Patrick Stluka and fellow Navy trainers found themselves breaking new ground in the 1970s while stationed in San Diego. Women were new to certain occupations in the military, and so was sexual harassment training.
Some of the old guard did not welcome the change with open arms.“There were people that would say, ‘This isn’t my Navy anymore, so I probably should just retire,’” Stluka said. Still, there were many others who considered the training enlightening and accepted the change.
Stluka, 64, now a veteran in academia, has been a senior adjunct professor in ethics and other organizational studies for nearly 30 years at the University of La Verne. He has been working as National Labor Relations Manager at Toyota Motor Sales the last 17 years.
His roles in higher education and human resources go hand in hand, he says. And one thing he hopes his students and colleagues learn from him is the importance of respect. “Respect for people — that’s what ethics is all about,” Stluka said.
Stluka’s journey began while he was stationed at Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines in the 1970s. University of La Verne classes were offered there, so he began pursuing a degree in business administration. He continued night classes, working on a master’s degree in Business Administration. When he came back to the U.S., he focused his studies on industrial relations. He earned both his MBA and a master’s degree in Human Resources from other institutions.
Stluka began working for a manufacturing company in the City of Industry, eventually becoming human resources manager. It was not a position without challenges. The company was forced to make pay cuts during tough financial times, a decision that affected hundreds of hourly-wage employees. Emotions ran high.Employees ultimately realized the move saved jobs and was the right thing to do.
At Toyota, Stluka says the company’s success lies in its respect for its associates and the dedication to continuous improvement. Other companies reach out to them to learn more about their production methods and quality. Stluka’s day-to-day office anecdotes transfer into the classroom, giving students a real-world perspective on human resources.
Melvin Cook, a reserve officer with Monterey Park Police Department and operations manager for the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District, says what he learned in a stress management course taught by Stluka has been invaluable in his professional life. He supervises around 20 people on any given shift for Vector Control.
Stluka taught him to manage daily stress by taking tasks off his plate that do not have priority. “It’s one thing that I’ll always remember,” said Cook, who is pursuing a master’s degree at La Verne in leadership and management.
Former students stay in touch with him, seeking guidance on workplace issues and telling him how his instruction has helped. “If they’re able to make some change in their organizations,” he said, “I feel like I’ve done some good.”