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#VUHRDStory: Denise Fenwick | Flexibility and Reputation Key to HR Director’s Choice to Pursue Maste

Law school was on Denise Fenwick’s horizon until she found her calling in human resources.

Fenwick completed her undergraduate studies with a degree in policy and management. Her plan was to take off a couple of years before beginning law school.

“I was sort of finding what I wanted to do in the meantime and I ended up getting a job in retail management,” Fenwick said. “One of the HR specialists went out on maternity leave and I got an invitation to fill in for her.”

When the new mother decided not to return to work, Fenwick stayed in the position “and really fell in love with HR,” she said. The legal profession’s loss has been human resources’ gain. Even after more than a decade in the field, Fenwick’s enthusiasm for HR remains strong. So strong, in fact, that she’s pursuing her master’s degree in Human Resource Development 100% online from Villanova University.

“I think no matter what your job is or what your career is, you have to know your trade, and know it better than anyone to give you that edge,” Fenwick said. “It just felt like it was my time, not just to know my trade but to master my trade.”


"I'm a stronger leader and a stronger HR Business

Partner because of my experience in this program."

--Denise Fenwick, Villanova HRD Graduate Student


“I don’t know if anyone ever masters HR,” Fenwick said, “but I know I’m a stronger leader and a stronger HR business partner because of my experience in this program.” An online degree program was the only practical solution for Fenwick, a senior HR director for Nationwide Insurance in Wake Forest, N.C., and mother of three children ages 4, 6 and 8.

Online Learning the Only Practical Solution

Villanova’s online Master of Science in Human Resource Development program met Fenwick’s two primary criteria — reputation and flexibility.

“Villanova’s HRD program has a really good reputation,” Fenwick said. “It has a rich history, it’s been around for a long time and it’s produced a lot of very successful HR professionals.” The program’s flexibility is important to Fenwick in her quest to maintain balance in a busy life.

“I made a choice at the beginning of the program that if I do this, I’m going to be committed to seeing it out and I’m going to do it at my own pace. “I need to balance work, my personal life, my kids’ sports and holidays,” Fenwick said.

Practical On-the-Job Application

Fenwick expressed high praise for the HRD curriculum and Villanova’s accomplished faculty. “I have absolutely loved it,” Fenwick said. “It’s been a fantastic experience.” Fenwick said she’s already been able to apply much of what she has learned in class directly to her work.

“Strategic Workforce Planning was one of my favorite classes. That was something my company wasn’t necessarily strong at, so I’m bringing strategic workforce planning concepts to the business units I support.”

“Organization Development was an awesome class,” Fenwick continued. “Learning about various interventions and how to strategically lead through organizational change has been invaluable.” Fenwick said she not only learned ways to address situations that arise in the workplace, but also why and how those ways of addressing situations worked. Fenwick’s experiences with fellow classmates have been positive as well.

“The people that you meet in the program are really diverse, their backgrounds are varied,” Fenwick said. “The project teams are awesome; the projects were some of my favorite experiences.”

Sharing Her Experience with New Students

Fenwick also shares her experience in the program with new students through Villanova’s Online Student Advisory Council. “We give our background – who we are, how long we’ve been in the program, what we do for a career – and then we talk about our experience with the program,” Fenwick said. “It’s nice to be a resource for folks who are new to the program. They have an outlet to talk with one of us, and we’ll help answer their questions and give them advice from our own experiences.”

Fenwick also volunteers outside of school. She’s on the Board of Directors of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, for which she also serves as Chair of the HR subcommittee.

With the knowledge she’s gained through her studies, Fenwick said she’ll be ready for whatever comes her way professionally.

“I am looking forward to taking on roles of greater responsibility with confidence and conviction,” Fenwick said. “I know I can do it because I’ve been through this and I’m prepared.”


This student spotlight was originally posted here to our Villanova online website. To learn more about the Villanova online degree and certificate programs in HR, visit our website. To learn more about Denise Fenwick, connect with her on LinkedIn.

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