Campus Colleagues: Cris Frendo

August 2, 2021

In the latest installment of Campus Colleagues, read about Homecoming highlights, Alumni Engagement Director Cris Frendo’s favorite Michigan Stadium memory and lessons she’s learned over the past 17 months.

Photo of UM-Dearborn Alumni Engagement Director Cris Frendo and her family
Photo of UM-Dearborn Alumni Engagement Director Cris Frendo and her family
Alumni Engagement Director Cris Frendo enjoys the great Michigan outdoors with her family.

Cris Frendo, director of Alumni Engagement, enjoys quality time with colleagues, friends and family. And she’s not picky on where she gets it — it can be at the Big House, her house or showing up to yours via a Zoom meeting. “I really like connecting with people. It fills up my cup.” Cris says she’s looking forward to celebrating campus’ Wolverine Go Blue! spirit, and the people who showcase it, during 2021’s Homecoming week celebration this fall. 

Read about Homecoming highlights, Cris’ favorite Michigan Stadium memory and lessons she’s learned over the past 17 months.

Question: What is something you enjoy that might be seen as an unpopular opinion?

Cris Frendo: “I love Zoom. It has completely transformed my professional and personal life. My love language is quality time and I’ll get it how I can. Maybe that’s why I haven’t experienced Zoom fatigue. Because of Zoom, I can talk with an alum that lives in Germany in the morning, and someone in California in the afternoon. Seeing someone over Zoom feels more personal than an email or phone call. It’s been nice. 

In the evening, I can get on Zoom to talk with my 98-year-old great aunt in Florida. Or relax with a glass of wine and play games with some friends. As a parent of little kids, it’s given me freedom to be more social. The kids can be tucked in bed and I can have quality time with friends and family.”

Q: Speaking of Zoom, to keep the Homecoming tradition going, the Alumni Office did events virtually in 2020. What’s Homecoming 2021 — Sept. 20-25 — going to look like?

CF: “Homecoming is my favorite week of the entire year. Even when we were remotely celebrating last year, I wore maize and blue all week. My kids and husband did too. The kids also had pompoms — I really like rah rah energy.

Homecoming 2021 will mostly be in person. The Maize & Blue Bowl students vs. alumni flag football game will be back (Sept. 22). We will have the Alumni Difference Maker Awards in person and outside, this year (Sept. 23). There will be a campus Homecoming tailgate on Friday (Sept. 24), which will take place at 5 p.m. between the women’s hockey game (3 p.m.) and the men’s hockey game (7 p.m.). We’ll also have a UM-Dearborn alumni section at Saturday’s football game at the Big House (Sept. 25). Some things will still look different — like no tailgating prior to the football game and our class of 1971 Golden Jubilee Reunion will be celebrated virtually again — due to safety and health reasons, but it will be an exciting week where we will get to celebrate our ‘Go Blue!’ spirit together.”

Q: Do you have a favorite Big House moment?

CF: “I am a huge hockey fan, so I need to say that my No. 1 Big House experience was attending the NHL’s Winter Classic in 2014, the Red Wings against the Maple Leafs. They made an ice rink right on the Big House field. There is something really special about seeing hockey getting closer to its roots with players on ice outside in the cold. And it was cold, like 13 degrees. But with all the excitement — I think there were 100,000-plus people in attendance — and a puffy Northface coat, it wasn’t too bad. I’m a Michigander after all. Being at that game is something I’ll never forget.”

Q: What’s something important that you learned over the past year?

CF: “I’m going to be honest — I really struggled when the pandemic started. I have two little kids and it was challenging to juggle all the changes. With everything we’ve all been through, I’m really grateful to be doing ok. Just ok is a good place to be. And it’s ok to let go a little bit. That’s something I’ve had to learn and it was difficult to accept because I’m someone who likes organization and structure. It’s ok if the kids stay in their pjs until 10 a.m. or pop into a Zoom meeting. And it’s not the end of the world if I don’t get my housework done before bed. 

I’m also a believer that mental health needs to be a top priority. You need to take care of yourself before you take care of the needs of others. In my case that would be my kids, but you may have parents or someone else you care for. If you don’t prioritize your mental health, you’ll burn yourself out. I get that it’s hard to find the time. I love to read and it helps me relax, but my hands are hardly free, so I listen to audiobooks. I’ll listen while doing dishes or folding laundry. A good book that I’ve listened to recently is The Upside of Being Down by Jen Gotch. It was about gravitating toward what you are grateful for in your life. It was about remembering that the good outweighs the bad. Sometimes it's hard to see that, so it was a good reminder to focus on what’s important.”

Q: Since you've been remote during the pandemic, how have you stayed connected with campus?

CF: "I’ve been really impressed with the information and connection outreach efforts people around campus have created. When March 2020 hit, I was looking for answers among the uncertainty and stress and I noticed Human Resources Director Rima (Berry-Hung) was the guest speaker at an upcoming virtual Staff Senate meeting. So I went. Since that time, Staff Senate has been my No. 1 source of information, connection, collaboration and even laughter.

Before that, when we were in person, I had only been to one Staff Senate meeting. The virtual meetings have been so easy — you just jump into the meeting and see friendly faces and hear what’s happening around campus. Often you get the news directly from the source. I liked it so much that I went from listening in to becoming a staff senator, then the secretary. Our attendance has been really strong during the pandemic. Even when more of us go back to in-person work, Staff Senate will continue to offer a remote way to connect to give people options. The power of connection has always been important and that importance will likely grow as we enter a hybrid work environment. As a people person, I’m here for it.”

Once a month, campus highlights a member of the UM-Dearborn community. Have a suggestion on someone to talk with? Email stuxbury@umich.edu.

 

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