Leading & learning across miles

Raphael Garcia
Raphael Garcia, Jr. (center) traveled from Arizona to Louisville for commencement and had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with faculty members who supported him—Debrea Dalzell-Murphy (right) and Ann Herd, both clinical associate professors in organizational leadership and learning.

March 18, 2024

By Jenny Recktenwald

Twenty years in the military and another ten in corporate human resources might have some thinking about slowing down. Not Raphael Garcia Jr., a U.S. Air Force veteran who decided to capitalize on his experience and further his education to determine his next chapter. 

During his two decades in the Air Force, Garcia supported operations across five continents in supply chain, logistics, and meteorology. Moving to Arizona after stints across the globe, Garcia worked in talent acquisition leadership with a Fortune 500 company and took the advice of his mentor on the executive team, who had gone through an online master’s program. 

Garcia chose to pursue UofL’s MS in Human Resources & Organization Development (HROD). “I researched a lot of options, and it seemed like a great fit,” he said. “My GI Bill funding allowed me to do it full time.” 

Garcia’s externship capstone project focused on employee retention challenges. He worked closely with his company’s HR team to analyze data, identify root causes that impacted retention, and present recommendations to overcome challenges and enhance employee retention.

He also had the opportunity to attend the University Forum for Human Resource Development in Dublin, Ireland with members of his cohort in the LEAD 624 - Global HR Development course. With the students spread out across the country, it was the first time any of them had met in person. “There only six of us, so we really got the chance to know each other,” he said. “The camaraderie was great.” 

“My advice to anyone taking online courses is to be open minded, see what the student organizations have to offer, and take advantage of the networking opportunities...”

Community engagement is important to Garcia, and he found that with UofL student organizations that hold virtual meetings. He joined the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) chapter, served as president of both the Student Veterans Association and Organization Development Student Network, and helped to launch UofL’s chapter of Student Veterans of America. He now serves as a mentor to those organizations.

When he learned he was receiving the Human Resource Education Community Engagement Award at the December 2023 Commencement, Garcia knew he had to make the trip to a city he had never visited. “I had passed through Kentucky, but it was my first time in Louisville. I got a chance to meet my professors and visit the Center for Military-Connected Students. It was a great experience.”

While he is looking for his next leadership role, Garcia remains involved with UofL’s military alumni network. He believes he is proof that connections can be made and strengthened regardless of the distance. 

“I feel like some online students don’t feel as connected or are not as likely to get engaged,” Garcia said. “My advice to anyone pursuing an online degree is to be open minded, see what the student organizations have to offer and take advantage of the networking opportunities they provide. I got to make some lifelong friends and broader connections in the industry through my involvement.”

Student Testimonial: MS in HR and Organization Development

University of Louisville Online

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Founded in 1968, the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) is a vibrant community that prepares students for leadership in a variety of metropolitan settings including schools, public and private corporations, and governmental agencies.

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