As part of Saint Ignatius High School’s Women’s History Month celebration, we are proud to feature our third Wildcat Woman of the Week, Mrs. Sandra Appeldorn, Director of Human Resources.
Sandra Appeldorn has been an integral member of the Saint Ignatius community since 2006 when she joined the Advancement Department as the Assistant to the VP of Advancement. Throughout Appeldorn’s education and years in management, working in Human Resources had never crossed her mind.
During her first few years working at Saint Ignatius, Appeldorn took advantage of various spiritual retreats and program offerings of what is now known as the Spirituality Program for Adults (S.P.A.). “I was introduced to the Spiritual Exercises by Fr. Jim Lewis, and that experience encouraged me to take part in retreats and attend the Ignatian Pilgrimage.” Through the influence of these programs, she felt called to enter The Ignatian Spirituality Institute at John Carroll University, where she received formal training to become a certified Spiritual Director.
As the administration began to take a closer look into the school’s hiring processes and human resources function, they saw the need to establish a formal Human Resources role with faith and spirituality at the forefront of its initiatives. Due to her unique background of management and spiritual direction, members of school leadership saw Appeldorn as the perfect fit for this new role. Although she loved being a part of the Advancement team, she humbly accepted the offer. “We believed that my understanding of the mission, culture, and politics of the school would be very useful in creating the role.”
Human resource work is equal parts strategic and personal, dealing with the people and systems that directly impact employees. This role is anything but static- from managing employee benefits and compensation, handling various compliance issues, and helping with onboarding and employee relations- no two days look the same. “My job is often like Switzerland; I have to be able to listen to the employee needs and administration concerns openly. Figuring out how to delicately and sensitively communicate with all parties has been challenging. I sometimes don’t get all the puzzle pieces, but often I get enough to help decision-makers see the big picture.”
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of her work has been finding ways to successfully weave Saint Ignatius High School’s mission into all areas of Human Resources. Upholding Cura Personalis, or care for the whole person, is at the forefront of Appeldorn’s daily work. “There’s a personal, almost counseling aspect of my job that I like a lot. It’s everything from being the very first face someone meets when they’re thinking about working here, to being the welcoming door when they do land here, and making sure they feel cared for and properly connected.”
Of everything this role has entailed throughout the past nine years, Appeldorn’s favorite component has been facilitating the hiring process. Taking a holistic approach to employee recruitment while remaining intentional about upholding the school’s faith-based values and mission helps Appeldorn and the hiring manager(s) select the very best candidates. “Looking at the whole person and the whole picture in the hiring process is a different way to work, but I am very happy with where it has gotten us,” she reflected. “It is always our hope that we are selecting the people who are following their spirit and doing what God is calling them to do.”
Although Appeldorn will be moving on from her current role at the end of the school year to more directly pursue her passion for spiritual direction, she is optimistic about the future of Saint Ignatius High School and the initiatives of the Human Resources department. “I hope the next [Human Resources Director] will be able to stand on my shoulders and take this work to a whole new level. My wish is that every faculty and staff member will truly understand our mission - and will be equipped with the tools and resources to do what they love to successfully and lovingly serve as role models for our students.”
Appeldorn is grateful for the Saint Ignatius community’s influence on her throughout the last 15 years. “I’ve learned so much from so many people. I’m not the same person I was when I started here because of the wonderful relationships I’ve built. I will cherish that forever.”