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The 2022 Women of UD

Christina Smith

Christina Smith



The RAs who work for Christina Smith and her staff might or might not realize it, but they were among the most-appreciated community members on campus over the past year and a half. As the front-line workers when it comes to the enforcement of COVID protocols in the residence halls, Smith believed they were tasked with, as she calls it, “the hardest job of all.” To that end, she spent many Saturdays walking campus neighborhoods with the Housing and Residence Life staff, to stand in solidarity with them as they navigated this challenging expectation brought on by the pandemic. “I was listening to their experience, understanding what was going on for them, because I don’t have the only solution. The people who are doing the job have the insight. The only way to come up with new strategies to meet the needs of our students is by bringing everyone together.”

Smith’s inspiration for creative and innovative collaboration with her team comes from the Characteristics of a Marianist Education, which says “we are in a permanent state of mission … forming persons and communities in a lived faith expressed in service responsive to the needs of the times,” and therefore, she views her work “as mission driven.” Because she believes her principal role is to help the students and staff she serves, the needs presented in these uncertain times require that her work to serve in mission must include innovation. “The events of the last two years have called for a shift in how we value human life and how we change to meet the needs of the community.”

UD’s Marianist charism guides Smith today, but that was not always the case. When she came to UD in 2004, Smith was unacquainted with the University’s mission. Over the years, she came to realize that community is not experienced the same by everyone and that true community, the way the Marianists envisioned it, takes hard work. In 2013, Smith converted to Catholicism, and she calls it the defining part of her being. “Because I believe in our Catholic mission, it has influenced everything about who I am, and I operate from the mindset that what we’re called to do is intentional, and it’s structured and grounded in our Catholic faith.” 

Over the past two years, Smith has depended on her faith to guide her through another difficult facet of her job. By virtue of her position, she feels responsible for making sure students thrive, despite the difficulties of living with the pandemic. She also is “definitely the person people called when they were not pleased, maybe not about something monumental, but because they were frustrated about maybe the fact that their child had to move to COVID housing.” Eventually, most families, while they might not have agreed with the decision, did understand the community impact. “The thriving piece has to do with helping those individuals and families make meaning of what they’re experiencing.” She also thinks this “individual” thriving contributes to the overall thriving of the campus. “Every interaction we have where we can help turn the experience of a student into a positive helps retain the student, and helps get them to a place where they can appreciate that this experience is important for them.”

By fostering collective agency through listening, Smith believes she models adaptation in the most meaningful way. “I am a conduit, a connector or the avenue by which these voices can be heard. I don’t think that there’s anything that I’m uniquely doing other than being present, but I know that has an impact.” She agrees her ability to mindfully listen is something to be recognized – as in this case with a Women of UD honor – but what matters most to her is knowing that she has been there, “one-on-one, with a person who has experienced a loneliness or a disconnect from community, and that I can be the bridge that helps them connect and be successful.”

Just as she takes the time to walk the campus neighborhoods with her staff to learn how she can help them help the student community, so should our larger society. “The biggest hurdle to moving forward,” Smith says, “is thinking that there is nothing left to learn.” In order to move forward, people must stop to reflect on the assumptions they make, and try to listen to the voices speaking about the experiences they have lived. “Knowing that I still have so much to learn and so many more people to know and love keeps me moving forward. Recognizing the possibility that exists within this world when we collectively value one another’s dignity is truly something worth working toward.”