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Sunday, November 18, 2018

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Christine Probett and her husband, Christopher J. Probett, have  established an endowed scholarship for high-achieving students. Christine Probett and her husband, Christopher J. Probett, have established an endowed scholarship for high-achieving students.

Giving It All She Can

Christine Probett’s commitment to helping SDSU students will extend to young people she will never even know.
By Tobin Vaughn

“Christine (Probett) is full of life and probably one of the kindest, most direct people I know.”

As Christine Probett (’85, ’87, ’97) sees it, she’s a lot like her dad, Dean Jones (’70, ’73, ’74). He holds three degrees from San Diego State University and so does she.

Jones is a retired educator as is his daughter, although Probett still teaches an upper-division course in the Fowler College of Business and conducts a leadership seminar in the Weber Honors College. But the familial similarities are much deeper.

"I think I'm very authentic; I’m what-you-see-is-what-you-get,” Probett said, admitting that her dad is her role model. “I guess he is that way, very down-to-earth and relatable.”

Jones lives in a small community in Kentucky. His daughter says everyone in town knows and likes him.

“He has never met a stranger,” she said. “He just starts chatting with people and gets to know them, so I probably emulate him, I suppose."

Kind, direct and refreshing

Probett’s open, accessible style is appreciated by the students enrolled in her classes. Over the past decade, she has been named Most Influential Faculty Member by 16 high-achieving business and Mortar Board students for her impact on their academic success.

As faculty advisor for Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, she was named Faculty Advisor of the Year for 2011-2012 by the Interfraternity Council and was also honored as an Outstanding Faculty Member at the 2012 SDSU Associated Students Aztec Achievement Awards. Many of her former students recall Probett’s assistance, guidance or advice as key to advancing their goals.

Years ago, Andrea Steinbrenner (’11) and a fellow business honors student crashed Probett’s operations class after the two were unable to enroll. The two had planned to take the course along with two members of their cohort who had managed to register. She remembers pleading her case to the instructor.

“I said, ‘Look, we just crashed your class," Steinbrenner said. "We have got to get in. The four of us have to move through this program together. Christine was like, ‘OK,’ and she let us take the class."

Steinbrenner, impressed by the unexpected ease of the accommodation and Probett’s dynamic teaching style, soon signed up for another of her classes. The two became friends and have remained in touch since Steinbrenner’s graduation.

"Christine is full of life and probably one of the kindest, most direct people I know,” said Steinbrenner, who is now vice president of operations at San Diego-based TGG Accounting. “You never have to guess where you stand with her, but she's never abrasive or condescending.

“She's very honest and you can trust what she says, so I find her extremely refreshing. She is motivating, super alive in front of a group of people, and she's the kind of person who makes you want to get involved with whatever she's talking about."

“Dial it in and do it”

Probett says she tries to remain empathetic to students because she remembers what the classroom was like from their side of the lectern. As a student, she transitioned from studying history to pursuing a second degree in aerospace engineering, where the assignments were, quite literally, a whole new equation.

“Some of my classmates would just see it and they would get it,” Probett explained. “I needed to study a lot.  I got good grades, but I had to work very hard for them. I had to take more time whereas for other people, it came easily.”

She shares this story with her students “just to show them that to be successful you’ve got to figure out who you are and what it takes to be successful. In some cases it might be an hour of study and in some cases it might be 20, but dial it in, figure out what you need, and do it."

A different perspective

Having worked in the aerospace industry, Probett’s professional experience is a bonus she brings to her lectures. Former student Kevin Gelfand (’11) recalls being impressed by her background.

"She was someone from the professional field who had come to teach, so it was a different perspective,” Gelfand said. “She was very real about what was going to be applicable to our lives outside of the class."

Gelfand, who is co-founder and president of Shake Smart, counts Probett among his mentors and friends. He turned to her for advice when trying to launch a health food business that now boasts seven locations in California and Texas.

“She doesn't sugarcoat anything,” he said. “She simplifies everything and listens before she answers and that’s what I really appreciate about her.”

“I’m into it”

Probett knows her required Operations and Supply Chain Management class can be challenging for many students.

The instructor insists she doesn’t have to muster the will to perform before an audience of hundreds in a giant classroom. She genuinely loves lecturing and connecting with students.

"I'm into it and I just give it all I can. The class I teach is an important class. There's a lot of important business learning - not just operations, but of being in business and just how business is - and if I can convey it in a way that they can understand, then they will take away a foundation for their careers and not just an operations piece of it, but how it all fits together.”

The perfect legacy

Probett is making sure her commitment to helping SDSU students will extend to young people she will never even know. She and her husband have established the Christopher J. and Christine H. Probett Endowed Scholarship to assist high-achieving students far into the future.

“The cost of education is increasing every year, so if there are more scholarships and students are helped, then that's important," she said. "It's a cool thing to set up something that will be going on in perpetuity.”

The endowment also ensures that Probett will forever contribute to student success at SDSU. It is the perfect legacy for this second-generation, triple-degree Aztec.