Labor and human resources major helps student find a new path

Sophomore Chris Susini, third from left, will be part of the inaugural group of students in the School of Labor and Employment Relations' Labor and Human Resources major.   Here Susini is pictured with friends and classmates Mitchell Broder, Ben Borus, Jake Starr, Pat Tartaro, and Wayland LaMarca.  Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Chris Susini found his way to the School of Labor and Employment Relations in Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts by a circuitous route, but he calls it his “best academic decision.” Susini will be part of the inaugural group of students in the School’s Labor and Human Resource (LHR) major.

In fall 2019, the School of Labor and Employment Relations announced a change of name in its major. Formerly Labor and Employment Relations (LER), the bachelor of arts or bachelor of science in LHR is designed to prepare students for careers in the private, not-for-profit or public sector as human resources generalists or specialists. The degree also prepares students for employment relations careers in government, unions, the dispute resolution industry, and is an excellent pre-law major.

“Human resources management is a rapidly growing field with great opportunities for future careers for our students,” said Elaine Farndale, School of Labor and Employment acting director. “The name change for our major from Labor and Employment Relations to LHR was important to ensure students would be able to find our program and take advantage of everything we have to offer.”

When Susini, a sophomore from Randolph, New Jersey, started looking at colleges, he pictured himself at a smaller school. As a high school athlete, Susini hoped to continue his baseball career into college. An injury changed that goal and left him feeling a little unsure about his next step.

“My brother is a Penn State grad, but I wanted to do my own thing. My parents and I did a tour of a different school I thought I’d really like, but it ended up not being for me. When we were heading home, we stopped to see my brother and I realized Penn State was somewhere I could see myself. Looking back, I’ve never been happier than where I’m at now.”  

Susini was initially concerned about getting lost in the crowd at a large university. “I didn’t want to be just a number. But then my mom said to me, you can make a big school small, but you can’t make a small school big. And that’s something I’ve really taken to heart.”

Susini explained that he found his niche in the School of Labor and Employment Relations after taking the introductory LHR class with Mark Gough, assistant professor. “I started out in communications and had an interest in business, but after taking Dr. Gough’s class, I felt like I finally found the right major,” said Susini. “LHR is a diverse, great all-around education. Being part of the liberal arts, you get a little bit of everything.”

The School of Labor and Employment Relations also offers an integrated LHR B.S. and Human Resources and Employment Relations (HRER) master’s program designed to allow academically talented students to obtain bachelor’s and master’s degrees after five years of study rather than six. Upon completion of the integrated degree, students will be well-positioned to assume positions of greater responsibility their careers as a result of the advanced knowledge, skills, and confidence gained through the program.

“The school has been educating students about the ever-changing world of work for more than 75 years – and this latest curriculum revision is really exciting in that it prepares our students to become cutting-edge human resources management and employment relations professionals in the future,” said Katelyn Perry, academic adviser for the school.

Perry added, “Prospective students often associate ‘human resources’ with a business school, and they don’t think to look for our major in the College of the Liberal Arts. But my advisees are true liberal arts students because of their natural interest in understanding human behavior and motivation, advocating for fair workplace practices, diffusing conflicts, and helping others succeed.”  

Susini’s advice for other students still figuring out their own path is: “Be open to everything. I didn’t come out of high school knowing exactly what I wanted to do, but Dr. Gough’s class and others have given me a lot of potential paths. You never know when a class or a professor could change your goals or open your eyes to something new that you hadn’t even realized was out there.”

For more information about the School of Labor and Employment Relations, visit their website. Students interested in discussing the LHR major can contact Katelyn Perry at or make an appointment via Starfish.

Last Updated April 06, 2020