With thousands of staff, faculty and students working on Lehigh's campus, there aren't too many employees who come into contact with all of them. And Rebecca Barreto just might be the only one whose job description requires it.
Rebecca arrived at Lehigh earlier this year as a Human Resources Assistant specializing in administering Lehigh's I-9 compliance program. Each new employee at Lehigh must supply evidence of eligibility to work in the United States through the I-9 E-verify system. In her role, Rebecca meets with each of them to help them navigate this important step in their onboarding process.
Rebecca's journey to Lehigh HR marked a turn on her career path. After earning a degree in design, she had been working in sales, dealing with granite, quartz, and marble countertops. Her background was suited to kitchen and bath design, but she realized her true passion was in helping people. This led her to explore career opportunities in Human Resources.
"I always love trying new things and seeking out new opportunities," Rebecca explained. So when she learned of an opening in Lehigh's HR department, she decided to apply.
While her previous job involved some HR-related tasks, she hadn’t yet delved into the intricacies of I-9 compliance. "I was familiar with the paperwork because I myself have filled it out before, but the whole process was new to me," Rebecca said. After quickly learning the ins and outs of the task, she gained a sense of the importance of her role in verifying employment eligibility.
Because no one can begin work at Lehigh prior to completing the I-9 process, Rebecca gets to meet every new employee, from hourly student wage workers to staff and faculty members. It’s an experience that adds to her enjoyment of the job.
"It's nice to put a face to a name because obviously we're the behind-the-scenes team in HR," she said. "And I've seen so many different passports. It's great to meet new people. I often think 'Wow, there's so many people out there that I haven't met yet.’ I love it.'"
Outside of work, Rebecca indulges her creative side by drawing on her iPad. She's a digital artist whose work evolved from sketching dresses as a kid. She's also embraced the Lehigh Valley, having moved here from New Jersey, and she appreciates the sense of community and connectedness in the area.
As for her future, Rebecca is open to possibilities. She's considering furthering her education in marketing and sees potential for growth within Lehigh.
"I would not mind staying in this department at all. I love it," she said. "But I’m also eager to check out what else Lehigh has to offer for my career."
Talent Acquisition Specialist Felicia Cochrane joined the Lehigh HR team in March. With a diverse work background and a passion for connecting with people, she brings a fresh perspective to her role at Lehigh.
Originally from New York, Felicia made her way to the Lehigh Valley with her family about five years ago. She attended Dominican University in Orangeburg, New York, where she initially pursued a nursing degree. Her career path took a different turn, but her passion for connecting with people remained a constant.
Felicia spent eight years in the banking industry, where she honed her customer service and sales skills. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, she started considering a career change. She began navigating the job market, initially without a specific goal in mind.
As she considered opportunities, Felicia saw a job listing in recruitment and realized the role aligned well with her background in sales. Her first recruitment role provided valuable experience and she knew she was on the right path. After a round of layoffs at her prior employer, Felicia spotted a job listing at Lehigh and seized the chance.
As Lehigh's staff recruitment efforts evolve, Felicia is playing a pivotal role in streamlining processes and ensuring compliance. She’s also doing more direct recruiting, helping to reach out to potential applicants via LinkedIn. Her approach focuses on providing support to hiring managers and creating a positive experience for potential employees.
“Even when a candidate isn’t the right person for the role, we can offer a welcoming experience and make sure they are left with a good impression of Lehigh as an employer,” she notes.
Felicia especially finds joy in talking to candidates from diverse fields, helping them find the right fit, and witnessing their growth. And the growth often goes both ways.
“The colleagues on campus I work with and our candidates represent many fields and roles, areas that I didn’t study in college,” she explained. “So when I'm speaking to people about their work, I am learning so much. I am developing in my role even as I am matching candidates to positions”
Outside of work, Felicia is a dedicated parent to her two children, who are actively involved in sports and extracurricular activities. She and her family have also embarked on a home improvement adventure, where she's discovered a newfound love for landscaping and DIY projects.