Emory University Human Resources will launch two new Employee Resource Groups — the Emory Latinx Employee Resource Network (eLERN) and the Emory Veterans Employee Network (EVEN) — in the coming months, according to Emory News Center.

This comes after the department launched the Emory Black Employee Network (EBEN) and the Emory Pride Employee Network (EPEN) in February 2022.

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was also consulted on the development of the new resource groups, according to Senior Manager of Recognition and Engagement Melissa Morgan.

EVEN co-Chair Andrew West (93C), who is also the executive center administrator for the Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance, said he decided to become a resource group chair due to his history of supporting veterans, including at Emory. He helped start the annual Emory Veterans Day ceremony in 2008. Years later, West joined a campus life committee that was focused on veterans and helping ROTC cadets.

“This seems like sort of a natural progression and represents Emory’s continued efforts to try to support veterans and veteran students,” West said.

Forming the veteran resource group is an important step to help and recognize veterans in the Emory community, West said. Although about 7.6% of Georgians are veterans, he said the population is not represented on campus. West explained that this is not due to a lack of veterans, but instead people choosing to not self-identify as a veteran.

“It’s kind of against our nature to seek recognition,” West said.

Additionally, West said it is vital for the group to recognize veterans’ families.

“I don’t think people realize the sacrifice that families put forward for veterans,” West said. “When a veteran goes away, goes overseas, all their responsibilities fall on the people that are still at home, and I know from personal experience that if I didn’t have a family, I don’t know who would have taken care of all my affairs while I was away.”

Associate Dean for Leadership and Senior Lecturer of Organization and Management P.K. Keen, who is a retired lieutenant general, serves as the faculty advisor for EVEN. After spending 38 years in the military, he currently teaches at Goizueta Business School and has worked with other Atlanta nonprofits focused on veteran issues.

EVEN will help veterans in the Emory community transition back into civilian life by helping them find jobs with initiative such as resume building and professional development courses, according to Keen.

“This is a great step for the University to recognize our veterans in this way and provide the support that’s needed for them to thrive as a member of our community,” Keen said.

Retired Lieutenant General P.K. Keen serves as a co-chair for the Emory Veterans Network. Courtesy of Emory University

Emory Police Department Sergeant and eLERN co-Chair Christian Theis said he got involved with the resource groups because of his desire to build a Latinx community at Emory.

“Even though I’ve had a good experience, I haven’t really been able to connect too much with many of the Latinx groups here on campus, especially not employees,” Theis said.

Theis added that eLERN will host programs to assist Latinx faculty and staff in  professional development and networking.

“The main thing, especially since we’re brand new, is just to set up that foundation and kind of set up that space for Latinx staff to meet and connect,” Theis said.

Morgan said that she was involved in the process of forming both the new and the previously established resource groups, from helping develop a framework for what the resource groups would look like to helping pilot and expand the groups.

University employees were asked to fill out a feedback survey about their interest in joining resource groups in June 2021. According to the 1,001 responses, the most desired areas of focus were professional development and mentoring, mutual support and increasing awareness of activities and initiatives across Emory. Additionally, the survey found that the “most needed” groups at Emory were for Black employees, women, the LGBTQ community, young professionals, caregivers and employees with disabilities. The Black and LGBTQ resource groups were established less than a year later.

EBEN held a professional development program called “Securing Your Next Bag” in November 2022, which included a series of workshops centered around interviewing skills, resume development and personal coaching. Additionally, the group had a discussion with mental health professionals in July 2022, which is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Morgan said the event was very well received.

EPEN has held social activities and educational meetings surrounding transgender education, as well as ongoing research projects at Emory that impact the LGBTQ community. Morgan said the group organized a pitstop for the AIDS Vaccine 200, a biking event dedicated to finding a cure for AIDS.

West said he has been impressed by the work that the current employee resource groups have accomplished. He added that it is “fantastic” that the University is financially supporting the resource groups. Emory Human Resources is also encouraging the groups to support and learn from each other, West said.

Morgan conducted a second survey during summer 2022 with members of the Black and LGBTQ resource groups to gauge their satisfaction with the groups’ first semester. The survey found that 86% of respondents said they felt more connected to Emory as a result of participating in their resource group, and 97% of respondents said that they would recommend the resource group program to a colleague, Morgan said. She added that Emory hopes to establish resource groups for Asian American Pacific Islander employees and employees with disabilities in the future.

Emory will host “ERGs at Emory: Meet Your Chairs, Share Your Voice!” on March 16 to allow employees to share their input on the resource groups. 

Morgan said that in a post-pandemic world these new resource groups have given faculty and staff a chance to connect and build community.

“We’ve also observed a number of new employees to Emory join these groups,” Morgan said. “As you can imagine, especially with many of our employees working in a hybrid work scenario these days, they don’t always have that day to day interaction with others or as broad of an interaction with a variety of people, so that’s been helpful.”

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Asst. News Editor | Spencer Friedland (26C) is from Long Island, New York, majoring in political science and minoring in film and media. He previously interned for local County Representative Susan Berland.