Alumni Profile: Christina Smith '87 MBA/JD

Author: Angela Sienko

Christina Smith ’83, ’87 MBA/JD is quite the ambassador for her alma mater. She has been involved with the Alumni Association at the University of Notre Dame in a myriad of ways, while also putting her joint graduate degree to good use in the insurance industry. Here, Christina shares her memories of her time on campus:

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Why did you choose ND for your graduate degree?
Christina: I wanted to go to the University of Notre Dame long before the University even admitted women. I went on to earn my undergraduate degree from Notre Dame in biology and I loved being a member of the Notre Dame family. With that experience under my belt,  I knew that the University's MBA program and  Law School would offer me excellent educations in business and law. More important, though, my experience taught me how Notre Dame challenges people to think about how they are called to live, both professionally and personally. I still needed that.

How has having a law degree and an MBA influenced your career?
Christina:  I practiced law as a commercial litigator for the first 18 years of my career. For most of the last 10 years, I've been a claims examiner in the insurance industry where I have analyzed complex litigation against corporations and their directors and officers. A great deal of my current work involves evaluating allegations of securities fraud. What the MBA program taught me about business--especially accounting and financial statements-- has been essential to understanding how my corporate clients and insureds conduct their business and the problems they face.      

How do you stay connected to the University and to the Mendoza College of Business?
Christina: 
A number of years ago, I joined the Notre Dame Club of Staten Island, which, despite its relatively small size, is one of the most active Notre Dame Clubs in the country. (The Club’s many social, spiritual, and service projects include New York City’s largest annual food drive.) I eventually became Staten Island’s representative at Notre Dame’s annual Leadership Conference, where I began to appreciate how significant an investment of resources the University makes in supporting alumni. I later became active with the New York Club, ND Women Connect and ND Lawyers. In 2012, I was elected to the Notre Dame Alumni Association’s Board of Directors.  While on the Board, I chaired the NDAA’s Professional Committee, which, among other things, promotes the NDAA’s career resources and supports Mendoza’s efforts to engage alumni.

I learn about what is happening on campus and among my classmates by reading Notre Dame Magazine, Mendoza Business, and Notre Dame Lawyer.  I have joined the ND Alumni LinkedIn Group and read the NDAA’s great blog, Ethics in Action. (I recommend that people do both!)  I also read The Rally and the Law School’s electronic newsletter. I try not to miss an opportunity to meet a student or network with fellow alumni.

Whenever I get back to campus, I spend some quiet time in the Grotto and other familiar places, which grounds me.  I also spend some at Rohr’s; there isn’t a better place on campus to find old and new friends.

Is there a professor who had a significant impact on you as an MBA student?
Christina
: I truly am grateful to all of my professors for what they taught me. Father Ollie Williams, though, drove home a principle that has come to mind frequently under many different circumstances during my career: ethical business is, in the long run, good business.

What is your favorite memory of your time in the Mendoza College of Business?
Christina: I have great memories of the time I spent with friends, but my favorite memory is introducing one of my MBA classmates to one of my Law School classmates; they have been married for more than 25 years now and have two wonderful sons. I also remember my time on campus as both an exciting and challenging time for women.  We were still redefining Notre Dame’s culture.  Some of our male classmates did not know how to deal with us; some alumni very plainly resented us.  One of my first interviews as a student was with an alumnus who bluntly told me that the University had made a terrible mistake in admitting women. I loved my experience on campus, though, and have always been tremendously proud of Notre Dame and the contributions that women,especially those of us who were there in the early years of coeducation, have made to the University. 

Tell us about your role on the Alumni Association Board
Christina:
The Notre Dame Alumni Association supports and honors the unrivaled, world-wide network of our alumni, family and friends. The members of the NDAA Board act as liaisons between the NDAA and ND Clubs, the Diversity Council, Young Alumni and Senior Alumni and serve on the NDAA’s various committees. During my three-year term as a regional director on the Board, I represented the 11 clubs in the region that includes New Jersey, Southern New York and southern Connecticut. I also served as a member of the Internal Activities and Professional Committees. I supported my clubs’ service, social, academic and networking projects by advising club leaders, connecting them with the resources they needed and advocating for them on campus.

The opportunity to serve on the Board truly was a gift. The people with whom I worked on campus and in my clubs constantly reminded me that ordinary people do extraordinary things all the time. I will never forget the post-Hurricane Sandy relief effort that every one of my clubs supported. Being a member of the Board reminded me how fortunate I am to be a member of the Notre Dame family. I strongly urge any alumnus who has not already done so to check out what the NDAA has to offer. Visit the NDAA website; you will find many resources, campus news, and information about what is happening in your local club. Drop by Football Fridays at the Eck this season, where you can connect with friends, eat well, and meet the NDAA staff.  Notre Dame is as committed to us as alumni as it was to us as students; please take advantage of that!