By Molly Mitchell, Erika Kellerman, and Bri Griffith
On April 26, 2017, Dr. Chrys Gabrich taught her last class of the semester, and her career, at Carlow University. She used her last 20 minutes to share words of wisdom, advice, and compliments with the students in her Persuasion course. Dr. Gabrich said, “I really admire your generation. You’re involved in social issues. You’re a generation that really embraces diversity. I think you have a lot to be proud of, and I think you need to make your voices known for all the great work, ideas, and initiative you have.”
Dr. Gabrich went on to tell her students to push their boundaries, and challenge their comfort zones; she said, “Be resilient. Life sucks, but you’ve got to bounce back. You can’t dig a hole and climb into it. One of the ways you can be resilient is to realize you can’t do it alone.”
Before the class ended, Dr. Gabrich told her students to find peace and joy; “I hope that you find a job that you love, like I was very fortunate and blessed to be hired at Carlow 34 years ago,” she said.
Dr. Gabrich thanked her students for spending her last semester at Carlow with her; to no surprise, the room erupted in applause.
Dr. Chrys Gabrich, Communication Professor, has worked at Carlow University for the past 34 years. She was the first Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences before it became the College of Leadership and Social Change in 2011. She worked with a group of Carlow graduate students to create the First Year Mentor Program, because she was involved in a similar program at the University of Pittsburgh. “I love advising,” said Dr. Gabrich, “When I was at graduate school at Pitt, I worked in the advising center. It’s how I got myself through graduate school.”
Dr. Gabrich also worked with a group of Carlow faculty and staff members to create Mercy Service Day; she helped get grants, refine the event, and she said, “I try to participate in it every year.” In addition, our now state-of-the-art Hopkins Communication Lab was a result of Dr. Gabrich’s hard work and vision. “I was so intrigued by the people at the National Communication Conferences who had labs before us; I said that we needed one,” she said. Dr. Gabrich thought the lab would be a great vehicle for students to find their voices and become better communicators, so she helped get a grant and raise money. “To see what Rachel [Furman] has done with it is so exciting. It’s thrilling to see how much it’s expanded,” she said.
During her career at Carlow, Dr. Gabrich has loved teaching basic communication courses to see students develop their skills over time. She also loved teaching the Gender Differences in Communication course, focusing on issues of gender and inequality, which she said hasn’t changed since she first began teaching it.
Technology has changed vastly in a short amount of time; Dr. Gabrich said technology gave her new ways to present information to students. In addition, she said the University Commons has changed Carlow completely. “To have a hub, a community for students to gather, I think that’s just wonderful to see,” she said.
As far as regrets, Dr. Gabrich wishes she could have connected more with a few students; she also said, “I always want my students to engage with the community. I wish I had more time to do more for them, but the term goes quickly.” Overall, she doesn’t have any big regrets.
Dr. Gabrich has seen a difference in students while working at Carlow. “I think that your generation is far more engaged socially and politically than, say, 20 years ago,” she said, “You rally around issues. That I love, [because] there’s a lot to talk about and rally around.”
When it comes to advice, Dr. Gabrich said communication majors should do internships at multiple places. “You’ll begin to figure out what you want to do in life, or what you don’t want to do,” she said, “I taught fourth grade, and while they were cute, I figured out I didn’t want to teach fourth grade.”
In addition, Dr. Gabrich can’t explain enough how life-changing it is to study abroad. She said, “I studied in Spain [and attended] the University of Madrid. I took all Spanish-speaking courses, [and] I tutored kids to earn an income.” Also, Dr. Gabrich said it’s always exciting to see communication students graduate, and to stay in touch with them. “It’s great to hear how well they’re doing after graduation,” she said.
In her retirement, Dr. Gabrich plans to travel with her husband; they’re taking a road trip between the months of May and June. “We’re going to some national parks,” said Dr. Gabrich, like Badlands National Park in South Dakota, and Yellowstone National Park.
“We signed up for a hiking educational tour because I’m scared of bears,” said Dr. Gabrich, who also plans to visit Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah. Dr. Gabrich and her husband also plan to make a few smaller trips, like visiting Ontario, Canada to see plays during Shakespeare Festival.
