Cynthia Lightner

Master’s in Human Resources (MSHR) Online

HR specialist at a biotech company in La Jolla, California

Avila Beach, CA

Championing Diversity in the Workplace and the World

Cynthia Lightner is first-generation Mexican-American, and grew up in a predominantly Hispanic small farm town near Fresno. It wasn’t until she attended college at the University of California San Diego that she first experienced the effects of being a minority. In the 10 years she’s worked in HR, championing diversity has been a key issue for her—and it’s why the global philosophy of the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School attracted her attention. 

“When I was applying to graduate programs, one of the things that stood out about Pepperdine was the fact that they are world leaders, and they don’t want you to succeed just where you work, but to make a difference in the world.”

Credentials That Will Help Level Up Her Career

Increasing her qualifications sparked Cynthia’s interest in the program initially. When applying for manager-level jobs, she often made it to the top 10 percent of applicants, but to get to the top 5 percent would require a master’s degree. She was also very aware that being a minority and a young woman put her at a disadvantage.

“Luckily, we’re turning over a new leaf, but my reality is that I need to show that I am qualified. Having a master’s degree and certifications I feel will help me get to that next level, and I’m really grateful that Pepperdine has this program because it will make that transition in my career path a lot easier.”

Forming Lasting Bonds With Classmates

At first, Cynthia was not sure about the online program. Used to in-person instruction, she felt isolated and alone the first couple of weeks. Then came the weekend immersion program that changed all that. Even though she was on crutches from an injury, Cynthia traveled to campus, where Pepperdine’s staff “went above and beyond” to accommodate her, and she met and bonded with her classmates.

“A lot of them I consider my closest friends now because we’ve cried together, we’ve laughed, we’ve done homework, we’ve stayed up late together, and that one weekend experience really made a difference throughout the entire time I’ve been in this program.”

Support and Advice from Fellow HR Professionals

Learning from and alongside other HR professionals in the program has been valuable to Cynthia. Her classmates work in all different roles in different industries, from tech, to renewable energy, to agriculture, to hospitals. 

“Not only does that help when we’re giving examples and applying what we’re learning to our current organizations, but also we give each other support and advice, which is always great.”

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