Meet Holly Gorski, Pierce’s new vice president for human resources

holly Holly Gorski

Being on a college campus invigorates Holly Gorski, Pierce College’s new vice president for human resources. “I love it. I’m energized by the college environment.”She comes to Pierce after eight years as staff experience director (human resources) for the Pierce County Library System.

Though the college and the library system are both institutions that make an impact on people’s lives, the purposes of the two have striking differences, Gorski says. She finds the difference exciting. The library is a public space that serves a wide variety of people, who usually come in their spare time. “That’s great. I love libraries.”

“But, the school environment, for the time someone is a student, is more central to their lives,” Gorski said. “The college has a chance through its mission to make a huge impression on someone’s life.”

It’s also different and exciting working with the faculty.

“I haven’t worked before with professors,” she said. “It’s interesting because on a faculty there’s a lot of diversity of thought. There’s a huge diversity of interests on the faculty. And I haven’t even met most of them yet.”

Gorski is part of the college “e-team” or executive team, which serves as an advisory board for Chancellor Michele L. Johnson.

Gorski supervises the human resources staff, whose responsibilities include recruiting, trainings, employee relations, benefits and payroll. “The staff here is excellent. I walked into a fantastic crew. They don’t need that much from me.”

In fact, she says, “they’re helping me figure out what has been done. I have the HR experience, but I don’t have the Pierce College experience, the college culture, and expectations. The staff has all that information.”

She says learning about higher education, the culture of Pierce and dealing with the size of the institution are her first challenges. Including student employees, there are some 1,400 people who work at Pierce, at multiple workplaces.

As for early goals, Gorski said she like to look at standardizing and potentially improving orientation or “onboarding” for new employees.

Before Gorski worked for the library system, she was human resources manager for Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Westminster College in Salt Lake City and worked for a number of years in retail. She got her start in human resources after she started working for Mahlum Architects in Seattle.

She was hired as an administrative assistant. As one of her duties, she was in charge of the secretarial pool. “One day they said, ‘we haven’t had anyone do HR in awhile, why don’t you do that?’”

While in that job, she went back to school for a “wonderful” nine-month extension program through the University of Washington, studying with other people who were in the same circumstances – doing HR jobs without formal training in the field. Through that program, she earned a certificate in Human Resource Management. Gorski also was awarded certification as a professional in human resources (PHR) in 2004, and a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the HR Certification Institute in 2010.

Gorski said employment law has always fascinated her. She doesn’t have time for much of this, but she enjoys reading legal briefs from employment law court cases. “It would be really fascinating to go to law school. I don’t want to be a lawyer, so I’d never do it. But it would be interesting.”

Gorski and her family live in Puyallup. She and her husband, Corey, a stay-at-home dad, have three sons, Zane, 10, Thor, 6, and Finn, 3. The two older kids are in public school. “We love the Puyallup School District.”

Spare time is mostly filled with kid-related activities. “All three boys are in Camp Fire. It’s a coed inclusive scouting program,” she said. “Last weekend we cleaned up litter at Owen Beach.”

Gorski says she’s a voracious reader and someday when she has time to herself again, she plans to return to the novel she’s writing – an urban (“or suburban”) fantasy.

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