By Suzanne Buzek
Niké Cline-Bailey has a familiar voice—at least for those hired at Xavier in the past seven or eight years. But the generalist for the Office of Human Resources is much more than the first voice many hear when they call the University. She has a way of connecting with and serving people that makes their lives better, both inside and outside her office.
“The most rewarding thing about being in Human Resources is that we do a lot for the programs, and we see it become successful, and employees are satisfied,” says Cline-Bailey. “When I hear the employees say, ‘This is something great that HR has done,' it has helped them grow professionally and otherwise, that is very rewarding to me.”
Cline-Bailey’s knack for working with people is partly inherent, and partly due to her upbringing. Originally from Freetown, Sierra Leone, in West Africa, she experienced no borders within her community. In other words, her family was much larger than the individuals with whom she lived.
“Growing up in Freetown, it was a good life,” she says. “Everybody—I mean, everybody—is everybody else’s cousin, aunt, uncle, sister or brother. You don’t have to be related by blood to be like that.”
Living in such a close-knit community built the foundation for the way Cline-Bailey relates with others and her motivation to serve them. Furthermore, she has an exceptional role model: her mother.
“My mom is the rock of the family,” says Cline-Bailey. “I wish I can be half of who she is, have half of the character she has. She always has everybody’s best interest at heart. If she saw neighborhood kids not in school, she would make them go register to go to school. If they couldn’t afford it, she would pay for them to go to school.”
Cline-Bailey left Sierra Leone—a place she still calls “home”—more than 22 years ago after earning her degree at the University of Sierra Leone and teaching for a short time. Moving to Austin, Texas, with her husband, Jerry, now a professor in the Department of English graduate program, Cline-Bailey planned to teach in America, but things worked out otherwise.
“It was a fluke, how I got into human resources,” she says. “It was very difficult to teach here because there was so much red tape. So I thought that, in the meantime, I could do part-time jobs, so I registered at temporary agencies.
“The agency sent me to do part-time work at an HR office in Austin-Travis County, Texas,” Cline-Bailey continues. “It was the mental health/mental retardation center, and they were overhauling their filing system. I ended up really liking it and started to develop my HR skills.”
Recognizing the similarities between teaching and training others, Cline-Bailey smoothly made the career switch. In1991, her husband got a job teaching at Xavier. Cline-Bailey had no choice but to uproot what she had started and re-plant it in Cincinnati. She was hired at Xavier shortly after her husband started teaching.
“It was an interesting transition, to move from teaching to human resources,” she says. “I was very comfortable in the growth during my graduate program, given my background.”
Along with human resources, Cline-Bailey dabbled in other ventures. For a short while, she tried her hand at selling Mary Kay products. While she was very successful, she didn't want to commit to the venture full time, especially while raising her son and daughter. However, she is active in helping the community. She organizes Xavier’s yearly Hoxworth Blood Drive, which has yielded impressive results in recent years.
“I have been coordinating the blood drives here at Xavier for the employees,” she says. “I was so surprised one day that the president’s office called and said that Hoxworth contacted them saying that Xavier has been doing so well, and that we were the top donors in the city for blood donations from universities. It felt so good to hear that, because people are helping and saving lives here in the region by donating.”
In addition, Cline-Bailey and her family remain connected to African culture and support a charity organization started by friends that aims to build schools and hospitals in Sierra Leone. As a family that loves to travel, she hopes to take her children back “home” someday.
“My children are very interested in the culture of Sierra Leone and West African culture, especially my daughter,” says Cline-Bailey. “She tells us every day that she is not an American, she is a Sierra Leonean. I think she’s a Sierra Leonean at heart.”