Scholarship encourages the ‘human touch’ in HR management

Landing a job – whatever your age – can be a humbling experience. Whether you are a senior executive who has been “restructured” out of a 24-year position, or a York graduate launching your first career, the same critical rules apply: build strong relationships and a wide network of contacts.

Toronto human resources firm Knebel Watters & Associates (KWA) specializes in a unique “caring and sharing” approach to career transitioning that places relationship and self-esteem building at its core. To celebrate KWA’s 10th anniversary, company founders John Knebel and Marge Watters have established an annual scholarship in the School of Administrative Studies (SAS) in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies. The Knebel Watters and Associates Scholarship, set up through an endowed gift of $25,000 to the York University Foundation, will be awarded to the top student entering the final year of the Honours Bachelor of Human Resources Management Program.

Right: From left, John Knebel, Knebel Watters & Associates; Marge Watters, Knebel Watters & Associates; Rhonda Lenton, dean of Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies; Monica Belcourt, program director, Graduate Program in Human Resources Management; Karen Gordon, chief development officer for Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies

The Knebel Watters and Associates Scholarship, the first award created in the Human Resources Management Program, will be awarded in January 2005 to a student who achieves the highest grade point average in the program.

“Our decision to create this scholarship was based on our commitment to education,” Watters said. “John and I wanted to help keep human resources management at the highest level of business acumen and strategic thinking. By establishing a scholarship at a prestigious university, in a program that leads to a university degree, we are helping to ensure that human resources stays human.”

Stressing the importance that the industry retain its personal touch, Watters made reference to the proliferation of electronic career assessments and personality tests, which permeate the HR field today, as lacking in effectiveness and countering the company’s mission. For example, KWA offers its clients weekly networking meetings where they can share their thoughts, feelings and experiences. Along with teaching clients how to build relationships, said Watters, they are able to practice in real-world situations, gaining valuable skills that can be applied to all areas of life.

“Like Knebel Watters & Associates, York University is committed to ‘redefining the possible’,” says Rhonda Lenton, dean of the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies. “Atkinson is in the midst of a major initiative to expand experiential education activities in the Faculty, an effort remarkably consistent with the working environment promoted at KWA. Experiential education provides hands-on learning opportunities to help students connect knowledge and practice, bridge their academic studies and career development, and promote self-directed, lifelong learning.”

York University’s Monica Belcourt, director of the Graduate Program in Human Resources Management, said the scholarship is a tremendous boost for students and for the program.

“This gift is exemplary of the symbiotic nature of York’s relationship to its community and the ways in which our corporate partners encourage our students to excel,” said Belcourt. “We thank Knebel Watters & Associates for choosing to celebrate their 10 years of success in this meaningful way.”

This story was submitted to YFile by Carrie Brodi, communications officer for the York University Foundation.