Mary Zdrojkowski – Eastern Michigan University

“If I were given only one word to sum up Christine’s work, I would choose “transformative” since that is what she is in thought, word, and action. In my 23 years at EMU (12 as Writing Center Director and 11 as Coordinator of a State of MI Select Student Support Services (AS) grant), I’ve had ample opportunity to appreciate the vision and energy required to take a student-support service office from a place of last resort for students who are failing to a robust, nationally recognized program of student success that reaches at-risk students before they come to campus and surrounds them with a four-year program of mentorship and academic resources. Christine has the enviable gifts of being able to see the big picture and having the tireless energy to wade through bureaucratic homeostasis, petty turf wars, and the endless refrain of “there’s no money in the budget for that” For example, when Christine took over as Director of HSC, the main academic support for at-risk students entering EMU was the Promote Academic Survival and Success (PASS) program which consisted of a one-semester academic skills course taught by a hodge-podge of instructors who relied heavily on talking heads from across campus. There was no unified course syllabus, few mandatory requirements for students to meet with academic advisers, and not follow-up in subsequent semesters.

Not satisfied with the status quo, Christine envisioned another path for at-risk students entering EMUa path that would begin with a one-week on-campus intense orientation, continue through a semester-long extended orientation course, and on through a four-year program tailored to each student’s academic interests. She renamed the program “Edge” since it gave participants an “edge” towards degree completion. Christine’s background in the corporate world prepared her for the challenge of getting the decision makers to buy into her plan, and she began building alliances with the Provost’s office, the Office of Admissions, the Financial Aid Office and other key offices. Christine offered a plan to retain and graduate more at-risk students (nearly 50% of any incoming EMU freshmen class is considered at-risk by virtue or low ACT or SAT score and/or economic disadvantage) and it went over well. Through Christine’s tireless efforts of knocking on doors, it became common place in upper administrators’ meetings for a good-natured chorus of “Hide your wallets—^here comes Christine” when she entered the room .

As Christine built partnerships across campus, she transformed Holman Success Center from within…. These are a few examples of Christine’s transformative power, but perhaps what I have come to most respect is her ability to build a team that works together and whose individual members take pride in their unique contributions and enjoy feeling a part of something worthwhile. Christine’s energy is inspirational to her team, and is especially admirable considering that while doing all she does at HSC, she has managed to complete a PhD in Higher Education and Student Affairs.”