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Student Spotlight | Layan Khalek | #VUHRDStory

My search for the perfect HR program began shortly after my promotion to Senior HR Generalist at Saudi Arabian Airlines. A master’s degree is just what I needed to reach that Maslow’s Self-actualization level you have probably learned about. I wanted an excellent program, but which one? Easily enough, I Googled, “What is the best master’s program in HR?” and the first thing that came up was Villanova University. I immediately applied and stalked my email for weeks.

I knew Villanova was a great school and doubted my ability to be accepted. I researched other programs as well, but none compared to VU’s excellence in academia, reputation, and sports. (Oh, and GO WILDCATS!) I finally received my golden email with my student ID and knew that I was a changed person.

The excitement and utter fear overwhelmed me during my first class, Intro to HR with Prof. Bordelon, on January 11, 2016. If I were to describe the feeling it would be something like the excitement of when the waiter arrives with your food combined with the fear you get right before you board a plane. Thankfully, Professor Bordelon was a very patient and wonderful professor, he also completed the MS in HRD program at VU and had a lot of insight to share.

Surprisingly, I finished the online program in 13 short months while juggling a full-time career, house chores, and my toddler son, Tristan, who might have shared some “googoo gagas” when the mic in my virtual class was left unattended and unmuted. A very important piece of advice: don’t forget to mute your mic. (That is Tristan sporting his Villanova t-shirt!) Certainly, none of this would have been possible without my wonderfully supportive husband, Jad.

The online class schedules are conveniently timed and allow life to happen before settling in for the evening's coursework. The professors share a wealth of knowledge through research and relevant work experience. However, learning does not start nor end with the professors; in my opinion, your classmates are the ones you learn most from.

I met the most wonderful people and made life-long friends, including Cassandra McSweeney (I am on the left, with Cassandra on the right at our graduation this May).

We met in class and immediately became friends. Another piece of advice--and I think Cassandra would back me up on this--meet that one friend that you will take classes and work on group projects with as early on in the program as you can. We met during my 4th class (her 5th class) and we zoomed through the rest of the program together. We also walked across the stage right after one another. (Thank you and congratulations, Cassandra. You are an HR rock star!) My Bisk Education, student representative, Stephanie Bradshaw, was my cheerleader. She would call me periodically to check in, and we would chat for a long time. (Hi, Stephanie!)

VU was rewarding and one of the best experiences of my life. It will challenge you, it might make you cry, it will spur a couple of gray hairs, and it will stretch you to your extreme limits but, it is only to shape you to become an undoubtedly remarkable HR practitioner. Best of luck to all of you that are still in the program, and an applause for my fellow alumni. Congratulations, Class of 2017!


If you would like to participate and tell your #VUHRDStory, or if you would like to nominate a classmate, please contact us at!

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