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Marketing skills prove useful

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With bachelor's and master's degrees in organizational communications, Kari A. Aikins says she is a natural fit for the world of human resources and benefits management, though she once contemplated a different path.

Initially trying marketing and human resources, she chose HR. “What I do now is a lot more fun than I think marketing would have been by itself,” said the assistant director of human resources at Western Kentucky University, noting that she does put marketing's persuasion tactics and demographic analysis to good use.

Ms. Aikins said she finds the personal elements of her job to be the most rewarding.

“The human aspect of this job is a pretty big deal, not only at the individual level, but also at the university level,” Ms. Aikins said. “Sometimes it does feel like HR is just the "complaint department' for employees, but not one day goes by that we don't help somebody.”

Away from the university, Ms. Aikins said she and her husband, Trevor, focus on caring for their three children: Lola, 10; Mia, 8; and Hunter, 5.

“The kids keep me very busy, but I also play golf,” Ms. Aikins said. “I've been playing golf since I was about 8. I have a book club and a few other groups that I'm in, so I actually do have a pretty active social life despite having three kids.”

Ms. Aikins said her experiences raising children with a husband who spends about two-thirds of the year traveling for his job in medical device sales, while also tending to her career in human resources, has motivated her to push Western Kentucky administrators to rethink policies on work-from-home programs and other popular flexible time arrangements.

“As we recruit younger faculty, it's becoming increasingly common for new hires coming on to have families and still want to continue their careers. It's really about total rewards.”