Chris Kinsley: achievements and hopes for the future
Christian Kinsley at the Feb. 22 Board of Trustees meeting. Photo courtesy of Christian Kinsley.

Chris Kinsley: achievements and hopes for the future

Readers of the Catalyst for the past four years may recognize the name Christian Kinsley.  He has been an important, reliable source for many articles, providing much-needed background on significant topics the Catalyst has covered. As Vice President of Finance and Administration since Mar. 15, 2020, Kinsley has witnessed many changes in the physical makeup of campus as well as historic events including the COVID-19 pandemic. Kinsley will retire in July and move on from New College to new endeavors. In the meantime, there is much to say about his achievements on campus and his work as a longtime higher education administrator in Florida.

Starting a job on the day much of the world started quarantining wasn’t the ideal beginning to a new chapter of his life. “It was a very strange time. Wow, four years, it feels like it’s gone by in a blink,” he recalled in an interview with the Catalyst.

“I was blessed to have a strong team when I got here and I’ve been able to keep that team,” Kinsley said. “We have a strong administrative support team. It kind of goes without a lot of recognition and that’s how we want it. We don’t want that to be the story, we’re supporting the faculty, we’re supporting the students. We don’t want to be front and center and that’s why you don’t see a lot of stories, or really any stories, about me. I’m kind of behind the scenes.”

Before coming to New College, Kinsley worked at the Board of Governors (BOG) as the Assistant Vice Chancellor for about 20 years, connecting with many of the universities in the Florida public system. Throughout those years he became acquainted with John Martin, who was the previous Chief Financial Officer at New College, former New College President Donal O’Shea and others. Kinsleyworked on projects that included construction of the sea wall by College Hall and additions to the Heiser Natural Sciences Complex.

“I knew [New College] was this gem,” Kinsley shared. “I loved all the state universities but this one I think has a special place in the hearts of everyone at the BOG because of its size, beautiful location and very unique mission. So when John [Martin] told me he was retiring I was like, ‘Wow. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to go from headquarters to go out in the field.’

“I was fortunate enough to be given the nod by President O’Shea and I just jumped right in,” he continued. “I just really enjoy being on campus and interacting with students, with the faculty, with the other staff. Every day I wake up and [think] how can I help? How can I help students? How can I help faculty achieve their goals? How can I help the staff? It just feels much more hands-on.”

From his vantage point in Tallahassee, Kinsley saw many transitions on college campuses. He said his mindset when experiencing any bumps along the road or administrative changes was to “finish what I started.”

Kinsley has been guided by that mindset at New College.

Working closely with Chief Information Officer Ben Foss, Kinsley offers support to Information Technology (IT), ensuring wifi connections stay consistent and are actively improving. In another corner of campus, Kinsley works with Facilities on schedules, budgets and programming to actualize initiatives like the Caples campus dock and the Caples Mansion renovations. Other offices that report to Kinsley include, but are not limited to: Campus Police Department (CPD), Finance and Accounting and Emergency Management.

Students in previous years likely took notice of the many emails Kinsley sent out to the New College community regarding updates and announcements about power outages, wifi interruptions and other emergency notifications. Working with IT, Kinsley and his team have made it so offices like Facilities and CPD can directly notify the community via email instead of potentially delaying any announcements by having them routed through him. 

“I should say this: none of this I did by myself,” Kinsley reflected when asked about his achievements. “It was part of a team and, well, I was there.”

These achievements include guiding New College through the pandemic and ensuring students received housing and meal plan refunds, switching meal plans from declining balances to the All You Can Eat meal plan and reopening the Four Winds Cafe by acquiring state funds, creating a student committee and renovating the structure.

“One of the school’s biggest challenges, and this is not unique, this is a national challenge: maintaining enrollment,” Kinsley stated. “I have provided the financial tools and the support. I’ve always been an advocate for increased student scholarships… This is an honors college and students who get in are required to follow an honors curriculum, so it’s very hard to work and go to school here.”

In tandem with appreciating the efforts made to reach campus goals, Kinsley spoke about initiative he had hoped to see through till the end. One is the issue of parking. As he hopes to see New College grow in numbers, he knows the availability of parking spaces will diminish if nothing is done to mitigate it. “It’s not sexy but it’s important. Somebody else after me is going to have to come up with better answers for parking.”

Kinsley also wishes he had more time to help campus transition to solar power. “I know the administration is looking at solar options but I wish that it could’ve happened under my watch. We’re in South Florida, we should have some solar.”

“I am so appreciative to the State of Florida,” Kinsley emphasized, looking back on a total of 33 years with state government in various capacities. “I’m a first generation student, I went to Florida State University (FSU) and I got a scholarship because the State of Florida gave me a scholarship. Otherwise, I don’t know what would’ve happened. The state paid for my education, the state has given me a job and I hope I’ve repaid the state for all the years it’s paid me.”

Kinsley’s plan is to find another position in higher education, having enjoyed working with students, staff and faculty throughout his long career in the State University System of Florida. For now he hopes to take more Disney trips with his family and to enjoy feeling like a graduating student once again, looking for job opportunities post-New College.

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