By Felicia Campbell
Vicki Krantz was a mentor, educator and assistant dean of academic planning at UC San Diego Extension, where she worked to remove financial barriers for aspiring human resources professionals, especially mid-career changers. In 2021, the Vicki L. Krantz Memorial Human Resources Scholarship was established to honor her legacy by supporting individuals at a career crossroads who have demonstrated a lifelong passion for learning, hard work and giving back to the community. The scholarship covers the full cost of the UC San Diego Extension Human Resource Management certificate program, plus tuition and books.
The first recipient, Sonya Brown, is a first-generation college graduate, passionate lifelong learner and longtime advocate for underrepresented groups. She embodies the spirit of the scholarship and the woman who inspired it. We caught up with her to talk about the power of education and the potential of a career in human resources (HR).
What were you doing when you decided it was time to go back to school? What was your career crossroad?
I worked in the education field for twenty years, first as an educator, then as an advocate and liaison supporting primarily Native American students and their families. In my last role, I was an administrator, managing personnel and performing many human resources functions, just learning as I went. It was a great introduction to human resources, and it made me want to build on my practical experience with formal education.
You were already working in the field, and you have a masters-level education, yet you still felt that additional education would be beneficial to your career?
I believe in education; it is something you earn that no one can take away from you. I have always been committed to being a lifetime learner. After being the first in my family to graduate high school, I dreamed of going to college. Although my path to a college degree was full of obstacles and challenges, I didn't lose sight of what I set out to accomplish. Simultaneously, I started a family, entered the workforce and pursued an associate's degree. I graduated with honors and two weeks later gave birth to my second child. The path to this achievement was not traditional, but I became a first-generation college graduate. I persevered and eventually earned a master's degree in Human Behavior from National University. My desire to learn did not stop with those achievements, so I went on to earn a Kumeyaay Studies Certificate from Cuyamaca College and a Special Education Advocacy Certificate from USD. Both certificates were instrumental in my work with the underrepresented population I was serving.
What inspired you to apply for the scholarship?
I had been eyeing UC San Diego Extension's Human Resource Management Certificate for a while, and then I saw the scholarship opportunity. After reading about the impactful life of Vicki L. Krantz and her desire to help individuals who encounter a crossroads later in life, I believed I was the ideal scholarship recipient. I worked in a managerial role in recent years, where I learned and performed many human resources tasks. This experience captured my interest in formally learning more and shifting to this field. I decided that if I were gifted this prestigious scholarship, I would commit to changing careers midlife and continue to honor Ms. Krantz's legacy by learning, dreaming and being more.
What interests you most about Human Resources, and what are you most excited to learn more about?
As an admin, I worked with team members assisting, teaching, coaching, first as an educator and then with adults. My desire to help remains the same. I am really excited to connect my career experiences to the formal education of this program. I am eager to learn how Human Resources Management (human resources) began and how it continues to evolve, the different strategies used by organizations to retain and motivate their employees, and how they have changed over time.
As we move into a post-pandemic era, there will have to be a shift in how organizations and their human resources approach staffing and retention. More and more, employees have prioritized health and wellness and want more flexibility with their work. In the next phase of my career, I hope to use the knowledge gained from this program to excel in this growing field. I really hope that this program empowers me to address the importance of human capital to organizations and their success. I think only now are we seeing glimpses of this issue being more widely looked at.
I come from a background where I stayed with an organization for 20 years, and it is going to be a challenge, but I am so excited to have an opportunity to expand my horizons and start a whole new chapter. I love the entire bubble of human resources, and I can't wait to find my niche.
Any advice for others who are considering a career change later in life?
Go for it! If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we each should make the most of life. The great thing is that we have the power to decide what that looks like. Change may be intimidating and even scary, but it's well worth it! And, if not now, when?
Follow the links to learn more about the UCSD Extension Human Resource Management Certificate and the Vicki L. Krantz Memorial Human Resources Scholarship, including upcoming application deadlines and announcement dates.