May 31, 2023

Chris “CJ” Porter: Transferring Knowledge

Chris “CJ” Porter knew after just one interview two decades ago that she wanted to be an Eagle. Porter began her UMW career as director of Residence Life in 1999 – before Eagle Landing or the William Street apartments existed.

Chris "CJ" Porter has worked at UMW for nearly two decades and was recently named director of Transfer and Off-Campus Student Services.

Chris “CJ” Porter has worked at UMW for nearly two decades and was recently named director of Transfer and Off-Campus Student Services. Photo by Alex Sakes.

“At the time, residence life was a lot smaller than it is now. I saw a program that had a lot of potential for me to help it grow. I wanted to be a part of that,” said Porter, an energetic force ever since.

Sure enough, Porter has watched UMW turn into a bustling institution that attracts a demographic that is sometimes overlooked elsewhere: off-campus and transfer students.

As the recently named director of Transfer and Off-Campus Student Services, Porter is already reinvigorating specialized programs to help those students feel at home. In addition to advising the Transfer Student Club, this fall Porter will introduce Transfer Peer Mentors, a program that provides incoming transfer students the chance to learn from acclimated transfer students.

Whether she’s in meetings with students or working on “bigger planning,” Porter is busy making sure every student feels like an Eagle.

Q: How did you get involved in working with transfer and off-campus students?
A: I’ve worked with off-campus students for a number of years now. Last year, the university made the decision to really focus on transfer students because that’s where things are really starting to grow and change.

Q: What makes UMW appealing to this group of students?
A: The small size of UMW and the quality of education. Transfer students from community colleges aren’t used to large lecture halls and a big campus. We also provide a really good experience in terms of activities, clubs, working with professors and study abroad.

Q: What would you say to students considering transferring here or coming here as an off-campus student?
A: The fact that this office exists shows this is a wonderful place for transfer students. We are also building up the resources for transfer students that will help them connect and feel at home.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: You go into a field like this because you want to see people succeed. When I work with a student going through some challenges, and later on they come and tell me things are better, I feel like that is so worth it.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
A: Time. Because I work with different populations, I don’t always get the time to develop things as I would like to.

Q: What is your No. 1 goal as director?
A: I look at my job through the filter of recruitment and retention. What can we do to make this a dynamic place that makes a person say “I want to come here”? But also, once you’re here, what are we doing to help you succeed? We want students to stay at Mary Wash.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do outside of the office?
A: Spend time with my family! My husband Mike and I have been married 20 years this September and I have a 16-year-old daughter. I love animals. I work with a Siberian Husky Rescue. I am never bored!

Q: Do you have any personal mantras you tell yourself every day?
A: Choose your attitude.