Chicago-based senior executive brings real-life experience to graduate business course
By Adriana Geday | Student reporter
Graduate students enrolled in Brian J. Cook’s introductory course have the opportunity to learn and apply concepts from an industry expert with more than 35 years of experience in human resources.
Cook is executive vice president and chief administrative officer of USG Corporation, a manufacturer and distributor of high-performance building systems.
This spring, Cook was welcomed to the Quinlan School of Business as an instructor, where his extensive and successful career serves as an invaluable resource for students in Managing and Motivating in the Workplace: Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management (HRER 417).
“While I pursued my MBA I was a graduate assistant for Professor Dow Scott. It was a relationship that evolved over many years and eventually brought me to Loyola to share my experiences and teach my own HR class. I am honored by the opportunity and really enjoy teaching at Loyola,” Cook says.
Here, Cook shares his take on current industry trends, the increasing importance of a career in HR, and the hard-working spirit of Quinlan students.
What is your take on HR trends that you’ve developed throughout your career?
My role at USG has grown from solely HR and now includes communications, marketing, USG foundation, and environmental health and safety. Similarly, I think HR has also evolved over time. Many of the things that were once done in HR are no longer done, the routine administrative tasks, for example, are now increasingly done with technology or outsourced. So, to me HR is evolving towards a focus on talent management.
This is a great thing for the industry. The HR field is more focused on what it should be: finding the right people, developing them in the right way, turning them into leaders, and helping them grow their contributions.
What do you think you can offer to the classroom at Quinlan?
My hope is to bring real-life examples to the classroom. If we are discussing certain concepts in HR that require deeper thought, I am able to show students how it’s done in a real company today. In adding practical application of the concepts, students are able to grasp the information and more deeply understand it.
What is your perception of Quinlan students?
Quinlan students are hard-working. I’m truly impressed with what I’ve seen so far in terms of how people are managing the demands of the class and testing themselves to earn this degree. I have a special appreciation for my students because class is held during the evening. From personal experience, I know there is an added difficulty to working and studying later in the day. I really admire them for their determination.
Why do you think students should get degrees in HR?
For those interested in pursuing a degree in HR, I think it’s a central strategic component of a company’s success. Anyone who works in a large or medium-sized company can benefit from understanding fundamental HR concepts about how to manage people and correctly develop them. It’s a great career whether you are the HR person in charge or navigate a company, understanding these concepts is very helpful.