Notable Women in Human Resources: Abbey Nicholas

Director of operations and human resources, Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin

  • Category: Notable Women in Human Resources
  • Number of years working in your current industry: 5
  • Undergrad degree/university: BA in Social Welfare & Justice, Marquette University
  • Graduate degree/university: MBA in Management, Mendoza College of Business at University of Notre Dame

Abbey Nicholas, director of operations and human resources for the Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin (DSAW), has successfully handled (and initiated) rapid change at the organization while positively affecting its culture.

Less than six years ago, DSAW had 1.5 full time employees — Nicholas was the 0.5. She played a large part in creating the DSAW of today – one that has almost 50 employees and serves 5,500 people with disabilities and their families each year.

Nicholas has been integral in growing the company from a small non-profit organization into one with 11 locations across Wisconsin, including a direct-services arm, according to Rachel Reit, marketing and development manager.

In the last 15 months in particular, Nicholas has demonstrated her leadership abilities and has used them to transform DSAW, Reit said.

She was instrumental in the preparation and implementation of a merger between DSAW, Inc. (the “operations” side of the organization) and DSAW-Family Services (the direct-services arm) to create one, cohesive organization. She developed a new organizational infrastructure, including an HR department.

Nicholas has been significant in assisting the employees and the organization with addressing the COVID-19 crisis by securing needed relief dollars and compassionately handling staff and family illnesses, as well as unemployment concerns.

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