HR Excellence 2019 Executive of the Year finalist: Valarie Kesel, senior HR director, COSI

Valarie Kesel has pretty much seen it all in her 25 years of service at COSI. She helped lead the nonprofit during its most critical periods, including transitioning through four presidents, three levels of strategic planning and the science center's move from its old home on East Broad Street to a 320,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility in Franklinton.

She started as a human resources specialist and advanced to benefits and compensation manager before she assumed her current role.

“Under her leadership and guidance, COSI's human resources team has become industry-setting and comprehensive through its offering of benefits, digitization, ease of use including a shift from manual paper driven process to an online electronic system,” Frederic Bertley, COSI's president and CEO, wrote in his nomination of Kesel. He also described her as someone who has a broad vision for what human resources means and works to change the common notion that the HR department merely enforces policies.

Kesel says she believes the department can make a difference for every team member, which in turn makes a difference to the organization's bottom line. “HR is thought of as the department that makes everyone follow the rules,” Kesel says. “That compliance is important and what we do every day, but there's so much more that HR offers.”

Kesel likes the HR department to treat COSI team members like they are guests, the same way those team members treat the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to the center from near and far ever year.

Executive of the Year recognizes an individual who has demonstrated significant achievements that advance both a person's organization and the HR profession.

Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer.

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