5 questions with…organizational behavior guru, new HR administrator Bonnie Richley

Richley Throughout all her years of education, research and teaching, Bonnie Richley has maintained the same goal: “I’ve always wanted to make a difference,” she said.

Her new role will allow her to do just that—on a large scale.

Richley is an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Weatherhead School of Management, but starting July 1, she officially will begin her role as the new assistant vice president in the Department of Human Resources. (She will maintain her position at the Weatherhead School, albeit with limited teaching.)

Her appointment comes after a year of interim work with the department in which she used her extensive knowledge in both management and organizational behavior to collaborate with Vice President Carolyn Gregory and her team to better serve the Case Western Reserve University community.

“Prior to this role, I worked with HR on their L.E.A.D. Program, and focused on experiential learning theory and team development,” she said. The L.E.A.D. Certificate Program for Supervisors provides university leaders with the opportunity to increase their leadership competency through classes, individual and team coaching, and more.

The decision to transition to HR took considerable thought for Richley—but there was a defining moment in which she knew what she needed to do.

“I made the decision when I was at an HR-sponsored university event,” she said. “I had this moment. I saw people from all parts of the campus together and I knew didn’t want to leave HR. I felt that I could have a bigger impact on the university as a whole if I could have the opportunity to stay in this role.”

Richley strongly believes in the Weatherhead-School-originated “appreciative inquiry” model for positive change. The method aims to recognize the best in people by affirming past and present strengths, successes and potential.

This approach, coupled with her educational and professional background in social sciences, is ideal for the newly created position, which is focused heavily on creating and driving positive change. She already has begun taking action, meeting with people to discuss ways to create strong relationships on campus.

One aspect of the employee experience she’s working on is a revamped on-boarding program for all new hires. The program’s purpose is to create strong relationships between the university and new employees by communicating the university’s storied history and mission, and by initiating the formation of lasting interpersonal relationships.

“My belief is that there is nothing more important than the relationships we intentionally create with one another on campus,” Richley said. “That’s where change starts.”

Read more about Richley in this week’s five questions.

1. Who do you consider your greatest role model?

My greatest role model is my Uncle Fred (Frederick Schultz). He persevered in spite of extreme hardship throughout his life. He was the gentlest, kindest person I’ve ever met in my life and never once did I hear him complain. He made me feel humbled and although he has passed on I continue to learn from him everyday.

2. How do you keep up with the news?

I am addicted to the morning program “Early Start” on CNN. Then, later in the afternoon, I usually check msn.com.

3. What is the most challenging class you’ve ever taken?

It was a T-group training (sensitivity training) workshop in my master’s program here at CWRU. It was purely focused on analyzing and experiencing interpersonal relationships for six straight days from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day.

4. What do you consider the best invention of all time?

I hate to admit it, but I would say the smartphone. But it’s also an evil device. We are tethered to our techie toys all the time, but the ability to be so connected just amazes me every single day. It’s all pretty amazing.

5. What is your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

The people. We’re an eccentric, wonderfully interesting group. We aren’t the stereotypical corporate mix. We are a collective of really smart individuals who want to be here and who are passionate about the mission of CWRU.