Stacie Christian, a Phoenix who converted her biggest challenge into her life’s mission

Written by: Ben Wendorf, Editorial Student Intern

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay prides itself on creating a welcoming environment for everyone that steps foot on campus. The reason why—to solve problems and provide educational access to anyone seeking to learn. Assistant Vice Chancellor of Inclusive Excellence, Stacie Christian has been at the forefront of this mission since she began her career as a professor at UW-Green Bay.  

An alumna, in 1994, Christian, who was working as a health care administrator, accepted the opportunity to teach courses at UW-Green Bay as she wanted students to have the opportunity to learn how to be inclusive health care providers in order to improve health care outcomes. During the late 1990’s, teaching might include concepts of “tolerance” but the understanding of how being inclusive increases personal health was not being discussed routinely in classes. 

“Health care employees talked about treating everyone the same but did not understand how working with the needs of diverse patients would enhance their health outcomes,” Christian said.

Originally hired as an adjunct professor, Christian began teaching her students about culture as it relates to human development and health care. Subjects included Hmong culture, African American culture, HIV AIDS, and the LGBTQ+ community just to name a few. Through her classes, Christian provided her students with opportunities to hear guest speakers from several cultures and talk about how their cultures affected their human development and health care. 

“We talked in the classroom from several perspectives from individuals from diverse groups. It was important to learn that each person within the diverse groups has a unique perspective, which is important for the overall understanding of the individuals within each culture.” 

As an openly gay individual in the 90’s, Stacie faced hardship herself, experiencing microaggressions or criticism from people within the community. Despite these comments, she continued to educate her students while offering them a welcoming space to be their true selves. As the years went on, LGBTQIA2S+ students slowly became more willing to share their experiences and stories due to the classroom climate becoming more supportive.  

 In 2009, the UW-Green Bay Pride Center became available as a resource center and to provide LGBTQIAS2+ students a place where they could feel safe and meet others like themselves. Stacie was the first Coordinator, working at least 10 hours a week on top of the typical 40 hours a week of teaching. With the support of the Campus, the Pride Center grew and became acknowledged by the National Pride Index as being one of the Top 40 LGBTQ+ Friendly Campuses in the United States.  

“When the Center first opened, there were so many students struggling, some individuals who were transgender had been kicked out of their homes, so I was looking for food and clothing for the students said Christian. It soon became clear that students who did not utilize the Pride Center also needed food. This is how the Campus Cupboard was formed.” 

Christian worked with others to open the UW-Green Bay Campus Cupboard, which helps manage food inequities across campus. The Campus Cupboard now helps over 400 people each month, thanks largely to support of the campus community and public community members who believe in its mission.  

Now as the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Inclusive Excellence, Christian can focus her efforts on continually improving resources and programs that improve the overall campus environment here at UW-Green Bay. For example, Christian and Kris Vespia, Ph.D., in the Center for the Advancement of Teaching & Learning (CATL), work together with five faculty and nine interns on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity projects including understanding how linguistics affect the student experience in the classroom, enhancing the Campus Climate experience for all students, and how to enhance classroom learning experience for student success by understanding what students need to learn.  

“It’s very impactful doing this work,” Christian exclaimed. “I love helping individuals to learn more about what they want to know about how they can personally have a positive impact on the Campus Climate, and it is rewarding watching students develop their true selves.”  

Christian’s impact is not limited to just individuals on the UW-Green Bay campus. She also meets with multicultural and diverse organizations in Northeastern Wisconsin who have contacted her to learn more about what they have heard about UW-Green Bay campus work on being inclusive of all students. Likewise, Christian receives messages from former students about how they have turned her words into action, bringing the lessons she taught to communities across the country.  

As far as her next challenge, Christian is striving to collaborate with students and employees at UW-Green Bay to increase access to materials and academic conversations for individuals who may not speak English as their primary language, and to work with campus members to discuss ways to increase student academic success through everyone’s focus on increasing positive experiences while on the campuses. Christian has high hopes for the future of the four UW-Green Bay campuses, and she is always meeting new individuals who are working to build the UW-Green Bay campuses into welcoming spaces for everyone who seeks an education. 

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