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Ryan Knapp, ’88 MA-IR

Fresh out of college with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Ryan Knapp wasn’t sure what he wanted to do next. That all changed after a brief conversation with a family member. “He was actively involved in the industrial relations program at the University and suggested I take a look at it,” Knapp says. “I immediately fell in love with the program and the options it offered.”
        Knapp ended up enrolling in a newly developed HRIR part-time program at the Carlson School. He learned a lot, both from his lecturers and classmates. “The evening program gave me classmates who were practitioners with experience,” he says. “So in addition to a theoretical approach, I also learned from people already in the field.”
        Knapp says that combination gave him the tools he needed to land a position with Abbott in Chicago, where he now serves as divisional vice president of business human resources for the global health care company. Knapp says Abbott promotes a culture of respect among its 83,000 employees worldwide, which dovetails with his experiences at the Carlson School. “That was instilled in me by Professor John Fossum and the interest he took in my academic career,” he says. “I’ll be honest: My undergraduate academic career was OK, but not great. John took the time to help me. He was certainly a coach who helped me through the program.”
        At Abbott, Knapp says one of his roles is to develop the next generation of HR professionals. Maintaining a relationship with the Carlson School is a key part of that endeavor. “It’s a recruiting ground for our professional HR program,” he says. “That connection with Minnesota to bring in new people keeps us relevant and fresh.”
        For the past three years, Knapp has been a member of the Carlson School’s Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies Advisory Council, a 35-member board of leaders in business, labor, and higher education. “We get together two or three times a year to talk about HR research and curriculum development to make sure we are developing the type of talent that businesses such as Abbott are looking for in the next generation of HR practitioners,” he says. “Carlson School graduates have brought the most up-to-date research theory and application to the field, and we continue to honor that legacy.”

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