Christi Smith’s infectious laugh and positive spirit envelop Professional Human Services, Room 128, which houses the Department of Social Work Education.
She has worked as an Administrative Support Coordinator II with the department for the past seven years and said the experience thus far has been the highlight of her long career at Fresno State.
“Working with future social workers is the best,” Smith said. “I feel like in some way, I am preparing them to go out and serve the human social service needs of our community. I like to know that I am somehow able to make a difference by doing that.”
In just two short years, Smith plans to retire from the University after three decades of service to the campus community. By then, she will have served under three different University presidents, four different college deans and seen many changes on campus from infrastructure to student enrollment. She notes all changes have been positive.
“The direction the University is heading towards with concern and passion for underrepresented populations and the student success movement has been the greatest changes,” said Smith.
Prior to arriving at Fresno State, Smith was an executive secretary for the City of Fresno for 14 years. However, she always had a goal in mind to one day work for Fresno State. Having grown in up in the city, she saw the impact the University had on future leaders and wanted to be a part of that.
Her dreams became a reality in 1988, when she was hired to join what was then known as the Department of Nursing at Fresno State (now the School of Nursing). She eventually weaved her way through various departments within the College of Health and Human Services, including 10 years with the nursing department, four years with the Department of Communicative Sciences and Deaf Studies, six years with the Department of Public Health and lastly with the Department of Social Work Education.
Smith is an integral force in the Department of Social Work Education, assisting the chair, Dr. Martha Vungkhanching, with duties that include hiring faculty and staff, coordinating curriculum, preparing faculty to teach, ordering books, preparing course outlines, and overseeing policies and procedures.
Originally from Greenville, Mississippi, Smith is proud to now call Fresno her home. After graduating from Edison High School in 1971, she went on to pursue an education at Fresno City College and later at Fresno State, majoring in Business Administration.
She has not only been committed to a life of service in her professional life, but has also served in countless ways in her personal life.
When asked where she envisioned herself 10 years from now, her answer was simple – to give back to her community. She believes it is part of her divine calling.
“It gives me a feeling that I am fulfilling my commission given to me by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which is to love one another,” said Smith. “I believe that you have to get involved to make changes happen.”
As the secretary for her church, Calvary Temple Undenominational, Smith is involved with the Committee for a United Community and Bringing Broken Neighborhoods Back to Life, which are community efforts to bring communities together through advocacy, as well as block parties in the spring and summer months.
The West Fresno community, where Smith has lived since she was nine, is one that she is dedicated to. For that reason, she became involved with the College of Health and Human Services Retention Advisory Committee two years ago, which seeks to engage students about belonging and academic success. Through the committee, she helped coordinate the college’s annual “iFuture: You Belong at Fresno State” event, which reaches out to youth in the West Fresno area with the goal in mind to provide early outreach to students and their families.
“We are targeting minorities at younger ages, to prepare them to begin thinking about what they want to do,” Smith said. “That type of work is very rewarding and very much needed. To realize it and be a part of making a difference has been great. I can envision the event only getting better.”
Children receiving a proper and fair education is something Smith feels strongly about. After all, she has 16 grandchildren in the Fresno Unified and Washington Unified School Districts. Their future and educational success inspires her to attend the monthly school board meetings, where she advocates on behalf of all children in the West Fresno community.
Now with retirement on the horizon, Smith looks forward to spending time with her grandchildren, as well as her five kids and husband, Robert, and continuing her volunteer work in the community she loves.
“My children and my faith are by far my most rewarding experience in life.”