Strengthening Tufts' Workforce

Julien Carter, the new vice president of human resources, hopes to build a solid partnership with all employees

Julien Carter

Julien Carter flashes a big smile as he greets a visitor. Never mind that his schedule has been hectic: buying and closing on a new house, arranging for his furniture to be delivered and eagerly awaiting the arrival of his two dogs, Emily and Chloe, and his cat, Valentine, all overseas in Abu Dhabi, where he worked before coming to Tufts this semester as the new vice president of human resources.

Two months into his new job, Carter makes this observation: “Tufts has a wonderful reputation, and I have been bowled over by everyone I’ve met, how welcoming they are and the objectives they are articulating.”

Carter, who has spent his 30-year career in human resources, returned to the United States in 2014, after a three-and-a-half-year stint as vice president for a brand-new human resources operation at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, one of the United Arab Emirates. His position there was time-limited, meaning the government required that the job eventually go to an Abu Dhabi national.

His professional experience is in higher education and state government. Before working overseas, he was associate vice president and chief human resources officer at the University of Texas in Austin, and he held a similar position at the University of Louisville. He also served as commissioner of employee relations for the state of Minnesota, a cabinet post in which he reported to Gov. Jesse Ventura.

Given his career to date, it might come as a surprise that a college education was not a given. Carter grew up in Fulton, Missouri, the second youngest in a family of nine. Neither of his parents graduated from high school, and he was the only one of his siblings to go to college. He hoped to be an elementary school teacher—it was the only professional role model he had.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Missouri State University and went on to get a master’s at Truman State University, also in Missouri, where he worked as a residence hall advisor in return for free room and board; an Army ROTC scholarship paid his tuition. At the time, Truman offered just two graduate programs—he chose human resources management, which turned out to be a defining moment for his future career path. Later, he earned a law degree from the University of Missouri.

People-focused Strategy

The human resources field has undergone enormous change over the years he’s been in the people business. “I started in what was then called the personnel office,” he says. “We did a lot of traditional human resources work, a lot of transaction processing. We had training and development, of course, but the office wasn’t strategic. Human resources was considered a cost center. It wasn’t thought of as adding value” to the workplace environment.

Nowadays, says Carter, human resources departments are key in helping to attract and retain good employees. “What distinguishes institutions is the talent—the workforce,” he says. “And because everything is more costly, organizations are trying to be more strategic in how they view their employees.”

He said he comes to Tufts during an exciting time, with the ongoing Tufts Effectiveness in Administrative Management (TEAM) initiative and the recent launch of one of TEAM’s major projects, Tufts Support Services (TSS), both of which are aimed at making the university more efficient so it can focus on its core mission of teaching, research and scholarship.

TEAM is designed to ensure the university’s continued fiscal strength over the long term by ensuring that administrative functions occur as effectively as possible—the goal is to make certain that the university spends its dollars wisely and controls costs. TSS, meanwhile, has taken some of the transactional tasks in administration and finance off the Human Resources plate, freeing up HR staff to focus on supporting employees, recruitment and organizational development.

One of Carter’s personal goals is to develop a multi-year strategic plan for human resources, based in part on plans put forth by other parts of the university, including Tufts’ strategic plan as well as the individual school strategic plans. He will be reviewing these documents and meeting with stakeholders across the university to determine how HR can best support the schools and divisions.

Human Resources, says Carter, can play an important role in helping Tufts’ schools and departments achieve their own goals of operating efficiently and effectively while maintaining their high standards. To do that, HR will work closely with schools and divisions through its business-partner model, in which every unit has an assigned HR staff member who is familiar with its needs and is available for consultation, planning and strategy.

The Office of Human Resources is supporting the TEAM and TSS programs by looking at job redesign, reorganization and job reclassification and doing a host of other consulting work, says Carter. This will help schools and departments direct their resources to high-priority goals—the intent of TSS and the other TEAM projects.

To be successful in HR, Carter has learned, means being a good listener first and then being a good consultant. “Human resources needs to help people with their career management and growth,” he says. “That way, there is an intersection between the university’s goals and the individual’s goals so that employees have a long-term relationship with Tufts.”

A Friendly Neighborhood

Carter went to Abu Dhabi because he was eager to have overseas experience. He also wanted to be able to build a human resources department from scratch—Khalifa University was founded in 2007.

In some ways, he says, Abu Dhabi was a throwback to the small town he grew up in. “You didn’t worry about locking your doors; you felt very safe,” he says. “People were open and friendly. There was something comforting about that. Even though it was a major cosmopolitan area, it had a small-town feel because of the heavy religious influence.”

He made good friends there because, he says, expatriates form a kind of family, support each other, celebrate things together and learn about each other—not unlike a good HR department.

But he’s glad to be back in a large American city, and pleased to have landed at Tufts. “I’m hoping for a long-term home here, personally and professionally.”

Marjorie Howard can be reached at

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