Purdue Profiles: Alvin Lee

September 14, 2010

Alvin Lee, Human Resources training specialist, presents an Equal Access/Equal Opportunity briefing on campus. (Purdue University photo/Andrew Hancock)

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Because he has worked for companies like Merrill Lynch, Citibank and American Express, Alvin Lee doesn’t consider himself a typical academic. But four years ago he came to Purdue as a Human Resources training specialist, and now has visited nearly every building and classroom on campus.

What do you do as a Human Resources training specialist?

My main focus is on the Equal Access/Equal Opportunity briefings we do for faculty, staff and graduate students. The 90-minute briefing sessions are case-based, interactive and cover university policies. We are now in Phase II of the briefings, which concentrates on the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act.

What topics are covered in the EA/EO briefings?

In Phase I we discuss Purdue’s policies with regard to discrimination and harassment. We address how we can express good citizenship traits -- honesty, integrity, courtesy -- to continue improving what we’re doing now. We go over University policies, federal and state laws, and the gray areas surrounding discrimination and harassment issues.

When we decided to begin a second phase, we were coming upon the 20th anniversary of ADA, and the ADAAA had just been signed. It was too much of a convergence to not take the opportunity to address those issues.

We don’t want to scare anyone with this information. We want Purdue to be a fun place to work where people feel comfortable discussing potentially sensitive topics.
If we’ve done our job explaining these policies, we’ve hopefully expanded the perimeters in which we operate as members of the University.

What attracted you to the HR area?

My career is somewhat like most people’s careers. I didn’t know HR existed, but I knew I liked people and problem solving. One thing led to another.

After college, I was accepted into law school, but took a year off to recharge. In the meantime I worked for a non-profit in Personnel. The work was interesting to me, so I got another year deferment from law school, moved out East, began working in financial services within HR and never looked back. I’ve been in HR for 20 years.

Do you ever wish you would’ve attended law school?

I’m really satisfied with what I do, but with the work we’re doing  with ADA and ADAAA, it would’ve been nice to have a background in law. But I’m very fortunate to work with a great team and ADA experts Marcy Hintzman and Pat Russell on campus to answer any questions I have. And ironically, I ended up marrying an attorney.

Has there been a favorite moment from your time facilitating the briefings?

With Phase I, my favorite moment was receiving support from Randy Woodson, then dean of the College of Agriculture. After Randy got behind our initiative, we were able to get the entire College of Agriculture through the sessions. That was a huge jumpstart for us.

Another jumpstart came from the work of training specialist Lynne Horngren, who really helped this briefing process take off.
During Phase II, the ah-ha moments have been when we’ve seen that people really want to talk about these issues and they feel comfortable doing so.

How many EA/EO Briefing Phases do you foresee?

Our policies are always changing, so that will continue to give us new material to cover in future briefings, but we don’t have anything lined up for a third phase yet.

Right now we are working with Jason Ware, educational coordinator in the Ethics and Compliance Office, on an online version of Phase I. We’re excited to give participants an option in case they can’t fit a session into their schedules.
To register for a session
To register for EA/EO briefings on campus, visit www.purdue.edu/ethics/oie/EqualAccessEqualOpportunityBriefing.shtml.
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