Student Connects with Human Resources 

Keaton with one of his HR professors, Dr. Rahul Chauhan

Earning your undergraduate degree is a big step in launching your career. Keeping going, or returning, for your MBA or other graduate degree allows you to reach farther and higher. But when you add specialized certifications on top of that all, it becomes the icing on the cake.

Keaton Irons is the perfect example. Keaton earned his BBA in Management in 2018 with a Human Resource specialization, all the while working at United Supermarkets. He then took a position with Xcel Energy in Amarillo, and began working on his MBA, which he competed in 2020. But Keaton was not done just yet. He put in the extra energy and dedication required to achieve SHRM-CP status, which he is a Certified Professional in the Society for Human Resource Management, and is now Senior Account Acquisition Analyst with Xcel.

As a result of his efforts, he received a promotion and will be relocating to Xcel Energy’s headquarters this fall in Minneapolis. The Panhandle native is ready to continue in his present capacity, but on a broader scale. “I’m going to stay in my role, although I expect there will be some culture shock,” he laughed, considering the climate differences and big city atmosphere.

Keaton credits Dr Jillian Yarbrough for her efforts in guiding and encouraging him through the stages of SHRM Certification. “There were a lot of books!” he added.

Keaton with his family at graduation

As for the certification, Keaton has quickly come to recognize the value in making the reach for it. “It has really helped, and is great for the resume. It gives you a little bit of an edge. It sends the message that you took the time to do this.”

The online MBA was a perfect fit while he was establishing a career at Xcel. “It was pretty flexible. At that time I was a recruiter and traveling quite a bit,” he continued. “I was able to keep up. I’m not going to say it was easy, but it was manageable.”

All that hard work is not lost on Keaton. “The MBA and SHRM certification have really helped me, especially in my current position,” he reflected. “The fact that I was able to multitask getting my MBA on top of working full-time set me up for success.”

And having not just two degrees but also that professional certification have combined to set this young alum off on an electrifying trajectory. Working for the power company is a perfect backdrop, and perhaps metaphor.

The SHRM-CP certification is an industry standard to recognize knowledgeable people in the HR field. The Engler College of Business at WT worked with SHRM to make sure the curriculum aligned with the knowledge needed to pass this exam. To learn more about our SHRM-CP preparation program, contact Dr. Jillian Yarbrough at 806-651-4114 or