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Darla Moore School of Business


Moore School Masters of Human Resources students win first place in $20,000 NAHR essay contest

November 4, 2016

Three of the Darla Moore School of Business’ Masters of Human Resources students are presenting their paper at the National Academy of Human Resources annual dinner in New York City this weekend after winning the 2016 NAHR Ram Charan HR Essay Contest. Ellie Gardner, Will Oncken and Lauryn Overton will split the $20,000 prize for their essay on the gig economy after beating out over 50 other submissions from around the world. A gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.

Oncken and Overton represented the Moore School at the NAHR annual dinner last year. They knew they had to find some way to be at the dinner again this year because of the sheer wealth of knowledge exchanged there.

“It was really overwhelming, so we knew we had to go back if we could,” Oncken said.

Both enjoyed the chance to talk one on one with other business students as well as leading professionals in the industry.

“Now I’m a more informed student,” Overton said. “Now I know more things, so I can have better conversations.”

After seeing last year’s winner present, they thought seriously about applying for the essay contest. In the spring, Overton met Gardner in their compensation class, where they had to write individual essays on this year’s prompt for a class assignment. Both scored well, so they decided to collaborate for the competition.

Overton remembered Oncken’s interest, and as he is studying law as well as human resources, she knew he would add valuable insight to their essay. Oncken was pleased to be on board.

“Any time I get to put my name next to theirs, it always works out,” Oncken said.

At the end of September, they found out just how well it had worked out.

“I had totally forgotten about it,” Oncken said. “Lauren texted me the morning we found out and was like, ‘Wake up! We won!’”

Overton was the first to find out and was thrilled to tell her teammates.

“I was shocked,” she said. “I didn’t expect to get first. Seeing it all written out — who else applied, who reviewed it — you realize just how big your achievement is. I was just so happy.”

All three students will be graduating in December. Oncken will be moving to Paris, Texas, to work for International Paper. Overton will be moving to Melbourne, Florida, to work for Harris Corporation, and Gardner will be working for Synchrony Financial.

By Madeleine Vath