A family-first philosophy guides Gena Jones decision

8/8/2008 - By: Jane Tors

The tug of family ties has led to Gena Jones’ decision to leave the University of Nevada, Reno and move closer to her daughters and granddaughter in Albuquerque, N.M. After serving five years as assistant vice president of human resources, Jones acknowledges this is a difficult decision, but she moves on with full confidence in the department’s ability to carry on and achieve a strong level of support for the University community.

“The HR department is an integral part of the University,” said Jones. “They are one heck of a group…a very strong group of professionals. The department has impact, and offers support and important contribution toward what the University is working to achieve.”

Jones came to Reno from Albuquerque where she was executive director of human resources for the public school system.

“It was a very large organization with 12,000 employees and 86,000 students,” she said.

In her 23 years as a human resources professional, Jones has worked in other industries, including manufacturing, retail and healthcare.

“HR is versatile and built on a set of principles,” she said. “The body of knowledge is the same no matter what the industry, although an HR professional must understand the industry as well.”

Jones also spent several years living in Italy and Spain while her husband Albert was playing professional basketball. She describes it as a wonderful time, especially since her daughters were born during those years. The experience also contributed to one of her core professional philosophies.

“Living abroad gave me an appreciation for different cultures, how people in other countries live and how they see family and work: family first and work second. Yet, they also blend the two,” she said. “After learning from that experience, I have enjoyed helping others achieve work balance.”

Jones is currently state council director for the Nevada State Society for Human Resource Management. Last year she received the HR Superstar Excellence Award from the Northern Nevada Human Resources Association and she was also received the Distinguished Alumni award from New Mexico State University, where she received her undergraduate degree in social work. She earned her masters in management from Webster University. Jones intends to pursue her doctorate and continue working.

“Under Gena’s direction the HR department, which now includes both professional and classified staff, has become a more active, engaged, value-added support organization for our entire campus community,” said Ron Zurek, vice president for administration and finance.

Jones’ last day with the University will be Aug. 22, at which time Faculty Human Resources Director Tim McFarling will take over as interim assistant vice president and oversee both Faculty Human Resources and Business Center North Human Resources.

McFarling joined the University four years ago and holds a masters degree in social work from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a masters of arts specializing in speech communication from Southern Illinois University.

Given the budget situation, Zurek says the exact timetable for initiating a search to fill the assistant vice president position will be evaluated in the coming months.

Reflecting on her time with the University, Jones said, “My experience with the faculty and staff has been rewarding. If I could say any last words – if I was in an auditorium addressing faculty and staff – I would say I hope my work has contributed to your success. I hope I made a positive difference.”


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