May 23, 2019  

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Students Take Human Capital Development Theories to the Workplace

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Graduate students studying human capital development at Southern Miss recently partnered with HRI Properties, a New Orleans-based real estate firm, to provide the company with performance improvement solution theories to help them meet their current business needs.

Graduate students from The University of Southern Mississippi’s Department of Human Capital Development (HCD) are tackling real-world issues as part of a course designed to teach students how to develop and apply performance improvement interventions in the workplace.

The course, HCD Project Management, combines online, in-person and hands-on learning, giving students an opportunity to both learn theory and practice it. As part of the course, the master’s and doctoral level students work in partnership with New Orleans-based HRI Properties, a national real estate firm focused on urban revitalization.

HRI's team includes more than 1,900 associates that manage 66 properties in 16 states. To date, HRI has completed over 81 large-scale projects in its 32 years of operation, with over 6,061 apartment units and condominiums, 5,594 hotel rooms, 1.38 million square feet of office/retail space, representing more than $2.5 billion of development costs.

Because of the company’s continued growth, HRI has placed an increased focus on learning and development within the organization,” said Dr. Heather Annulis, professor of human capital development. “As a part of this course, our students take what they learn in the classroom and develop real-world solutions designed to help HRI meet their business objectives. This partnership is definitely a win-win for our students and for HRI.”

Students traveled to New Orleans to meet with HRI executives who provided them with the necessary information to develop performance improvement solutions specifically designed to meet HRI’s current business needs. Attending from HRI was Executive Chairman of the Board Pres Kabacoff, President David Abbenante, Senior Vice President of Human Resources Dione Heusel, and Senior Vice President Josh Collen.

Over the course of the semester, students work in groups on projects to be presented and implemented by HRI. Projects include the evaluation of training materials, the creation of a storyboard for an onboarding video for new employees, and the identification of best practices and solutions for small, agile human resources departments.

“HRI has always valued good ideas and even better processes to bring them to fruition and that applies to our approach to human resources, just as much as it does to transforming buildings,” said Heusel.

For information about the Southern Miss Department of Human Capital Development Program, visit