Student Affairs Assistant Director Kristine Day’s University Center office is a Grand Central Station of sorts.
Students lean into Kris’s open office door to chat about work and life. UM-Dearborn alumni reach out to let Kris — who’s been with the university for 20 years — know about their upcoming weddings, jobs and expanding families. Staff voices are heard talking with her over Zoom chats when planning UM-Dearborn events and programs.
And, when Kris isn’t in her office, you’ll find her front and center at the University Center’s Information Desk training work study students or taking MCard photos of new Wolverines. She acts in a mentor role on a daily basis, supervising nearly 50 students on University Unions & Events operations and information center teams. Kris is also in charge of the campus’ weekly student newsletter, a publication that goes out every Sunday between 6 and 7 p.m. “We wanted to consolidate all upcoming important campus information in one place instead of students getting five or six separate emails from different departments or offices. It’s had incredible readership.”
She’s busy, but always enjoys catching up with her students and campus colleagues because a sense of community is core to who she is. Talking with Kris recently, she shared lessons she’s learned from family, her colleagues and experience.
Your roots don’t define you, but they do help shape you.
“I grew up on our family farm in Lenawee County. The farm had been in our family for generations — since the state of Michigan was settled. When I was young, there were cattle. Later, my family decided to just focus on cash crops like corn, soybeans and wheat. There’s a lot to be said about growing up on a farm in a small town. You learn a strong sense of community and see how interconnected we are to each other. Sure, everyone knows everyone’s business... which isn’t always ideal. But, if you need help, all you have to do is put out the call and people will respond.
In addition to a farming history, my family has generations of educators. My mom was a teacher. My grandma was a teacher in the rural one-room schoolhouse. I was convinced that I wasn’t going to work in education like them. I was going to do something different. But, through my experiences, I saw why they wanted to work in education. You feel like you make a difference. It might be small, but what you do could create a spark that lights a path in someone’s future.
I loved living on that farm. The family sold it last year and I was sad to see it go. I learned so much while growing up there. In a way, it will always be with me.”
Be open to a change in plans.
“I’ve always liked animals. So when I first started college as an undergraduate, my intention was to work in animal communication, like how people use sign language with primates.
I was someone who had to work to make ends meet in college and I got a work study job on campus in the student activities office. I had no idea how much that job would impact my life. It changed everything for me. I learned how much fun it was to see something you put together from beginning to end come to life, especially when it’s meaningful for students. I was totally energized from it. In the four years I worked in student activities, we created programs, ran programs and did all the behind-the-scenes work. You can even say I have a bit of roadie experience because I rolled up cords and helped pack up after putting on concerts by headliners like Gwen Stefani, Ziggy Marley and Harry Connick Jr. My work study boss and mentor noticed my love for student activities and encouraged me to go graduate school.
That wasn’t my plan at the beginning, but it was absolutely the right path for me. It’s kind of come full circle. Now I work with campus’ work study students. I’ve been on campus since October 2001 and I still love what I do.”