By Annie Rhoades
With the Houston Astros’ season opener against the World Series champion Kansas City Royals under her belt, alumna Vivian Mora (MSS 94) is ready to take on her next big project as vice president of human resources for the franchise.
“My typical day involves a lot,” Mora said. “It can range anywhere from planning for our new spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., to going through the onboarding process for players that are being traded to other teams. My day is full of a lot of variety, and there’s always something exciting going on. I never in a million years thought I would be working full time in professional sports. I’ve always been an avid baseball fan, which makes me even more committed to doing a fabulous job.”
A Greenwood native, Mora graduated from Greenwood High School in 1984 and soon accepted a scholarship offer to attend Indiana University. After completing her freshman year in Bloomington, Mora transferred to Jackson State University where she received her bachelor’s degree in 1989.
“When I was finishing high school Ole Miss was one of the school’s I visited and was interested in attending,” Mora said. “But Indiana offered an academic scholarship first. My father was older and had some health concerns, so I wanted to move back home. That’s how I ended up at Jackson State.”
After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Mora took time away from academics to save money to attend graduate school. With an initial interest in pursuing a master’s of business administration, Ole Miss was at the top of her list.
“I knew I wanted to go to business school, and Ole Miss was one of the top choices,” she said. “However after completing one year in the program, I discovered that was not exactly what I wanted to do.”
Mora met with her graduate school advisor Dr. Keith Womer who encouraged her to explore other options.
“He advised me to think about what I really want to do with my life, not necessarily what major I want,” said Mora. “I met with him on a Friday, and he told me to take a look at a book they published ever year, What Color is Your Parachute?, and to go through the exercise about finding your mission in life. I came back on Monday and said, ‘I think I want to work in human resources,’ and I said it just like that, ‘I think.’”
With human resources not being offered as a major at the time, the two decided that human behavior [sociology] was the most closely related area of study.
“I moved to the College of Liberal Arts and studied sociology,” she said. “That was a pivotal moment for me as it ultimately changed my pathway. I always cared about how companies use people to achieve their goals and how to get the most out of [them] while at the same time providing them with a meaningful work experience. That’s what led me into human resources.”
While attending graduate school, Mora served as an intern for New Orleans-based Entergy Corporation. She was soon offered a full-time job where she spent the next three years honing her human resources skills. She then transferred to a printing company in Wisconsin where she started her family and began to contemplate her next move.
“I started thinking about what type of company I wanted to work for and saw no reason why I couldn’t work for a company that produces what I call a product that I’m very enthusiastic and passionate about,” said Mora. “That’s how I ended up in professional sports – it’s always been one of my passions in life.”
A member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), she replied to an online posting on the society’s website for a director of human resources position with the Houston Rockets.
“I started working for them in 2001 and worked for them for about eight years before leaving to start my own consulting firm, Mora & Associates,” she said. “We had reached a point [with the Rockets] where things were running well, and I am a problem solver by nature and not good at maintaining things. I’m much better at solving big problems, so my thought was what’s my next challenge? I was already a vice president at that point, so I figured my next challenge was to do something on my own where I can help multiple companies.”
After consulting for five years, Mora’s former chief executive officer with the Rockets was now working for the Astros and in need of a vice president of human resources. She quickly interviewed and accepted the job in 2013.
“I think my favorite part of what I do is selecting a person for a job and then seeing them be successful in the role,” Mora said. “That means that we’ve done a good job, and they’re a good fit for our organization. I can honestly see myself working in this field until I’m ready to retire.”