Emory Report
January 26, 2009
Volume 61, Number 17



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January 26
, 2009
Cultivating people

By Carol Clark

“Wanda was late for school today because she had to doctor a sick calf.” Wanda Hayes, now director of Learning Services for Human Resources, laughs as she recalls a note her mother wrote for her when she was in 9th grade. “Boy, I was country when country wasn’t cool!”

Hayes grew up in Thomson, Ga., where her father worked in textile manufacturing and also had a small farm. “After school, I had to help feed the cows and pigs,” she says. “It didn’t matter if it was freezing cold, they had to be fed.”

At the time, it didn’t seem like such an enviable upbringing. “In hindsight, I think every kid who doesn’t grow up on a farm should at least spend a summer on one,” Hayes says. “You learn a lot.”

Hayes retained her love of animals. She planned on becoming a veterinarian when she headed off to the University of Georgia. Then she got interested in psychology. A professor who taught the introduction to industrial and organizational psychology helped refine that interest.

“I thought that course would be boring, all about tests and measurements,” she recalls. “But the professor loved what he was doing so much, he made it fascinating. He talked about how you could take the principles of psychology and apply them in the business world to help people develop and reach their full potential.”

After getting her Ph.D. at UGA in industrial and organizational psychology, Hayes served as director of academic assessment at the University of South Carolina-Aiken, where she also taught. She eventually moved to metro Atlanta to head up leadership assessment and development programs for BellSouth, and later Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Since joining Emory in 2007, Hayes has worked closely with administrative leaders to revamp and expand the offerings of Learning Services. In addition to taking individual courses, staff on the supervisor and management tracks can now be nominated for a full curriculum of programs that build leadership skills. A new leadership program tailored for faculty debuted last fall, through an initiative of the Provost’s Office, which partnered with Learning Services to design and deliver the program. Learning Services is implementing the programs through its dedicated team of six staff members, as well as drawing from experts throughout the University.

“Emory believes in developing people,” Hayes says. “The leadership here fully supports staff and faculty development, both in what they say and do, and financially.”

She views part of her job as helping people throughout the University to understand the value of participating in Learning Services. “What people learn through these programs is going to give them the skills to be even better in their jobs,” she says. “A small investment in time is going to make a huge difference in how they do their jobs and help them continue to grow in their career.”

She enjoys the highly professional team she works with at Learning Services and believes she has found her niche. “Creating something that’s meeting a need for people is so much fun to me,” Hayes says.

When Hayes leaves work, she heads for a quieter life in Conyers, where she has made a home with her husband, two step-daughters, and two lively weimaraners.

“I still am ‘country’ at heart,” she says. “I have a garden in the backyard. We put up pickles and jellies. I make salsa to bring to the office. Everyone always asks, ‘How’s your garden coming?’”