John Brockhaus, AM 98, has joined the group of incredibly generous donors who assist current MHRIR students. Brockhaus is a double Illini, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a master’s from the then-Institute in 1998. Upon graduation, he began his Human Resources career with Cummins Inc. Over nearly 25 years, John progressed from an HR intern to the Vice President of Human Resources Operations, responsible for global HR business partnerships. John currently serves as the Vice President of Total Rewards and People Analytics for Cargill, with a team of around 150 people.

John’s career journey began in his sophomore and junior years of undergrad when he was still determining where to take his degree in Psychology. He knew that he would likely need to do more schooling of some sort but was still determining the path he would take. He eventually landed on HR with the help of a family friend, an HR manager at his dad’s work. With an interest in social psychology, LER provided a career in this with practical application. “It really matched the desire with the interest that I had in more of the social psychology with a practical application.”

John received a corporate scholarship and research assistantship during his time at LER. As you can imagine, this had a significant impact on his education and future career. This support inspired him to give back to students in the program so they could start their careers on the right foot. ILIR (now LER) invested in him, and now he wants to return the favor. The School impacted his personal and professional life and provided a quality education. His goal is to help students gain the same experience he had over 25 years ago, without the financial burden.

He looks back fondly on his time at LER and the friendships he made there. With classes of 15-20 people, the School created a close-knit community with friends he still has today. He specifically mentioned Professor Michael LeRoy and his Labor Relations courses. LeRoy’s courses provide real-life experience with authentic scenarios many will experience in HR. These experiences help build the new generation of HR professionals, much needed in the workplace.

Breaking into your career can be a stressful time – transitioning from the School to the workplace. Brockhaus had terrific advice for current students and recent alums who feel stress and failure during the interview and selection process:

“My advice to that group is, it will happen. Be yourself. Don’t get intimidated; just have the conversation and be true to your convictions.”

John Brockhaus, AM 98, Vice President of Total Rewards and People Analytics for Cargill

He also advises early career grads to be honest about what makes them happy. “If you are in a position you’re unsure of, give it time, then determine whether it’s a right fit. Even though the money may be great, be honest and evaluate your quality of life. Sticking to a job that doesn’t bring you joy is not worth it.”

Family involvement has a lot to do with his philanthropic efforts. His father has provided support and been an advocate for education in the community his entire adult life. His wife, Natasha, is a community health advocate and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. She has spearheaded numerous grass-roots support groups and focuses on post-natal women’s and infant health. John is a board member and past president of the Bartholomew County Ecumenical Assembly, a wrap-around philanthropic organization focused on food, shelter, and financial security.

The School is proud of John and his accomplishments, and we thank him and his family for their generosity to our current and future students.

To learn more about supporting student scholarship opportunities, please get in touch with Cory Hatfield at or 217-300-2056.