HRER alumna used Penn State degree to change career path

Dionne R. Wiggins has had a successful career working in human resources and is currently the vice president for people and culture at American Jewish World Service in New York City.

But she didn’t start her professional career in human resources. She was a lawyer, and when she earned a degree online in 2013 from Penn State in human resources and employment relations, she changed her career trajectory.

“When I saw it, it was not even a question for me,” Wiggins said of Penn State’s online program. “That’s it, that’s the key — Penn State!”

She graduated with a Master of Professional Studies in Human Resources and Employment Relations, which is offered online through Penn State World Campus in part with the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts and the School of Labor and Employment Relations.

Online education in human resources and employment relations

Dionne R. Wiggins was recognized as the Penn State School of Labor and Employment Relations’ Outstanding Alumni in November 2022. Photo by Chelsea Scafuro

Education has long been important to Wiggins, who is a self-described lifelong learner.

“If you don’t have anything else, you have your education. That’s something that no one can take away from you,” Wiggins said.

She wanted a program in which she could balance her work and family life without compromising the quality of her education.

“It wasn’t that because you’re in an online program that you’re getting less — you got the same,” she said. “Sometimes I felt like we got more because we were able to really have a direct connection to the professors.”

The online master’s program is 33 credits and teaches students advanced theory and practical knowledge to become well-rounded human resources and labor relations professionals.

The course work provided Wiggins with a deep look into human resources and labor and employment relations.

“I walked away from this program feeling ready,” she said.

Wiggins combined her legal background with her work in the labor and employment industry. She said she put her education to work at a variety of organizations, including during her time at the New York City Department of Education.

“That’s where it really started to shine,” she said.

Wiggins dealt with collective bargaining processes and union groups, and she credits Penn State for preparing her to be a knowledgeable and effective leader.

“There are so many benefits from my degree, but that’s probably one of the greatest,” she said.

In her current role, Wiggins leads the division responsible for strategic human resources partnerships, recruitment, payroll and benefits, and labor and employee relations.

An ‘Outstanding Alumni’

Wiggins’ accomplishments were recognized by Penn State in 2022, when the School of Labor and Employment Relations hosted her as a speaker of its Outstanding Alumni Lecture. Wiggins is the first Penn State World Campus graduate to receive the recognition in its 23-year history.

She is a proud Penn Stater and is grateful to be a part of the family.

“For me, it’s more than an education. When you think of Penn State, you think of a world-class education and wonderful staff members, but it’s also a family and a network that you’re gaining,” Wiggins said.

She encouraged others who are debating a career change to really think about what is at their core and reflect on their journey so far. Wiggins said her Penn State experience was life-changing.

“It’s been the key and it’s opened the door,” she said of her Penn State education. “I walked through the door, but that degree definitely opened the door for me.”

25 years of offering online education

The master’s in human resources and employment relations is part of the diverse selection of business and management degree programs offered online through Penn State World Campus.

This year, Penn State World Campus is celebrating 25 years since it began offering online education. The portfolio has grown to a comprehensive selection of more than 175 degree and certificate programs.

Learn more about the Master of Professional Studies in Human Resources and Employment Relations offered online at Penn State World Campus.

Media Contact:
Mike Dawson