HR Generalist sets sights on building career with focus on DEI initiatives
Gina Lawson could easily say that she has been a part of the Jefferson Lab community since she was in the eighth grade. While visiting her middle school, scientists from the lab recorded an educational video that features a young Lawson.
But it was not until years later when she switched universities from Virginia Tech to Old Dominion University that Lawson turned to the lab as a place to forge her career.
“I first really started at the lab while I was in college,” Lawson remembers. “I was working full-time as the head receptionist at a veterinary hospital while also taking 18 credit hours. I already had a lot going on, but then my mom learned about this HR internship opportunity at the lab, and I knew I just had to apply. I got the internship, so I cut back my time at the veterinary hospital to part-time, kept the same number of credit hours at ODU and then also began the part-time human resources internship at the lab.”
While Lawson admits that her days as a student were full, she says she felt energized by each activity.
“I don’t think I’ll ever achieve that level of productivity again,” she laughs.
After graduating in 2019, Lawson joined the lab full-time as an administrative assistant, bringing the same energy and eagerness to be of service to the lab’s 1,700 scientific users.
“When I first started in human resources, I was doing a lot of visa and immigration work,” Lawson explains. “That included scanning passports and visa documentation. Many of our users are international and often need visa and immigration services.”
From there, Lawson was able to grow in her role at the lab and expand her knowledge of human resources responsibilities. Through this growth, she says she developed a special interest in recruiting and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
“When I first started here, I got my hands on a variety of projects, and I spread my wings so I was able to do more than one thing in the department,” Lawson says. “As an administrative assistant, one day we need to focus on visa and immigration work, and the next day I would spend focused on recruiting. Everything is tied together in Human Resources.”
Lawson has her sights focused on supporting recruiting efforts across the lab and helping to expand the role and impact of DEI initiatives in the lab community.
“Partnerships with line management are vital to the talent acquisition/recruiting cycle. By marrying recruiting with DEI, you can reinforce looking at things through a diverse and inclusive lens, with both bringing people to the lab, and helping them grow within the lab. The talent needed to grow the lab in the next decade has high expectations that their employer embrace DEI throughout the employee experience.
“I’ve come to understand that the lab is a very unique environment,” Lawson says. “And the moment we started building this DEI program from the bottom up, I was wholly invested. DEI is something I’m very passionate about, and I want to see the program through.”
For Lawson, DEI is about more than just having diversity represented in the room.
“The most important thing is what having a diverse and inclusive environment can bring to the endeavor and how the contribution of other people and ideas different from make any team stronger. It’s about how strong you can be when you allow other people the opportunity to speak up,” she says.
As far as Lawson is concerned, contributing to the lab’s mission is important. In her new role as an HR Generalist-Recruiter, she believes she is in an ideal spot to attract new talent and help existing staff feel comfortable while they develop their career at the lab. Through her work, she hopes to create an environment where staff feel connected to the lab and its scientific mission, and to help them feel more energized when facing the challenges and opportunities ahead.
“I’m here to support our current teammates and help bring in new ones. My door is always open for our users. I like to imagine that I’m a pinch hitter—I’m there when you need me,” she says.
By Carrie Rogers