About 45 minutes into an interview she really wanted to avoid, Christine Jackson stumbled.
When asked what she was going to miss the most in retirement, Nebraska’s vice chancellor of business and finance said two words, “My staff.” She paused as tears started to form, regained her composure, sighed and continued.
“My time at Nebraska has been a wonderful experience full of many twists and turns and interesting projects,” Jackson said. “But, I’ve been blessed with an amazing staff. It’s been an honor working alongside talented people, each dedicated to solving problems while making this university a better, more efficient place.
“I’m going to miss the excitement of the job, but it’s working with those amazing people that I will miss the most.”
After a 44-year career in academia, the last 17 spent helping guide the University of Nebraska–Lincoln through far-reaching progress, Jackson will retire at the end of December. The university will celebrate her tenure on Dec. 4.
As Nebraska’s vice chancellor for business and finance, Jackson has been responsible for the facilities construction and management, accounting, human resources, security and auxiliary business services associated with the university’s budget. The work supports 26,000 students and more than 6,000 faculty and staff.
Hired in 2000 by then-Chancellor James Moeser, Jackson has overseen more than $1.5 billion in campus and university-related construction projects. She also helped guide the university through more than a dozen rounds of budget cuts that have totaled in excess of $60 million.
Jackson’s tenure is decorated with a series of projects that changed the face of the university — from the building of Antelope Valley Parkway, to numerous Husker athletics initiatives and the early stages of launching Nebraska Innovation Campus.
While she doesn’t hail from Nebraska — her hometown is actually Hamilton, Michigan, a “tiny, peapod of a place” located 35 miles southwest of Grand Rapids — Jackson is a firm believer in the individual modesty that defines the people of the Cornhusker State.
“I’m just a person with a fancy title and a good parking spot,” Jackson said. “Hands down, the success of this office is the result of all those employees. They give 100-plus percent and care deeply about this campus and the students.”
Ask Jackson about what she’s most proud of, shining moments by business and finance workers bubble up. Some of her favorite moments include (but are certainly not limited to):
The custodians who held a pipe together above their heads while waiting for plumbers to arrive for an overnight fix in the College of Dentistry building;
Transportation Services drivers who answered a late Saturday night call to haul a non-Husker athletic team to the Kansas City airport when their scheduled local flight was canceled;
Efforts by Nebraska staff working in concert to ensure that faculty and students abroad in Turkey were accounted for and safe during a 2016 political coup;
Celebrating accreditation successes with University Police, Landscape Services and Custodial Services staff; and
A photo that was tweeted featuring a university police officer helping a student put on a tie prior to commencement exercises.
“To me, that photo said it all about working at a university,” Jackson said. “It took faculty to teach that young man and prepare him for graduation and a career. And, at the end of the day, a university police officer was there teaching him how to put on a tie.
“It was a very touching moment that showed how Nebraska employees are willing to do everything they can to help students be successful.”
In the last few years, Jackson has taken notice of friends and colleagues as they opt for retirement. Thoroughly enjoying the pace and challenges of the vice chancellor post, Jackson couldn’t comprehend the desire to step away.
When she inquired about the retirements, many of her friends and colleagues responded that Jackson would know when it was her time. She finally understood at the start of this year.
“I was having fun with all the projects, but in January I decided it was my time to step away,” Jackson said. “It was a difficult decision, but you have to have a certain energy level to do this job. I also thought it was time for someone new to step in, someone with new ideas to help keep building the university’s momentum.”
Jackson has no firm retirement plans outside of spending time with family and friends. She hopes to ease the workload transition by taking culinary adventures with personal connections.
“I love cooking and have collected recipes from friends and colleagues over my lifetime,” Jackson said. “Every time I make a recipe, I think about the person who gave it to me.”
The entire campus community has been invited to provide more favorite recipes to Jackson’s collection.
“I’m excited to get a bunch of new recipes and start cooking,” Jackson said. “It’ll be a great way to help me remember all the amazing people I’ve worked with at Nebraska.”