“Be persistent. You can quit when it is too easy, not when it is too hard. Dare to pursue areas that you are interested in, regardless of whether or not there are people like you doing that job. Follow your passion and everything else will follow.
Women make change happen. Keep it going!”
University of Houston human resource development (HRD) professor Dr. Holly Hutchins teaches graduate courses that prepare students to diagnose learning and change needs of organizations, and to design, develop and assess interventions. Dr. Hutchins’ excellence in teaching has been widely recognized by UH, and she has earned research accolades including a Fulbright Specialist award for the Edinburgh Napier University, School of Business; Alan Moon Award for Best Conference Paper, University Forum of Human Resource Development, University College Cork, Ireland; and a best HR paper award from the Southern Management Association. In 2011, she was honored to receive the Early Career Scholar Award by the Academy of Human Resource Development.
Q: Describe the work you are doing.
A: Social science disciplines like human resource development (HRD) are important to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers. They help us understand the psychological conditions under which people learn, experience change, and can adapt to new conditions. My research mainly focuses on identifying the enablers and barriers to transferring learning from training (or any other learning experience) to the work setting. I often wondered about what makes learning challenging and what could aid learners in maintaining and applying new knowledge and skills. Honestly, I became more concerned about this issue as former students would ask questions about topics they should have learned in my classes! So, my inquiry began with “Why aren’t students maintaining their learning?” and then “What factors impact their application of knowledge and skills outside of the classroom?”
Q: How will your work change the future?
A: As people continue to adapt their behaviors based on technology, we will have new frontiers to explore in terms of learning transfer. Reminders from our Fitbit about workouts or the “rewards” earned for meeting fitness goals are based on motivational and learning theories that help explain why and how people maintain (or not) certain behavior. My work related to transfer continues to explore new aspects and conditions under which learners apply and maintain their knowledge. This becomes even more important in virtual classrooms.
Q: What role model attributes have been influential to your career?
A: I have great memories about a few professors who were particularly outstanding while pursuing my master’s and doctoral degrees. They modeled and taught me the importance of good teaching, facilitation, and mentorship. Several other faculty members instilled the importance of being an ethical leader, a team player, and most importantly an honorable faculty citizen. Or as one of them would often say, “A faculty statesperson”. I seek to carry these values forward with my students and in my leadership at the department, college and university level.
Text edited and condensed by Marilyn Howard Jones.