ensuring that my high school attended, to directing people on where to go and networking on Business Day and attending Business Advisory Council meetings, I have tried to go above and beyond for organizing volunteer events and opportunities to include other students as well.

My most significant contribution towards diversity, equity, social justice, and inclusion on IUP’s campus has been through my membership in Sigma Sigma Sigma. Every semester, I was actively involved in values-based recruitment practices. Values-based recruitment focuses on a person’s core values and character rather than surface-level traits and appearances. Diversity is something that my chapter personally valued and made a priority during recruitment. We have had great success with our recruitment outreach to minority and marginalized groups. During my time as a Tri Sigma sister, we have had one of the most diverse sisterhoods in IUP’s Panhellenic community. I have personally recruited women of various ethnicities, gender identities, grade levels, majors, financial statuses, different academic abilities, etc., and embraced them into our sisterhood. I have contributed to the welcoming environment in our sisterhood and assisted our recruitment director in implementing inclusive practices. I am also the head of the Honor Council for Tri Sigma and have ensured equity and fairness in our accountability practices for our members in upholding our sorority’s values and membership criteria.

Aside from Tri Sigma, I have been involved in many other DEIB initiatives on campus. As president of SHRM, I have worked very hard to increase general membership and welcomed students of all backgrounds to join and gain experiences to help them secure a job and open opportunities for them after graduation. I have advocated for many opportunities for members to increase their DEIB knowledge and informed members about diversity-related events on campus. I have shared many internships and full-time position openings for DEIB positions (that are becoming more common in the HR field) and encouraged members to apply.

I completed the Center for Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement’s six-week “Leadership in a Multicultural Society” workshop series and have advertised this opportunity to members of SHRM and Eberly. This experience helped me gain a greater appreciation and understanding of the many layers to DEIB and how to be an advocate for minority groups.

In the fall 2021 semester, I was one of only 10 IUP students chosen to attend the Pittsburgh Pirates Curt Roberts: Step Up to the Plate Diversity Event to represent IUP. This event was in honor of Curt Roberts and his legacy as the first African American player in Pirates' history. We listened to relatives of Curt Roberts speak about him breaking the Pirates' color barrier as well as how his achievement paved the way for many minorities after him. I was able to share my experience at this event at a SHRM meeting and took the opportunity to share what I have learned from attending. All these experiences are just small ways I have taken the opportunity to try to make a more inclusive and diverse space on campus that is welcoming to everyone.

My educational journey at IUP has been filled with many significant learning, volunteering, travel, and leadership opportunities that I will forever be grateful for. During my time in Eberly, I have found my passion for human resources and truly grown as a person. IUP has helped shape my character through the opportunities have taken over the course of earning my degree. Eberly has created so many connections and memories for me that will last a lifetime.

After I graduate, I plan to stay very connected with IUP and Eberly. I have already made arrangements to return as a guest speaker for SHRM this spring to speak about relevant HR topics and how to navigate the transition from being a student to working in your career full time. I would really love to visit in the coming years as well once I am more established in my career and have even more valuable experiences to speak on.

When I became SHRM president, I started a directory of IUP alumni who have graduated as members in SHRM who would be willing to come back as guest speakers and presenters, and I hope that the directory will benefit new SHRM leaders for years to come. Before I became president, I was the director of communications, and I contacted many SHRM alumni to build up a stronger network. I think there was a lot of value in featuring our alumni and their career accomplishments at our meetings and on social media, so that our members can get a better idea of career paths and opportunities with HR and management degrees. I would love to have that continue in the future and share any career advice with future SHRM members. I also plan to contact IUP students to let them know about internships and open positions at my company.

I have really appreciated anytime an SHRM alumni has reached out with an opportunity for a position or to network, so I plan to pay it forward. I have served as a student mentor to Eberly transfer students during my time at IUP, and I would love to mentor any aspiring HR and management professionals after I graduate. This mentoring program connected me directly with a transfer student, and I was able to answer questions and provide insight for navigating a new campus and how to access necessary resources, as well as being a friendly face. Having someone to connect with and be able to approach with a variety of questions is very beneficial, especially starting on a new campus. I would love if there was a similar program in the future for current IUP students to be assigned to an IUP alumni in their field as a mentor that they would be able to reach out to with general questions about their career and their field. IUP has a strong alumni network, and I know there would be many people who would be willing and eager to mentor a current student, myself included.

I have been working as an HR intern at Carpenter Technology since June 2021 and have continued to work in that position throughout the school year and the following summer. Since I have been fortunate enough to work with such great mentors and have learned so much, I am very excited that I have been offered a full-time position as a human resources specialist that I have accepted. Even though I plan to work full-time starting in January, I will also be finishing up my MBA part-time. I will be a graduate student at IUP, so I will remain involved in upcoming Eberly events and opportunities.