In addition to traveling, Dr. Gabrich plans to do some volunteer work in her retirement. “I really want to work with women who are in transitioning situations; I want to try to help them apply communication skills that I teach students to use,” she said. Dr. Gabrich will be taking classes at Carnegie Mellon University; she said, “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Many students, faculty, and staff have reached out to share their thoughts and fond memories of Dr. Chrys Gabrich. We’ve included a few here:
“While I think you could have hung in there until I graduated, I understand! Please know that your sense of humor and ability to push students will be missed. While of course it is sad to see one of my favorite professors retire, it is well deserved for all of your hard work and dedication, not just to your students, but to the [communication] department.” – Alexis Williams, Communication and Media major
“Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Gabrich was responsible for bringing the Tom Hopkins Communication Lab to Carlow University. She wanted the students at Carlow to have an interdisciplinary space to develop their communication skills. In this vision, Dr. Gabrich rallied community support and raised funds to build the lab, ensuring for many years that the programming and developing will continue. Personally, I thank Chrys for her dedication to her students and to the field of communication. She has served Carlow, and her efforts will continue to live on even as she moves on to new interests.” – Rachel Furman, Communication Professor, Director of the Hopkins Communication Lab
“At last year’s NACC Conference, I got to see Dr. Gabrich in a more relaxed setting. I got to see her dance with students, which was super fun to watch, and her positivity was definitely evident. She’s been such a positive force at Carlow for me, and I’ll definitely miss her a ton.” – Alex Dolnack, Communication and Media Major
“Chrys has made so many contributions to Carlow, but one that stands out is her dedication to service. Chrys believes that students have the potential to give to their communities and to receive wisdom from those communities in return. While serving as Dean, one of her accomplishments was implementing service learning into the undergraduate curriculum, now known as the Just and Merciful World Curriculum, and creating an annual day of service now known as Mercy Service Day. She also envisioned and obtained the original funding to establish the Mercy Center for Service. She conducted research on the impact of service learning on first-generation college students, and was committed to engaging undergraduate students in this research project, which took them across the U.S. to present their findings at academic conferences. She is always thinking of ways to make education come alive for students. Chrys is a visionary, and is never afraid to speak up and share ideas for how to make the university better. She is a role model and inspiration to me because she showed me how to use my voice, dream big, and make those dreams a reality. Her legacy and impact on Carlow will continue for many years to come, but we will not easily be able to replace her quick, intelligent mind, frequent boisterous laugh, and genuine commitment to making our community better.” – Jessica Friedrichs, MSW, MPA, Assistant Professor, Social Work
“When people ask me what my favorite classes were in college, Gender Differences in Communication is always first on my list! The content presented by Dr. Gabrich in that class was executed [with passion]. Her one-on-one interactions with students during class cannot be matched. I especially value the way she utilized her personal stories [in class] to bring light to social justice issues. Kudos Dr. Gabrich!” – Alexandra Lieb, Carlow University alum
“Dr. Chrys Gabrich leaves an impressive legacy with the Carlow University community. She has been a visionary leader—the Hopkins Communication Lab and the service learning element of our curriculum wouldn’t exist without her strong leadership. Dr. Gabrich has served with distinction as faculty, department chair, and as Dean. Perhaps most importantly, Chrys Gabrich is a valuable colleague and friend whose generosity and support will be sorely missed.” – Dr. Linda Schifino, Associate Professor and Chair, Communication Department
“I’ve had Dr. Gabrich for three classes, and in every one, she put her all into teaching and helping us in any way she could. Hearing her farewell speech [in Persuasion] was honestly so touching, and I’m sad to see her go, but I know she deserves it!” – Brooke Wateska, Communication and Media major
“Dr. Chrys Gabrich will leave giant footprints in the Carlow soil. She has been a leader of the faculty and an inspiration for her students. Dr. Gabrich embodies the spirit and mission of Carlow University. I admire her as a scholar and a teacher, and I value her as a colleague. She has been my office next-door neighbor, so I have always gone to her first when I had a question, and I have marveled that she has never asked me to turn down my music (it can get loud). Things just won’t be the same without Chrys Gabrich.” – Dr. James Kelly, Social Work Professor
“Dr. Gabrich has been the light of my life during my time at Carlow. She has been a wealth of wisdom and guidance and I will miss her dearly. She has gone above and beyond in helping me find myself and understand what I want to grow into. I’m glad I’m leaving when she is.” – Emily Evangelista, Communication and Media major
The quality, depth, and scope of Dr. Gabrich’s contributions to the mission, values, student learning, and hallmarks of Carlow University cannot be overestimated. Her remarkable career has been one of significance and impact—filled with numerous distinguished achievements. Her work has enhanced Carlow University and profoundly impacted the lives of generations of students for the better. Dr. Gabrich’s leadership and service have always been characterized by a collaborative style that values the collective wisdom, ideas, and input of others. She works tirelessly to research alternatives, analyze and synthesize ideas, and advance initiatives to completion. Her respect for others is palpable and her guiding principles of fairness, integrity, and respect for equality of voice among others—from students, to faculty, to staff, to administrators—frame her service. As colleagues in the department, we have been deeply enriched by her generosity of spirit, unwavering support, wise mentorship, and abiding friendship. We will miss her daily presence in our lives.” – Dr. Michael Balmert, Communication Professor
“Dr. Gabrich is a rockstar. I’ll miss her immensely, but I know how lucky I am to have had her in class! Good luck Dr. Gabrich with all of your future endeavors.” – Bri Griffith, Creative Writing major
“Dr. Gabrich has been a terrific mentor—recognizing my achievements, connecting me to opportunities that match my interests and expertise. I regularly turn to her for advice, especially about academic advising. She is an excellent advisor; she just loves working with students. It’s fun and inspiring to talk to her about our students. Also, I have to say that Chrys is consistently available to her colleagues. She’s interested in what the rest of us are working on and always supports us. She’s really helped me to learn and grow as a professor. Maybe most importantly, I enjoy spending time with her—talking, laughing, sharing stories. I know we’ll stay connected, but I’ll truly miss seeing her every day at Carlow.” – Dr. Jennifer Snyder-Duch, Associate Professor, Communication
Thank you Dr. Chrys Gabrich for your time spent at Carlow. The university won’t be the same without you, but your dedication to your students, service, communication, and Carlow will continue to shape the university even long after you’re gone.