I recently received an email from Dr. Yeaman requesting testimonials from OU HR Alumni. Since graduating with my Master's Degree in HR from OU, I've had an interesting career path, one that has led me through some interesting experiences and all of which I able to adapt to because of my higher education.
I received a Bachelor's of Art in Administrative Leadership in 2000 and went straight into the graduate degree program. After finishing my coursework, it took me longer than anticipated to finish my internship and comps, simply because I was working two full-time jobs and raising my daughter on my own. I finally finished all requirements for my Master's degree in 2004.
I worked in the Oklahoma State Senate as a Communications Specialist when our state political climate began to turn from democrats controlling the majority to republicans. I was able to adapt to this change in leadership and continue my work of informing constituents of their state senator's accomplishments, which led to a new opportunity that propelled me into Oklahoma's education system. I transitioned from the State Senate to working for K-12 teachers and then into higher education at a local community college. These transitions required me to quickly adapt to new environments and leadership styles while also working to develop my own management skills.
I constantly referred back to my formal education and many of the assigned readings as refreshers for how to handle difficult conversations, talk parties through disagreements and come to a compromise solution so everyone walked away with not only their "must haves" but also their pride, and continue developing my own leadership skills to ensure a healthy team.
My education also prepared me for difficult times such as organizational health, where I was able to evaluate the health of my department and the long-term goals I set that were suddenly shaken up due to a loss of a major contract due to circumstances out of our control. I provided the Vice President of my division with different scenarios to save the department, with the ultimate scenario involving my departure. While it was difficult to write a proposal that eliminated my position, I had faith that the employees who remained were fully equipped to handle the day to day activities. Additionally, I had faith that my Sooner education and work experience would land me a new position in a short amount of time.
After 3 months of job searching, I was selected as the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Engineering Foundation (OEF) in October 2014. We are a small nonprofit providing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education opportunities for middle and high school students. I am a staff of one but in my short amount of time at OEF, we have increased fundraising efforts to allow more students to participate in our programs and along with other industry and education partners, have created a new nonprofit to help address the growing need of STEM education in urban areas. As a founding partner in the Central OK STEM Alliance (COSTEMA), we are tasked with addressing urban and rural education needs for schools in OKC, Edmond, Deer Creek, Millwood, Crescent, and other schools within the OKC Metropolitan area.
I am confident that my OU professors and the curriculum provided within the Human Relations master's program were instrumental in my success through difficult situations and through the many transitions of my career. Education has always been very important to me. As a teen mom, I have fought through the many obstacles and became a positive statistic - only 1% of teen moms graduate high school and complete a bachelor's degree (Kirkpatrick Family Foundation Central OK Teen Pregnancy Prevention Collaboration, 2015). Today I am leading two nonprofits while also helping my daughter navigate her higher education. I also serve as a mentor for the Youth Leadership Exchange program and have the opportunity to guide a student in the program one day per month. I work long hours every day to help make our community a positive place for all and I have the OU Master's of Human Relations to thank for providing me with a solid foundation to continue this work.
Adrianne Covington Graham
Posted on Thu, September 8, 2016
by Stacy Smith