College of Business
HR professional appreciates personalized attention she received through online program
Sometimes life throws us curve balls, but an Organizational Leadership graduate is grateful to her professors and others who helped her realize her goal of a college degree. Over the years, April Wardlaw was building her career as a human resources professional, while raising her family and enduring daunting life challenges. Earning her degree from Anderson University has opened doors to exciting opportunities to advance her career.
How did you decide to enroll at Anderson University?
I’ve been in human resources for about 18 years. I finally reached my plateau and could not go any farther, as far as a manager role, director role or anything, so I went back to school and I chose Anderson University. I chose Anderson University not necessarily because it’s in Anderson—I was in the adult program so everything was online—but more so because of the Christian base. I graduated from a Christian School and went to Christian school all my life. So that was my main reason for choosing AU.
I’m working on my master's degree. I know Robin just transitioned… She was my advisor… I told her if I ever was successful at starting a business she'd be the first one I’d call to work for me because she is persistent. She stays on me. She texts me, “when are you coming back and getting your master’s?” I'm only seven classes away from getting my master’s.
What got you interested in organizational leadership?
I started out in 1999 working with a staffing agency part time when I was seven months pregnant, working on site at Electrolux where my dad works. He's been there 36 years. And that kind of started me into the staffing realm which led into the HR realm, because staffing falls under HR, and so organizational leadership, you can have a lot of degrees in human resources. You can have your business degree and there are a lot of people, I believe, that are in leadership roles, but they have no idea how to lead. So it was important to me to get those skill sets in addition to the HR experience and skills that I have gotten over the years.
Did you go straight from undergrad to your graduate school?
No, I did not. I had planned on enrolling in and starting, and then some things happened in the family, and so I did not get to start as I had planned. So I'm planning on going back to get my master’s but I'm not currently enrolled to do that. I do have a bachelor's; I graduated in December of 2021.
Just a little bit of backstory on that, too. I had an uncle that was in the hospital for six months, and he was on the ventilator and all that. Well, he did great. He came home a couple of weeks ago and had gone through rehab. But then, a couple of days later, he had to go back to the emergency room with his Oxygen low. He went back to the ICU, and now he's back in rehab. So there's been a lot going on. I wouldn't say that’s put me off track, but it just has delayed me going back right now.
You had mentioned that you had recently made a change of career.
Yes, so unfortunately, having a lot of years of experience in human resources, employers don't care—they want the degree. There are some employers that would rather have the experience than the degree, but it's seldom that you run across those employers.
A couple of months before I graduated I actually landed a job that was a step up from what I had been doing all these years and automatically got a $30,000 per year raise because of my degree. That was in addition to my years of experience. Currently, what I'm doing, I have stepped away from the corporate world and I've started my own business. Profound International is actually a company based out of Greenville. I just recently became their director of talent acquisition, but they do not have an HR department.
The downside to that… It's a straight commission, but it's really good money. And so they hired me to basically start up my own department. I can build my own portfolio, so if I ever decide to go out on my own I could take that portfolio with me, so any clients that I’ve touched they can't touch. This is actually a company that's been trying to get me to come work with them for about five years now. And so I finally got to a place where I'm like, “I'll never know unless I try.”
Tell me a little bit about your experience with Anderson University and how you feel you’ve been helped professionally at this point.
The classes were amazing. If I had any encouraging words for anyone that's going into the adult program would be, “don't be afraid.” Just because it's 100 percent online does not mean that they're not going to have that same support as if you are on site. They were phenomenal when it came to support, and staying in contact, reaching out, providing their contact information, their personal cell phone numbers, whatever needed to be done to keep you on track.
Let’s talk about juggling family and career and school.
My husband passed away in 2013. I began at AU actually in 2010. So off and on I went for quite a while. I’d take a couple of years off and then go back. But I was raising three kids. I actually was a volunteer firefighter and working a full time job as well as volunteering time with the Red Cross.
How did you become involved in firefighting and the Red Cross?
HR aligns perfectly with staffing. If you've ever worked in staffing you either hate it or you love it—there's no in between. Human resources the same way—you either hate it or you love it, and I've always had a passion for helping people, but volunteer firefighting allowed me to help people in a different way. Throughout the day I help people in the office, and then at night I try to save lives. So it's always always a good adrenaline pop, so I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did step away from it because I had to concentrate on my graduation and some other things, but sometimes life gets in the way. But the important thing is to get back on track.
What's been the best part of your AU education?
It's opened up a lot more doors for me. Even speaking on a volunteer term of you know, being at the Red Cross. They honor that from a level also, along with my HR skills, they knew exactly where to place me, being that I have a degree in the skill sets that I have. It's carried me a lot so far, just graduating a year and a half ago.
And just starting this department as well, was the first thing people do when you give them your business card, they go on Linkedin or Facebook and look for you. I feel like now, since I've graduated, I have a stamp of approval, so to speak, on all the skills that I've learned throughout my career on my own, or with other employers and things. This has kind of put the stamp of approval of “hey, you do know what you're doing, and you've got the paper to prove it. And it was a great feeling just walking across that stage.
Any shout-outs to professors or others at AU?
Dr. Gilbert Eyabi! I have a wonderful picture of me and him on the day I graduated. If it had not been for him—because I’ll be honest with you, I’m not a math fan—he kept telling me that math is beautiful. On my graduation day, I told him I said, “you know there was only one thing that you were wrong about.” He's like, “what's that?” I said, “Math is not beautiful. Math is of the devil,” and we both just threw our heads by laughing, and I have a picture of us laughing about that moment.
At the end of the day, what gives you a real feeling of accomplishment?
Being in HR, I have checklists every day, right? We love those checklists, but one thing I've learned also in my career is, at the end of the day, if you don't have everything checked off on your checklist, it's okay. My goal is to at least get 50 percent of it, and the main thing is to prioritize the checklist. But there's always another day to finish up, and my great feeling of accomplishment is if I only get through one or two things, that's great. You know I got this one or two things done. Getting older, too, you just learn that there are other important things in life rather than pushing yourself to the extremes where you're no good to anybody.
What advice would you give someone who is working, they've got a family, they're raising their kids. Why go to college?
I know it's scary, but you won't know until you do it, because the thing is—do you want to be talking about where you are in the process of that come a few months from now, or do you still want to be talking about “If I go back,” or “if I take that next step?” You're not going to know until you try… I just went ahead and took the plunge.