Brandi Riggs, MSOD ‘06 is a Vice President of Human Resources at McCownGordon Construction. She has worked as an HR professional and executive at UGA Finance and Spencer Reed. Recently, she was awarded the 2021 LEAD Award by the Missouri SHRM Chapter. Riggs earned her MSOD from Avila University in 2006 and is a member of the Avila University MSOD Advisory Board.
Would you please share your career journey?
“I was finishing up my undergraduate degree and caught wind that Avila was looking at creating the MSOD program. I wanted it to be ready for when I graduated with my undergrad degree. I started calling the department every month to ask when the program would be ready. Sure enough, it was ready in time. I’m so grateful to everyone that was involved in putting the program in place.
While I was in the MSOD program at Avila, I was actually in a sales leadership role, and I truly loved what I was doing. I was able to apply many of the concepts from the MSOD program to the day-to-day leadership of my team and to the challenges that we faced daily with our clients.
I learned that it wasn’t the love of sales that drove me in my career. It was the people leadership, the training aspect of it, and the problem-solving. I identified that my calling was on the people-side of the business. I learned so much about that through the MSOD program.
The MSOD program allowed me to take and pass my HR certification exam and accept my first HR role. I joined the board for the local chapter of the Society for Human Resources and that’s where I met my current leader. She and I were always exchanging notes and learning from one another.
She recruited me to her team at McCownGordon Construction, and that’s where I’ve had an opportunity to learn and grow every day since then. The MSOD program has helped me to be a true strategic business partner to our organization and focus on the problems that our business faces. The solution to those problems is people. I use the interventions and strategic thinking models that the MSOD program provided me.”
What did you learn in your MSOD program that most impacted your personal and professional life?
“The most impactful part of the program was the exposure to the OD practitioners that were facilitating the program. They brought our textbooks to life. I remember thinking over and over, wow, I hadn’t thought about it that way.
I intentionally use the word facilitators because they weren’t just teaching. They were facilitating the process of us learning from each other and learning the concepts from them. I use the systemic thinking that I learned through the MSOD program every day. This helps me solve complex problems by understanding relationships that exist in systems and how they interact.
We all work in environments that have to adapt quickly and constantly to be successful. Being able to manage change effectively is critical to organizational success. To manage through that change, you have to understand people.”
“The most impactful part of the program was the exposure to the OD practitioners that were facilitating the program. They brought our textbooks to life.”
What would you say to people who are either considering the degree or are in the program working on the degree and they are wanting to get into the field of OD?
“Organizational development exists everywhere in business. There is a need. There is constant change happening. You have an opportunity to identify things that need effective change management and can insert yourself and help find solutions for your company in whatever role you’re in.
Professional opportunities are being created all the time. When I graduated, I couldn’t find an OD program. I was looking at industrial psychology. Avila was, I think, the first program in Kansas City to provide that.
When we graduated there weren’t a lot of positions here locally with an OD title. You had to find the opportunities to do the work within businesses. Relationships and connections are key. The more people that you know, the more likely you are to find an opportunity.”