As the vice president of Student Services at University of Phoenix, Kristen Griffin has an up-close-and-personal view of the challenges working Americans and students are facing during the pandemic.
There was the student who became homeless after she tested positive for COVID-19, when her roommates kicked her out. The student whose job forced her to work longer shifts because of layoffs, shrinking the hours available to study. And there were many students who got COVID-19 themselves or lost a loved one to a crisis that has now claimed more than 400,000 American lives.
“What we’re noticing right now is there’s an aggregate effect of all of life’s challenges building up on a student,” Griffin said. “Then something happens, and it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
Griffin is uniquely positioned to handle the task of motivating and managing a 400-plus person team of academic advisors whose job it is to help students navigate these challenges. A trained psychologist, yoga instructor and health coach, Griffin was handed a raw deal by the universe 17 years ago when her husband, Doug, was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer days after she found out she was pregnant — he passed away just weeks after their son turned 1.
Still in the depths of grieving, Griffin pushed herself to focus on her son, the students she looked after during her then-role as a university academic advisor and completing her Master of Science in Psychology at University of Phoenix.
Her hard work paid off and led her to what she’s doing now. Griffin said, “Which is completely aligned to what it is that I’ve always wanted to do in terms of helping people.”
We asked Griffin a few questions about how she’s stayed committed to her family, her career, her staff and students in the face of challenges that might paralyze the average person.