One of the founders of Parade of Nations retires
HOUGHTON – For more than 30 years Chris Anderson has worked to promote Michigan Technological University. From precollege programs intended to introduce high school students to the university and its opportunities to programs dedicated to increasing diversity on campus, Anderson filled many roles and influenced countless projects. Anderson retired from Michigan Tech at the beginning of July but her influence will be felt for many years to come.
“She’s one of my favorite persons in that without her I would not have been able to do the things that I did at Michigan Tech,” said former colleague Betty Chavis. “She was responsible for the increase of minorities at Michigan Tech, for writing grants and proposals, making liaisons and making contacts with various professional programs around the country that focus on opportunities for minorities in higher ed. Chris was one of the powerhouses.”
Anderson, whose role at Tech began not in diversity but in precollege programs, became interested in working to diversify the student body. After expanding summer youth and women in engineering programs – many of which are still running today – Anderson’s role changed as she stepped in as special assistant to the president for institutional diversity.
“We moved into trying not only to introduce young people to Tech through precollege programs but also worked to target schools, students and teachers for a diverse student body,” said Anderson.
It was here that Anderson’s ability to connect with people served the university well. Anderson built relationships with many outside organizations both for funding and to increase opportunities for minorities at Michigan Tech. The funding for many diversity programs comes from external organizations, Anderson said, so working with other organizations that had similar goals was important. She also built partnerships with precollege groups and school around the country, including organizations such as the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program, that focused on increasing opportunities for minorities in secondary education.
“Initially we had a narrower approach to diversity – mainly trying to increase ethnic diversity of the student body – but as the program matured our interest was broader,” said Anderson.
“Of course getting more women into science and engineering and getting more income levels and international students. I think there’s an understanding that part of a quality education is having diverse experiences and having experiences with people from all walks of life.”
Many of the programs Anderson worked on are still running today or have formed a base for new programming to continue. One ongoing project that was first introduced nearly 10 years ago is the campus climate study. Faculty, staff and students at Michigan Tech are surveyed to gauge how they perceive life and work Michigan Tech.
“The climate study was a great way to determine what was working well for faculty, staff and students and what issues needed to be address,” Anderson said.
During her time at Tech Anderson supported many programs and initiatives both directly- through proposals, grants and department planning – and indirectly. Chavis recalled how Anderson’s support helped her and a colleague, Mary Ann Brunner, launch the still- running Parade of Nations.
“Without Chris’ support in the beginning none of it (the Parade of Nations) would have happened,” Chavis said. “She championed our causes and is one of those people who will let you take the rein and do what you feel and back you up. I will be eternally grateful for it. The community and the university are much better for the efforts she put forward.”