As a non-traditional student, Melissa Wiley, MHRIR 05, has had a unique and dynamic career journey. Melissa grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and chose the University of Illinois to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science, Melissa remained at the university as a Research Specialist and Laboratory Manager for a veterinary medicine research lab. While in this role she worked alongside Shad Barker, husband of Assistant Dean Becky Barker. Seeing her drive, motivation, and interest in business and law concepts, Shad recommended that Melissa inquire about the LER program.

“Take the tough jobs and learn from them, take the roles you think you are not capable of, and be willing to take risks. Don’t be afraid to ask for opportunities.”

– Melissa Wiley, MHRIR 05, People Partner at Google.

To ensure that HR was her passion, Melissa took an introductory LER class that secured her decision. While at LER, Melissa continued working full time until she took a leave of absence for her summer internship with Shell Oil Company. Although she was hesitant to take this step, she credits it with showing her the value of the internships that LER provides while giving her a preview of an HR career.

Since graduation, Melissa has had a diverse, cross-industry career in industries including oil and gas, consumer packaged goods, defense, and technology. Her strong desire to take risks, push the envelope, and ask for new opportunities led her to her current role as a People Partner at Google. She supports their advertising business and currently resides in Redondo Beach, California. Melissa credits her HR acumen, advanced knowledge and skill set, and her work ethic for giving her the opportunity to serve as a valued business partner at an organization like Google.

Melissa Wiley, MHRIR 05

Outside of work, Melissa is an active traveler, sailor, and wine taster. One of her favorite trips was for Deckers Brands in 2016, where she led a training roadshow with their executives to build IT functions in China, Japan, and London. Melissa advises others looking to grow their careers while maintaining a healthy work-life balance to “be agile in this new hybrid workplace and always test the waters. Don’t put artificial boundaries on yourself, know that balance is important, but you have to own that!”

Melissa is very involved in the LER alumni network and gives back her time and talents to help students how the program helped her. She started by joining the alumni board which gave her the opportunity to connect with Cory Hatfield and network with other alumni. She has coordinated an LER happy hour in Palo Alto, mentored current students, and coordinated introductions to Google Chicago.

While doing some estate planning, Melissa began to realize that it doesn’t take a lot of money to make a huge impact in the form of a scholarship.  She credits Cory for being instrumental in sharing that $5,000 is enough to make a difference in someone making the decision to attend a graduate program.

This led to the creation of The Melissa A. Wiley Student Scholarship, a $5,000 per year scholarship to be awarded to a non-traditional student. This could be a student returning to school after several years of full-time work to advance their career or make a career change. Melissa understands the challenges of changing careers and returning to school, so she knew firsthand how impactful financial support can be during this transition. Her contribution to the scholarship is $2,500 per year, and she has taken advantage of her organization’s corporate match program to double the amount of the annual gift. This fall her scholarship was awarded to its first recipient, William Tremayne.

LER is immensely grateful for Melissa and the far-reaching impact she has on students and alumni alike. We thank her for her gift, and for being an inspiration to future HR professionals.

To learn more about supporting student scholarship opportunities, contact Cory Hatfield at or 217-300-2056.