Christine M. Fenne: 2023 candidate for College of DuPage District 502 board


Town: Wheaton

Age on Election Day: 54

Occupation: Account executive, printing sales

Employer: CPC Limited, dba AlphaGraphics Wheaton US260

Previous offices held: College of DuPage board trustee since 2017


Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?

A: This role is not a steppingstone for me. I care passionately about College of DuPage, its students, faculty and administrators. College of DuPage deserves consistent, positive leadership on the board of trustees. My experience on the board has provided me with a greater understanding of the college which provides stability and more impact for the college.

Q: In tough economic times, many students (and working professionals) turn to a community college for its educational value. How do you ensure that a person's financial sacrifice results in an educational benefit?

A: We should provide academic advising for new students and students at risk. Access to financial aid, learning resources, tutoring and all student supports should not be difficult to find. College of DuPage should promote and facilitate open engagement with students to better understand and provide for the needs of all of our students. We need to work together as a college community to help students and their families succeed by making sure our policies and procedures are inclusive and well communicated.

Q: How would you describe the state of your college's finances? What issues will your district have to confront in coming years and what measures do you support to address them? If you believe cuts are necessary, what programs and expenses should be reduced or eliminated? On the income side, do you support any tax or fee increases?

A: The College of DuPage has achieved a healthy financial position through continuous improvements to lower costs; deploying marketing programs to increase enrollment and retention; strategic tuition and fee increases; as well as seeking additional grant and private funding. Funding from the state of Illinois for FY2023 is projected to increase 4.5% from the previous year. But because of significant gaps in revenue for FY2023, $15.6 million of the general fund balance has been allocated to achieve a balanced budget. The board of trustees will need to consider future property tax and tuition increases in order to maintain a balanced budget.

Q: What are three specific nonfinancial challenges your community college will have to face in the next four years and what are your thoughts about how each should be addressed?

A: Mental health: COD debuted a documentary on mental health to encourage students to seek help. Counselors and advisers offer free personal counseling for students. Faculty are on the front lines of student mental health awareness and their well-being needs consideration. COD should promote the mental health resources available to all employees.

Student supports: COD's Phi Theta Kappa students initiated the Fuel Pantry which provides meals to students who need assistance. At the Office of Student Life, undocumented students or those facing housing insecurity can connect with more resources. COD should engage Student Leadership about overcoming obstacles to student persistence and completion.

Workforce development: COD is uniquely poised to meet workforce challenges. As trustees, we advocate for short-term Pell Grants to support students obtaining certificates. COD should connect with employers and industry associations to help identify what skills are required for the future workforce.

Q: Describe your experience working in a group setting to determine policy. What is your style in such a setting to reach agreement and manage school district policy? Explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions of your school board.

A: Most policy recommendations originate with the administration in order to update the policy with current laws or modernization. My style is collaborative because I listen to trustee questions and administrative input before offering my thoughts and questions. I believe differing viewpoints are valuable to our discussion and that every trustee should have an opportunity to speak on an issue. In addition, the public and College of DuPage employees have the opportunity to comment and provide the board with their perspectives and criticisms before the trustees adopt a new or revised policy, which is important to the process.

Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?

A: Since my initial election in 2017, I have been an executive member of the board, serving as secretary, vice chairman and interim chairman. I am a hardworking trustee who has served on the presidential search committee, liaison to the strategic long range plan committee, audit committee, auxiliary and outreach committee and liaison to the COD Foundation board. I have led board meetings and retreat meetings in the chairman's absence.

I have earned the respect of the administration, faculty and my fellow trustees as a positive and collaborative leader. I look forward to working together with the trustees and the entire College of DuPage community to implement improvements that increase student success and develop a positive organizational culture.

Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?

A: According to the Impact DuPage website, the DuPage County population is 930,759. Of residents 25 and older, 17% have acquired some college, but no degree. In addition, 17,619 families are living below poverty levels; 7,260 of these families include children.

I see many opportunities in these demographics. How can we reach and support individuals who would like to finish an associates or bachelor's degree? What academic skills with micro credentialing or short term programs can we offer adults to gain higher paying employment and fill those skilled jobs? How are we reaching employers and showcasing our students' qualifications? College of DuPage should to work together with our nonprofit community and employers to solve these economic challenges.

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