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College Degree Opens Doors for Alumna Barbara Harrison, HR Professional at Capital Health Systems


Barbara Harrison ('08, A.A., Liberal Arts) works in Human Resources at Capital Health Systems.

West Windsor, N.J. – Barbara Harrison (’08, A.A., Liberal Arts), a Human Resources (HR) advisor for Capital Health Systems, attended Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) “Spring Into Student Success” fundraiser in April with a colleague. It wasn’t just to represent her hospital, one of the event’s sponsors.

“I wanted to attend as a Mercer alumna. Mercer laid the foundation for my future,” Harrison said.

After moving to Ewing, New Jersey, from St. Louis in 1998 with her young daughter, Harrison started working in a hospital billing department. And while she had a few college credits under her belt, she did not have a college degree.

“I knew I needed my degree if I was going to be able to move along in my career and my life,” she recalled.

Harrison enrolled at Mercer in 2001 at the age of 25, the same month she landed a recruiter job with Nursefinders, her first job in the HR field. When the company relocated to North Jersey, Harrison went to work for a small recruiting firm in Princeton. “They had a tuition reimbursement plan, which helped a lot,” she said.

As an MCCC student, Harrison worked full-time while raising two daughters. She was able to schedule her classes in the evenings, on weekends and online.

“Mercer was close to home, financially feasible, and offered flexible scheduling for working adults,” she said. Plus, Harrison knew that Mercer‘s strong transfer agreements with local four-year schools would allow her to continue for her bachelor’s degree.

Harrison’s experience as an adult student couldn’t have been better. “Students at Mercer are different ages and from many different backgrounds. The young ones loved talking to me and I loved interacting with them and with students who were older than me. You learn life lessons from both,” she said.

Harrison recalls the rigors of her Mercer education. “Professors made me think outside the box. I was pushed to be a better writer and a better thinker. I have always tried to go the extra mile, so I was ready to do the work,” she said. “I felt well-prepared when I transferred to Rider University.”

Harrison continued her juggling act in her junior and senior years at Rider, working full-time in career services at a technical college and then as a recruitment consultant. It was a proud day for Harrison and her family when she earned her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from Rider in 2013.

Almost seven years into her job at Capital Health, Harrison manages the recruitment process for a two-campus hospital system that employs over 4,000 employees including outpatient facilities and physician groups. She says she has learned a lot on the recruitment side, and now plans to go to the next level by earning an HR certification from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). She will turn to MCCC’s Center for Continuing Studies for the 13-week course in preparation for the national SHRM exam.

“This prep course touches on all the main areas of HR. With this certification, I will be prepared for a wide range of responsibilities,” she said.

A resident of Westampton, N.J., Harrison is gratified to be a role model for her daughters. “They’ve seen me earn my degrees and triumph through everything – layoffs, getting married, and life challenges. They’ve seen it and they know that if I can do it, they can do it,” she said.

To students who are considering college or are in the middle of their college journey, Harrison advises perseverance and self-awareness. “Choose a path, but choose the right path for you. Know that you are going to need some type of credentials – whether that’s a certificate, an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, or even a master’s degree – if you want to live a comfortable life.”

She emphasizes that hard work pays off. ”Keep pushing. Put your all into whatever you do and use the support systems available to you,” Harrison said.

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