Staff Profile: Danielle Hairston, Human Resources, Dean's Office
Of the many surprises about Danielle Hairston, the fact that she was once in a barbershop chorus tops the list. She sang with a group of women as part of the Greater Richmond Chorus, which is a chapter of Sweet Adelines International. “We sang and performed choreography,” Hairston reminisced. “I eventually auditioned for the front row and earned a spot for two years, until I had to leave the chorus due to health reasons. I hope to be able to join again in the future.” The group participated in regional contests and international competitions in addition to singing for charitable organizations and at community events.
When she’s not singing, Hairston plays an important role in CHS’s human resources department. She got her start in human resources years ago when working at the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech as a federal work-study student. Her first position was as a receptionist, but she quickly advanced and took on additional human resource responsibilities. Working at the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech helped her recognize her true passion. Hairston said, “It was easy for me to see that my passion was people and HR was the career path for me.” Upon completing degrees in psychology and women’s studies, Hairston became the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech’s office manager.
"I see my role in HR as one of support, advocacy, compliance partner and change agent. In every role that I have held, I have not only gained skills to advance my career but most importantly, worked with a diverse population of staff, faculty, students and other stakeholders that truly make VCU a great place to work."
Hairston has been a member of the VCU community since 2006. Of her many achievements over the years, “being trusted by those I work with is a great accomplishment,” Hairston explains. “I want those that speak with me to know that I am there to help them and if I don’t know the answer, I will work diligently to get an answer for them.” Much of her role involves collaboration and multi-tasking. Prioritizing tasks and working effectively with the team is of utmost importance.
One of Hairston’s favorite parts of her position is how every day presents new challenges. No two days look the same. “I consider myself to be a lifelong learner,” she says. “In every role that I have held, there is a new skill, policy or procedure that I have learned that has allowed me to become a better HR professional.” Another aspect of the position Hairston finds particularly rewarding is relationship building. “Knowing that I may have assisted someone else brings me joy and a sense of accomplishment,” says Hairston. While faculty and staff have been working virtually, Hairston started an initiative to offer virtual staff drop-ins and brown bag lunches to create a space to build community. “The weekly drop-ins are truly just that,” she explained. “You can come at any time between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. and stay as long as you like. There isn’t an agenda or subject matter. It doesn’t even have to be work-related. The monthly brown bags were created to focus more on work-related topics and provide staff with an opportunity to ask work-related questions, bring in speakers or whatever staff believe would be helpful during this time.”
Hairston’s passion for helping others is clear. "I see my role in HR as one of support, advocacy, compliance partner and change agent," she said. "In every role that I have held, I have not only gained skills to advance my career but most importantly, worked with a diverse population of staff, faculty, students and other stakeholders that truly make VCU a great place to work."
Outside of VCU, you can find Hairston spending quality time with friends. “They are a great support given that I moved to Richmond not having family close by,” she says. “They have become my family. Given the pandemic, I have not been able to spend as much time with them in person as I would have normally, but with technology, we have been able to stay connected and continue to support each other.” She also enjoys singing and hopes to “one day be able to sing with a group again.” For now, singing in her apartment will have to do.