Those who elect to broaden their education by pursuing a graduate degree do so with the understanding that they’re signing up for two years of intense study in their chosen field. Graduate College Alumna of the Year
Christine Robinson fully acknowledged this truth when she decided to trek from Chicago to Las Vegas to obtain her master’s in sociology in 1992.
Soon after attending her first class, though, Robinson realized her road to the finish line would be far bumpier than she had anticipated — and not just because of the heavy course load.
“Sociology as a field of study comprises a multitude of different and varying theories,” she said. “At the graduate level, the depth of dialogue around these diverse, and sometimes competing, theories is significant. To fully know and understand each of them demanded that I allow tolerance for a reality that any single theory was plausible, at least in the beginning.
“A commitment to hearing varying perspectives before forming my own opinions and drawing conclusions has probably served me greater than any other takeaway from my years at UNLV.”
It absolutely has served Robinson well in her role as CEO of The Animal Foundation, where she’s led a complete overhaul of an organization that was in dire straits when she arrived in 2007.
Robinson left her position as assistant county manager for Clark County to join The Animal Foundation at a time when the Humane Society of the United States had declared a state of emergency at what was then the highest-volume, single-site animal shelter in the nation. Facing an immediate crisis, Robinson knew her primary mission was three-fold: drastically improve animal care, maximize lifesaving, and implement responsible and sustainable business practices.
To achieve those goals, Robinson drew on the knowledge she gained at UNLV — as well as her professional experiences in the areas of organizational management and business administration — to put together a dedicated team determined to produce substantive change. Under Robinson’s leadership, that team put together a series of successful community-based initiatives, including creating a fund to provide enhanced medical care for animals; developing surrender-intervention and managed-intake programs; and designing community-wide programs to keep cats from entering the shelter. Additionally, Robinson expanded and accelerated existing lifesaving programs such as foster care, adoptions, and low-cost vaccine and spay/neuter services.
The statistics confirm that the hard work and ingenuity of Robinson and her team has paid off in a big way: In the past five years, the shelter has seen a decrease of 31.8 percent in the number of animals arriving at the shelter; euthanasia has decreased by 63.5 percent; and the lives of nearly 21,000 animals are saved annually through various programs.
The turnaround has been so dramatic that the foundation is inching ever closer to achieving the goal established in its “Mission: Possible 2020” strategic plan: to save every healthy and treatable animal that enters its care.
The coronavirus pandemic has reminded all of us about the power and importance of being resilient. Share a moment from your time at UNLV that helped build resiliency in you.
I moved to Las Vegas from Chicago to go to graduate school when I was 21 years old. Until that time, I had never been west of the Mississippi River. Learning to navigate a new city, building relationships, getting immersed in the graduate program, and all of the very normal trials and tribulations that come with each of these experiences taught me at a reasonably early age that I was capable of successfully conquering challenges and accomplishing goals. Those challenges and goals became increasingly significant and difficult as my life and career evolved, but my early time at UNLV laid a solid foundation at an important time in my life.
What words of advice do you have for today’s students as they try to navigate our changed world?
View change as an opportunity, not as the enemy. Doing so allows you to envision the possibilities instead of being trapped in worry. The changes we are experiencing in this very moment are certainly profound, but change is happening to and around us all the time — it always has been. That’s why each of us has learned throughout our lives to successfully adapt to the constant changes we encounter. So I encourage students to think of all those previous successes as building blocks to navigating through this current time and understand that this experience will continue to strengthen that foundation for when the next change comes along. Because it will come. And it, too, will be an opportunity.