University Park, IL,
16:25 PM

GSU HR Director shares marketable skills with students


Sandra Marak is busy in her role as Director of Human Resources Services at Governors State University (GSU), but she dedicates some of personal time to teach adult students pursuing a PHR/SPHR Professional in Human Resources certification preparation course, through GSU’s School of Extended Learning (SXL).

Marak (’11), who is a student favorite, said she’s a proud product of GSU, receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from GSU. She is now working towards her doctorate.

“It only seems natural that I would want to give back and make a difference in a student’s life,” she said, adding that now is the perfect time to advance in the human resources field. “All industries are looking for HR professionals to be strategic partners to help them meet their goals and fulfill their mission. I also think that career-pathing and succession-planning are on the forefront of everyone’s minds.”

SXL has received several compliments on Marak’s teaching style from students, including this Google review from a recent student, Justin Halm:

“I would highly recommend this course to anyone who is considering taking their SPHR Exam. Sandra was helpful with all the tips and tricks that she shares with her students. Also, she took the time to tailor the teaching style of the course to best fit my style of learning. Additionally, she helped me even after the class was over with any questions that I had. She really cares about her students and their success.”

Marak said her role at GSU has taught her the importance of adjusting her approach to maximize student outcomes.

“I always try to meet students where they are and help them get to where they need to be in order to pass the test. I pay close attention to who they are, how they learn, and what they know, so I can adapt my teaching style to best help students reach their goals,” Marak said.

“Continuing Education keeps you up to date on the latest HR trends,” SXL Executive Director Amy Barsha added. “There has never been a more dynamic time to be in human resources. HR managers with current skills in the post-pandemic environment are well positioned to advance.”

The Forbes Human Resources Council notes in its article “Emerging HR Trends For 2022 and Beyond,”  “almost 60% of HR leaders said building critical skills and competencies will be their top priority in 2022”, and that the top trends include hybrid work models, employee wellness, diversity, equity and inclusion, employee reskilling and upskilling, and data literacy.

Marak agrees.

 “I think all HR departments across the nation are facing challenges of employee turnover and employee retention. The pandemic opened a new world of remote work and HR professionals are looking to prepare their leaders with the resources necessary to be successful at managing employees who are now working completely remote. HR’s need is to look at the entire employee lifecycle, engaging those employees who are in the physical office as well as those working remotely, while looking at ways to maintain a connection with both.”

 When asked what motivates her to teach adult continuing education, Marak says it is her belief in being a part of something bigger than she is.

“GSU’s core values align with my own professional core values, so it is easy to want to be involved, and thankfully, we have an administration that supports my involvement with SXL.”

In fact, the GSU President Dr. Cheryl Green, not only supports staff and faculty involvement in teaching professional development, but also has made professional development for all employees a priority.

 “Dr. Green’s vision gave us the roadmap to create a new employee professional development program called S.E.E.D.S., which stands for Securing Excellence through Employee Development and Support. With the encouragement of our new Associate Vice President of HR Joshua Allen and dedicated support by Associate Director Kristina Houston, GSU is rolling out the program to the campus community this spring,” Marak said.

To train to join or advance in this dynamic field, register for SXL’s PHR/SPHR Certification Preparation Course. Visit for all SXL course offerings.

Connect with GSU Human Resources and learn about GSU employment opportunities.