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Alum takes turn from history to human resources

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Zillah Matare Fluker was looking for a good meal. It turned out to be a life-changing event.

Born in Zimbabwe, Fluker moved to London when she was 5, and then to Birmingham, Alabama, as a teenager. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Alabama State University, and came to Purdue for a master’s degree in history with an eye toward a doctorate.  And then fate—and a little hunger—intervened.

“The Krannert School was having a holiday reception for graduate students, so I thought I would go get something to eat,” Fluker says. “I started talking to Dennis Weidenaar, who was dean at the time, and he thought I should consider a career in business. That led me to talk to another faculty member, David Schoorman, and before I knew it I was working on a business degree.”

Fluker enrolled in the Master of Science in Human Resource Management Program (MSHRM), due in large part to her interest in the diversity piece of HR. She served as president of the Krannert Graduate Student Association before graduating in 2000.

Fluker’s career path has been interesting. She began at Motorola as a diversity marketing manager, with a large focus on increasing the company’s product share in the hip-hop market. From there, she went to United Technologies Corporation in a pure HR role, as she helped that company expand its recruiting efforts on college campuses.

After a short stint with ADVO as director of diversity and talent acquisition, she joined Honeywell in its global staffing efforts, with an emphasis on Brazil, China and India.  She was recruited back to UTC-Carrier as the world headquarters human resource manager. In 2010, she came full circle, joining the staff at Alabama State University as associate vice president for development.

She has been active in every community in which she has lived, working with organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, Urban League and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. “I think you have to make yourself accessible, and give back as much as you can,” Fluker says.

And she’s thankful for lessons learned and people met at Purdue, particularly faculty members Steve Green and Charlene Sullivan, and the late Gordy Wright. “To this day, I still remember the importance of accuracy in figures, and it was a lesson that Professor Sullivan drove home at every opportunity,” Fluker says.

She also is thankful for the learning environment that the Krannert School provided. “Even though I’ve lived on three continents, I think the international population and close teamwork at Purdue gave me a greater understanding of global situations and differences,” Fluker says. “It was the ultimate diversity experience.”