Tina Rice

Human Resource Manager
US Foods

alum_triceWhen I started the MPS HRM program, I worked full-time as a Director of Human Resources, my oldest child was six years old, and I also had two three-year-old twins. It was hardly the right time to start to pursue a college degree. I like the quote, “Very few things happen at the ‘right time’ and the rest don’t happen at all.” So the time was now! You never totally meet the demands of motherhood to your satisfaction, however, with help from my husband and family we made it work. The program’s flexibility was a great benefit in balancing that equation.”

Tina Rice had 12 years experience working in the HR field when she began looking for a master’s program to build upon her skills and knowledge. “The HR profession had transformed to less administrative and more strategic during my tenure in the field,” she explains. “As an HR Director, it was important to stay current in my role for my company and my profession. The reputation of excellence of UConn and their tailored program to HR professionals made the decision quite easy. No other academic institution had an appropriate HR program from an accredited university.”

Designed for mid-career professionals, UConn’s HRM program empowered Rice to immediately apply the practical skills and competencies learned in the classes into her work environment. “The courses all had strong curriculum and were relevant real world topics,” she says. “Concepts learned in the MPS program allowed me to function as a strategic business partner in one of the toughest economic periods ever seen. I developed the ability to apply concepts more strategically, and the ability to understand change and help to drive change within an organization.”

To ensure that courses are up-to-date and relevant, UConn includes alumni and HR practitioners on its Curriculum Review Committee. The Committee, which also consists of UConn faculty and staff, meets periodically to revamp the curriculum to ensure it addresses the latest industry needs.

As a member of the curriculum review committee, Rice, who graduated in May 2010, shares both her experiences as a practitioner and alumnus of the program.

“Alumni have a unique perspective of the program and its content,” she says. “We are best able to speak to the real world concepts and their relevancy and timeliness in the classroom. As an alumnus on the curriculum review committee, I’m able to share my knowledge and experiences of the MPS program with the real world implications. Any suggestions and feedback are always received positively and acted on accordingly.”

Rice found the online format of the program both beneficial and challenging. “The flexibility was certainly a benefit and allowed me to fit class work into my schedule, including late nights and weekends,” she says. “The depth of reading was often a late night or early morning event to avoid work hours or family time. The challenge was not having the visual interaction of seeing faces and expressions and their clues. It is very hard to determine the tone or intent in an email or classroom post.”

Yet despite the lack of visual cues and vocal intonation, Rice enjoyed the interaction with fellow students, who ranged from individuals new to the field to students with years of HR experience. “The diversity of students within the classroom allowed for a stronger learning experience,” she explains.”We all had different life experiences and were at different stages in our careers. The interaction between students was a rich experience, with friendships made that will last a lifetime.”

The comprehensive curriculum, which covers all aspects of the HR practice, as well as various business related topics, made Rice’s academic experience especially meaningful.

“HR professionals are often the ‘catch all’ in organizations,” she says. “Many roles not traditionally held by HR are increasingly becoming their responsibility. It is important to have a well rounded curriculum that can allow for knowledge in finance, operations, and other key business functions so HR professionals can speak knowledgeably with their colleagues in these areas.”

Rice is currently Human Resources Manager for the Southern New England Division of US Foods, one of the country’s most innovative food companies and leading distributors. In her role she is responsible for hiring, training and employee relations for the Division’s almost 400 employees.