HR Leads Business

Sep 18, 2019 | Clare Chiappetta

Becoming a Faculty Fairy Godmother: Greer McPhaden’s HR Journey

Greer McPhaden

Greer McPhaden was recently appointed the director of faculty appointments at the City University of New York's Borough of Manhattan Community College. McPhaden’s journey into HR has taken an unusual route, but with her new position, she’s come full circle. 

From solving tenure headaches to offering independent HR advising to getting certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources® (SPHR®) , McPhaden’s journey has brought her to an ideal position: watching out for the faculty whose main concern is taking care of students.

We spoke with her about helping the unsung heroes of our colleges and learning the role HR and certification played in making her ideal career a reality.

What does your new job entail? What are your goals?

My position as the director of faculty appointments allows me to flex my HR muscles in a strategic way. My perspective is that faculty affairs is the art and HR is the science of faculty appointments. The former is really invested in titles and career tracks, while HR is necessarily more concerned with legal issues, benefits, and issues that affect payroll.

There is often a disconnect between faculty affairs and development and the requisite tracking, regulations, and changes in pay that are more of a focus in HR. One of my roles is to bridge that gap. More importantly, though, I’m here to support the faculty. They are laser-focused on doing what they love: teaching. They don’t have as much time or resources to devote to figuring out their own careers.

My role is to help them develop and navigate their career paths so they can continue doing that in a way that is healthy and positive for them as individuals. Many faculty members don’t realize what it takes to obtain promotions and tenure. My goal is to determine what they want from their careers and help them to achieve it.

What has your HR journey looked like?

I have an MBA, so my path toward HR took a bit of a tangential route. I started out solving business problems at a university but moved into a role handling promotions and tenure for one of the university’s departments. I began to realize that most people in professional or graduate studies weren't learning how to manage their careers and I was excited to offer that. I also learned that I really enjoyed working with people. 

Although it wasn’t strictly an HR role, I found myself handling HR problems. You could classify my role as similar to an internal recruiter; I managed titles and internal mobility for the faculty. I promoted people.

Eventually, I moved on as a freelance adviser and I learned that startup nonprofit organizations and businesses struggle to execute HR functions. I decided to get certified to legitimize the experiences I had working in HR and to move back into university life.

How has certification played a role in your HR journey?

I have my SPHR, and studying for that certification showed me that there are actual standards and conventions behind the HR practices I had been engaged in. Certification was a huge step in codifying my own practice. I started to apply the official language of HR to my own practice and I standardized my processes for consistency.

I learned a great deal about labor laws from certification. Since I’m in faculty affairs, it’s critical for me to know when an issue should be referred to the labor relations specialists. They know which procedures to follow when presented with potential discrimination cases or grievances.

Certification played a huge role in getting me to where I am today. It provided proof of what I know and allowed me to move into a position doing what I love: Watching out for the faculty who take care of our students.