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Graduate finds passion in human resources

Feb 28, 2020
A woman poses in a library
A woman poses in a library

KOKOMO, Ind. – For many college students, a change in career plans three years into earning a degree would mean switching majors, and more time in school.

But when Emily Harsh discovered a passion for human resources just before her senior year, faculty and staff guided her to obtain the experience she needed to get a foot in the door in the hospitality and tourism management (HTM) program.

She graduated on time, in December 2019, with a job as a human resources business partner at Midwest Eye’s central office in Wabash.

“I definitely attribute a lot of what has made me successful to being here at IU Kokomo, and having the resources here,” said Harsh, from Kokomo. “I was able to ask questions and know faculty are available to me, even when I want to pursue something other than what I originally wanted to do.”

Harsh originally enrolled in the HTM program, intending to work as an event planner for a large hotel. She enjoyed her classes, as well as an internship at a hotel, and looked forward to that career. Then, she discovered author Brené Brown, who writes about courage, vulnerability, shame, empathy, and leadership, which sparked an interest in human resources.

“All of her books are about cultivating good leadership, and a culture your employees want to go to work in, and be part of,” she said. “I have a passion for the growth of other people, in their personal lives and their work lives, and want to do more for people in their workplace. Reading her books made me want to learn more about that.” 

Harsh met with her advisor and faculty members in the School of Business, to talk about her options to change career path without changing her major, so she could graduate on schedule. She joined the Human Resources Student Association, and attended the Society for Human Resource Management national conference with campus leaders.

“The more I started exploring HR, the more I liked it,” she said. “Being able to attend the conference really solidified that this was something I wanted to do.”

As a human resources business partner at Midwest Eye, she is responsible for recruiting, screening, and hiring candidates for open positions as opticians, technicians, and scribes for the doctors on staff at offices in Peru, Kokomo, Indianapolis, and Shelbyville. She’s also the point of contact to answer HR questions for managers at those offices.

“I definitely enjoy the people I get to connect with,” she said. “I love the team I work with. The culture here is the best I’ve ever seen. You can tell they want what is best for everyone in their company. It’s a place of growth, and there is a lot of room for me to grow personally and professionally.”

Her experiences at IU Kokomo — which include serving as student body vice president, a job in the Office of University Advancement, a behind-the-scenes look at management at Walt Disney World Resorts, and traveling to England as part of the Innovation Symposium, set her up for success.

Now that she’s graduated, she wants to come back to mentor other students.

“I feel like I could not have been more prepared,” she said. “That’s because of my personal drive, but also because of the faculty and staff who helped me get involved, and showed me the importance of being part of something greater than just showing up for class and getting my degree.

“IU Kokomo really shaped me desire to continue to be part of higher education, especially here, and not just graduate and never return,” she said. “I am excited to come back and share what I’ve learned from my experiences, and encourage other students to be involved with campus, and the community you build while you are here.”

Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.

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