business professionals in a meeting room with camera focused on smiling young man

Todd Dockery


Our Instructor Spotlight is on our SHRM Certification Exam Prep Course instructor, Todd Dockery, SHRM-CP. Currently, Todd is a full-time faculty member for UTC’s Gary W. Rollins College of Business. He is also a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS), Professional in Human Resources (PHR), Group Benefits Associate (GBA), Compensation Management Specialist (CMS), and has an MBA degree.



Marah: What professional experience do you have relating to the course you are teaching?

Todd: I had 20 years of HR experience prior to teaching the SHRM Exam Prep course. I first began my HR journey as a personnel administration sergeant in the US Army. Then, I worked in healthcare as a human resources coordinator, and after that, in management positions for two different trucking companies. One was a compensation and benefits position, and the other oversaw employee benefits. I then moved on to work as a director of human resources for Open Arm Care, the City of Chattanooga, and most recently, I worked as the deputy HR officer and director of compensation and benefits right here at UTC!


M: What made you decide to become a teacher?

T: Before becoming a full-time teacher, I had been an adjunct professor at UTC for about 9 years, and I knew I wanted to continue to teach. HR was a great career for me; there were so many different things to do, in many different areas of HR, for many different types of companies. For me, though, teaching was what I was really passionate about, so I decided to pursue it full time!


M: Why do you love teaching?

T: I just truly love to help others learn and be successful. I like to see students take certain concepts and either apply or talk about how they would potentially apply the concepts to real-world situations. For students in the SHRM course who are already in the HR field, they sometimes get to apply what we are learning to situations in their workplace. I love seeing students be successful in any way they can with the information they’re learning…I truly enjoy that.


male HR professional helping a female businesswoman sign papers


M: What’s your favorite aspect of the SHRM Certification Exam Prep Course to teach?

T: I truly like all the course topics, and working in such a diverse mix of HR specialties has given me experience in many areas within the topics. Not to get too technical, but the SHRM Body of Knowledge goes into both technical and behavioral competencies. Technical competencies encompass people, organizations, and workplaces, so for technical competencies, I really enjoy the people aspect. That’s where you talk about strategic planning, recruiting, employee engagement, learning and development, etc., and I really like that. For behavioral competencies, I am drawn more to the leadership aspects: leadership, ethics, things like that. I think those topics are extremely important. Again, all the topics interest me, but those are the ones I tend to be drawn too a little more.


M: What is your teaching philosophy?

T: I like to keep it simple. My philosophy is to have fun and learn from one another. It’s important for students to learn from one another because everyone brings different experiences and perspectives to the classroom. But I learn from the students, as well; I almost always learn from the students as I go through a teaching assignment.  Anytime a student comes to me and asks me for advice, or asks me if I would be their HR mentor, I am always honored that they would think of me; as I go into those types of relationships, I have found I often learn from the person I should be mentoring. It’s all about learning from one another.


M: What do you believe students will gain by taking your course? What are the key concepts you hope students will leave your course with?

T: One thing I emphasize to HR professionals working toward a professional certification is that the exams are not easy. I have taken several certification exams, and just having experience in HR may not be enough to pass an exam. Students need to know specifics—certain behavioral and technical competencies that are required for the exam. It’s not just about working in HR and knowing the aspects of HR you have worked in; understanding competencies is important. I stress to students that even if you have worked in HR for many years, to take the exam seriously…it can be challenging!


HR female professional smiling as she helps a new male hire fill out paperwork


M: How do you motivate students in your classroom?

T: I make sure that we remain professional, but also make sure that we have fun as we are learning. I motivate students by trying to relate real-world experiences to what they are learning, whether it be my experience or someone else in the room’s experience. I often break up students into smaller groups to network and learn in a more intimate setting. Some people get nervous talking in front of large groups but will open up more in smaller ones; once they get comfortable in the smaller setting, they are more likely to potentially open up to the whole class later on. The more they learn from one another and see how what they are learning relates to the world outside of a classroom, the more motivated they are to get to the point where they can apply the information in their careers.


M: What are three fun facts about you?


  • I collect PEZ dispensers. I have about 1600 different ones!
  • I am a HUGE Elvis fan, and in my college days, I worked as a part-time Elvis impersonator.
  • I actually proposed to my wife dressed as Elvis.


M: Is there anything else you would like to share?

T: It’s really important for HR professionals to continue to learn and develop. I have seen a lot of changes in the field since I began my career 20 years ago, and even more changes since I began undergrad 25 years ago. Being on top of the constant changes helps professionals set themselves apart when applying for a job or promotion, or even just with building influence among their colleagues. I say constantly to my undergrad students to try to be experts in their field; be seen as the go-to person when someone has a question. You’ll become a strategic business partner and be viewed as a leader when you have relevant knowledge in your field. That comes with learning continuously.


Marah Whitaker headshot

Hi! My name is Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M). I am the Marketing Assistant for UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, I spend time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with our customer base. During my free time, you can find me getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, I aspire to live by the Mr. Feeny quote, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” I strive to use my passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around me. 

Connect with me on LinkedIn.