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A Miami Moment with Candace Crist

05/02/2013

Desmond Dixon, Sophia Singe, Gina Snavely, Katie Buonpane, Chloe Hazen and Lauren Bracken, all engineering students with a paper science focus, surround Candace Crist in front of one of the paper machines on which they learn.
Desmond Dixon, Sophia Singe, Gina Snavely, Katie Buonpane, Chloe Hazen and Lauren Bracken, all engineering students with a paper science focus, surround Candace Crist in front of one of the paper machines on which they learn.
No doubt about it. Candace Crist is a people person. Pottery and paper have been the drivers that connect her to people, but had they not been available, she'd surely have found other means. Crist, business coordinator for the Paper and Science Engineering Foundation, is a crucial cog in Miami's department of chemical and paper engineering.

Q: What is your role at the PSE Foundation?

A: Recruitment is an extremely important element of my job and our numbers have grown in recent years. We are a hidden treasure here at Miami. The foundation has a director, Jon Kerr, and me. Our offices are within the department of chemical and paper engineering in the engineering building. I strive to create and keep close connections with our students and our foundation members. College kids want to feel part of something and if people in a program care about them they feel part of that program. It makes for a better college experience and helps them “tough out” the curriculum. That's huge with retention. So, I offer a place to drop by between classes, answer what questions I can, and try to connect them with corporate partners so they are aware of scholarships and internship opportunities. I love working with the students; they keep me young.

Q: And?

A: I manage the PS&E Foundation’s budgets and administer scholarships, which is a big job in this very well supported program. I produce newsletters, mailings, and other communications. January to March is a busy time, with our yearly audit, end-of-year accounting, a corporate membership drive in January, then registration and planning for our spring annual meeting and banquet – which is like planning a wedding. One of the highlights of my career was being awarded the Industry Partnership Award at the 2012 banquet. In spring, we also welcome visiting students and families through Make It Miami.

I attended the annual meeting this year. It was impressive and powerful to have one of your top seniors thank you for encouraging him to major within the paper science focus. Then more students stood up and professed the same gratitude to you. How did you first meet those students?

Q: I talk to classes here and at regional high schools with alumni, and when I see students looking at our display case in the hallway outside the CPE department. And at Miami, I target undecided engineering majors. I started hosting a fall social with pizza for declared and undeclared engineering majors. I email the students who are undecided and invite them to talk to me about internships, career opportunities, scholarships, and other selling points. For our current students, I bring treats now and then, things like “brain break bags” during exam time, mugs filled with candy, etc.

Paid internships, 100-percent job placement and hands-on work on our pilot paper machine are all big draws. Our foundation has strong partnerships with corporate representatives, many of whom are alumni. Being able to connect our students to those people in industry is a big attraction. One of the most gratifying things about my job is getting to know students when they enter the program, watching them develop their knowledge, skills, and individuality, and helping them find internships and a permanent job before graduation. For the last three years our students’ average starting salary has been $64,000. Imagine!

Q: You know the ropes well, but you’ve only been with the foundation five years. What’s your other experience in Oxford?

A: I started at Miami in August 2004 with the Mallory-Wilson Center first, part-time. I used to own You're Fired uptown when my children were younger. I loved it, loved painting pottery and the windows in the store made it cheery. People enjoyed being there. But owning your own business means you’re always on the clock; now I love it here. The skills I gained from owning my own business have been instrumental in the financial and marketing responsibilities I have with the PS&E Foundation.

Q: Paper engineering students will make the paper for the book in the 3-D Great Seal in the new Armstrong Student Center. How have you also tapped them as a resource?

A: We’re very excited about making the paper for the book in the new Armstrong Center Great Seal. The entire book will be designed by students, including creating the paper, writing, artwork and layout. In addition, every year, the current sophomore class makes the paper for holiday cards I send to corporate sponsors, donors and students' parents. Students have also made stationery for fundraising and often help with hands-on projects for groups that come through, for example Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. And sometimes they make me paper artwork which I display in my office.

Q: Like many faculty and staff at Miami, you’re not native, but has Oxford become your home?

A: It has. My husband Tom directs the Institute for the Environment and Sustainability at Miami. Our daughter, a Miami freshman, is in the Choraliers, whom we heard sing at Carnegie Hall. Our twin sons are juniors at Talawanda High School and are also employed part-time at Miami.

My mom is in town, too, which is wonderful. We have numerous friends here. What I love about Miami is Oxford and what I love about Oxford is Miami. Five minutes from home I can hear Colin Powell and the Goo Goo Dolls and the Dalai Lama. And yet the town is small and surrounded by farms. The perfect balance. It's a great place.

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