Coping with the needs of 12,000 employees in hundreds of different occupations throughout MIT has prepared Vice President for Human Resources Laura Avakian well for her new role as president of the Northeast Human Resources Association (NEHRA).
Avakian, who has been at MIT for six years, was elected to the NEHRA board of directors and served as president-elect last year. She was officially elected president in May.
A 4,000-member organization, NEHRA is open to human resource professionals at all levels throughout New England. Avakian said she is sees her new role as a great opportunity to help up-and-coming HR professionals.
"NEHRA is an essential resource for human resources professionals to network, share ideas and grow," said Avakian, who credited several senior professionals with helping her throughout her career. "If I can do that for some younger people in HR, then it is my turn to do that," she said.
Prior to coming to MIT, Avakian served as senior vice president of human resources for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and for its parent corporation, CareGroup for 19 years.
Since joining the Institute in 1999, Avakian said she has greatly enjoyed the unique challenges MIT presents. "We are a complex structure," she said. Among the changes implemented while she has been here, Avakian said she is particularly proud of the rewards and recognition program.
The program goes by different names in different departments, but across the board is a way to recognize individuals who have performed above and beyond their job descriptions. "We wanted to make it possible for people to feel recognized, and we realized one size would not fit all here," said Avakian.
Additionally, Avakian said she and her staff have worked on providing better child-care options for MIT families, career planning and more.
Avakian, who received her bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri at Columbia and her M.A. from Northwestern University, has also served as the president of the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration.
In 1996, she received the Award for Professional Excellence in Human Resources Management from the Society for Human Resource Management. Additionally, Avakian has served as editor of the Yearbook of Healthcare Management and authored numerous chapters and articles on human resources management.
One of the most difficult parts of the job is balancing the needs of so many different people. "Part of our job and challenge is to recommend programs that will be good for all the employees at MIT," Avakian said. "It can be challenging, but always very satisfying."