Center for Public Administration and Policy (CPAP) students interacted with subject matter experts during the Summer 2016 “Personnel Processes and Their Policy Implications” course. Strategic human resource management concepts merged with practical application via the guest lecture series organized by Professor Leisha LaRiviere. Sharing in-depth analysis and experience in human resource topics, lecturers included: Mr. Hugh Fain, partner at SpottsFain; Ms. Ellen Marie Hess, Commissioner, Virginia Employment Commission; the Honorable Nancy Rodrigues, Secretary of Administration, Office of the Governor; Ms. Stacy Pendleton, Manager of Human Resources, Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services; and Mr. Beau Blevins, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Virginia Association of Counties.

pic 1Professor Leisha LaRiviere and Hugh Fain at Virginia Tech’s Center for Public Administration and Policy in Richmond, VA

Mr. Hugh Fain is a past president of the Virginia Bar Association and Richmond Bar Association. He is a founding partner at SpottsFain, a firm providing innovative and cost effective advice and assistance to businesses. Fain is a well-recognized litigator and negotiator in the Commonwealth. Central to his lecture on the intersections between policy and employment law was a discussion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He noted that under the Act, employers and potential employers may not discriminate in their employment decisions based on a person’s sex, religion, race, or national origin. Mr. Fain also reviewed other acts of Congress that protect against discrimination based on factors such as age, family medical issues, and military service. Additionally, Fain lectured on how the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission conducts investigations into complaints of discrimination against employers.

During the session, the class discussed strategic management practices to prevent employment issues, including the analysis of personnel handbooks and orientations. Fain emphasized the importance of ongoing professional development and training programs to help employees understand their role in effectuating the mission of the organization. Throughout the presentation, Fain drew on scenarios that he has encountered in his career, allowing students to engage with situations involving the legal implications of human resource management.

The second featured lecturer was Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess, leader of the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC). Commissioner Hess geared her lecture toward the statistical reporting of the VEC. . She emphasized and defined VEC’s role in unemployment insurance accessibility at the state level, and entitlement to insurance. According to Hess, “unemployment benefits provide a temporary wage replacement to the regularly employed members of the labor force who become unemployed due to no fault of their own.” CPAP students learned how funds were raised and disbursed among the unemployment insurance beneficiaries. Taking an experimental learning approach, Hess “scrubbed” identifiers in actual situations, and developed them into mini-case studies. Students were tasked with determining whether or not a certain employee would receive unemployment insurance.


Commissioner Hess stands with the class after her presentation

pic 3MPA Students and former Governor Interns, Adolph Brown IV and Ryan O’Toole, with Nancy Rodrigues, Secretary of Administration, Office of the Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia

MPA students also learned from the member of Virginia’s Gubernatorial Cabinet responsible for personnel management. The Honorable Nancy Rodrigues serves the Commonwealth as the Secretary of Administration in the Office of the Governor. As Secretary of Administration, she oversees four state agencies: the Compensation Board, and the departments of General Services, Human Resource Management, and Elections. Secretary Rodrigues manages the state’s buildings and grounds, administers employee policies and benefits, oversees every election, and compensates Virginia’s constitutional officers for their work.   During her talk, Rodrigues spoke about innovations taking place in state government and concerns she has with today’s workplace. Her remarks focused on how “Millennials” are changing approaches to workforce development and technological applications. Secretary Rodrigues also addressed the issue of workers unable to retire at their desired age, due to unaffordable or lack of healthcare insurance. Students linked this concept directly to Professor LaRiviere’s lecture on the the “Silver Tsunami” phenomenon caused by the retirement of “Baby Boomers”. In theory, the “Silver Tsunami” describes a the issues and impacts of this major workforce segment, such as: familiarizing aging employees with changing worker demographics, technological advancements, and transition and succession planning. Employers are facing post-recession realities, such as funding the Boomers’ larger salaries and retirement accounts. The complexity of this phenomenon has huge implications for strategic human resource management. Secretary Rodrigues and the Department of Human Resource Management are currently addressing the “Silver Tsunami” phenomenon with agency human resource directors to create solutions for aging state workforce. The secretary inspired students with her closing remarks: “you will never have

[such a] rewarding experience in public service.”

pic 4Stacy Pendleton helping MPA students, Brittani Edward and Erika Jones-Haskins research information

The special lecture series also featured Ms. Stacy Pendleton. Stacy Pendleton has worked in the human resources industry since 1998 and is currently a Human Resources Manager with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Central Office.  Within her organization, Pendleton provides comprehensive human resource development and management leadership to a large complex organization comprised of a central office, fourteen facilities, a system of 40 community services boards, and hundreds of private providers across the Commonwealth regarding mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse disorders. Ms. Pendleton delivered remarks on the strategies and leadership of human resources at the state agency level. Following her remarks, CPAP students were assigned to groups to participate in a policy practicum. Small groups studied personnel management scenarios, and developed strategies to manage the problems using state and agency-level handbooks. The groups presented their findings and “actions to take,” with Ms. Pendleton assessing responses and offering feedback. Pendleton concluded each exercise describing how she would resolve the situation.

pic 5Adolph Brown and Kathryn Paxton working together with Stacy Pendleton

pic 6Beau Blevins poses with the MPA students and professor

The final guest lecturer in the series was Mr. Beau Blevins, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo). VACo exists to support county officials and to effectively represent, promote, and protect the interests of counties to better serve the people of Virginia. In this role, his duties involve legislative advocacy in the areas of tax and finance, transportation, and healthcare. Blevins spoke at length about his lobbying efforts and the critical need for local government involvement. He explained,

…local governments directly impact the daily lives of their residents through such services as education, public safety and human resources. The job of being a local government official has become increasingly more complex. The Virginia Association of Counties exists to support local government officials and their staffs to promote and protect the interests of counties in order to better serve the people of the Commonwealth. We provide this support through four pillars–advocacy, education, enterprise programs and membership services.

According to students, the speaker series and practical scenarios brought the theoretical concepts to life – a real life example of CPAP’s “praxis” approach.

pic 7MPA students: Jill Grumbine, Brittani Edwards, Charles “Alex” Guzman, Erika Jones- Haskins, Matt Lott, Ryan O’Toole, Kathryn Paxton, Corine Willie, and Adolph Brown IV prepare for their class discussion

Byline: Adolph Brown, IV
Graduate Assistant
Center for Public Administration and Policy – Richmond