Jessica Collins: Navy Veteran Turned HR Pro

By Kathy Gurchiek Jun 10, 2016
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Jessica CollinsTrained in Naval cryptology with a specialty in overhead satellite systems, Jessica Collins served part of her 11 1/2 years in the U.S. Navy aboard a missile-guided destroyer. Now, less than one year into a new career as a human resource professional, Collins will be shipping out to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition in Washington, D.C., in June, where she hopes to expand her knowledge of employment law and compensation and benefits. 

Collins is one of seven recipients of the 2016 SHRM Foundation Annual Conference & Exposition Scholarships. The Foundation launched the Annual Conference scholarship initiative in 2015. 

The nearly $2,500 scholarship gives HR professionals who might otherwise be unable to attend because of a lack of financial support the opportunity to experience Annual Conference. It comes with a full-conference registration, four nights’ housing at a conference hotel and a $500 travel stipend. 

Five scholarships are awarded to SHRM members from each of five regions of the U.S., one is awarded to a SHRM student member and one to a veteran who is a SHRM member.

Collins began her military career at the Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill., on Sept. 10, 2001. She recalls going to sleep that night, anxious about starting her first day of boot camp. The next morning, horrific events unfolded when two planes hit the World Trade Center in New York City, another hit the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and a fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 people were killed by those heinous acts. Collins’ deployments later would involve her in the war on terrorism.

She lives in San Diego, is a graduate student working on her human resources management degree, and has been a terminal and tenants intern at the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority since October 2015.

She is especially interested in attending sessions on employment law and compensation and benefits at Annual Conference because these topics “are essential to the performance of my daily tasks, duties, and responsibilities at my job and also as a student pursuing a master’s in human resource management,” Collins said in her application submission.

“Transitioning from the military to the civilian sector has definitely had its challenging moments. Once I decided human resources was the career I wanted to pursue, I made a ‘to-do’ list of events I wanted to attend, people I wanted to meet, and goals I wanted to achieve to make me a recognized human resource professional, [and] this conference is high on my list to fulfill most of those wishes,” she wrote.

She and the other six recipients will be introduced during one of the general sessions at Annual Conference.

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News. Follow her @SHRMwriter.
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