HRD Grad Applies Training Skills to UN Refugee Resettlement

Sometimes Jayna Johnson’s job lands her in odd places, like last May when her Kenyan taxi driver somehow got their car through a flooded roundabout in Nairobi. She was there to conduct a training workshop for those who work with resettlement agents at refugee camps on Kenya’s border with Somalia.

“It rains there like I’ve never seen before,” she says. “I don’t know how our car got through.”

 I know that (HRD) foundation has helped me do that work in multiple situations.

Johnson relies on the same driver every time she goes to Nairobi, usually twice a year. She also relies on her master’s in Human Resource Development (HRD) every time she conducts a workshop. As a learning solutions officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ Global Learning Center, Johnson travels the world conducting train-the-trainer workshops of agency staff, government partners and international charities.

“The purpose of my training is to be sure we have a staff that is equipped to carry out the mandate of UNHCR,” Johnson says.

In Nairobi, the workshops focus on teaching trainers to train the staff who help resettle refugees in other countries. They need to know about different countries’ immigration laws and requirements while remaining compassionate in their interaction with the refugees themselves, who are often traumatized by their experiences.

Johnson earned her degree in 1998 at a turning point in her life when she needed to “up her game” in the world of training and organizational development. It worked. When her job at Convergys ended in 2008, she interviewed for the U.N. job, was hired immediately and landed in Budapest, Hungary, in November 2009, where the Global Learning Center is headquartered. She’s never looked back.

“Budapest picked me because that’s where the position is, and I’m glad it did because I love it here,” she says. “Budapest is a beautiful city that sits on the Danube. It’s been an experience living in a place where the culture is reinventing itself since the falling of the wall.”

Jayna Johnson ('98) sporting Cincinnati colors in Budapest

Johnson stays in touch with Xavier’s HRD professors, including Associate Professor Brenda Levya-Gardner, and says it’s true that once you become a member of the HRD program, “you become a member for life.” It’s the same with the knowledge from her degree, which she’s applied in her work every day since starting the program.

“I know that foundation has helped me do that work in multiple situations. Because you can apply it in so many different ways, you can use it every day, whether you’re in front of a class or one-on-one coaching.”

Or even with favorite taxi drivers.

Feature Image: Johnson feeds monkeys at a park in Nairobi.