Staff Spotlight with Chris Murray, Senior Director of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives
As our Senior Director of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives, Chris Murray works with the National Office and its network to find ways to make organizational operations more efficient as well as develop innovative ways to support our students across the country. Chris is also a passionate advocate and member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Q: How did you find your way to CIS?
Chris: Frankly, I was unhappy where I was working prior to CIS. My close friend, Michael Huang (Vice President at CIS for Learning and Practice), alerted me to an open position at the national office and after reading about the organization, our model and getting a sense of our culture, I jumped at the chance to do something where I felt more fulfilled at work. I have stayed at CIS for over 8 years because this is a place where my day to day work has an impact. I have also found a place here where I feel valued and empowered. This is an organization that strives to better itself, and I love being a part of that. Michael was really looking out for me 8 years ago and I am very glad he did!
Q: What is your favorite memory from working at CIS?
Chris: On an affiliate accreditation site visit in Georgia, I met with a group of 3rd graders who I asked about their experiences receiving supports and services from a CIS site coordinator. These young kids were able to explain with incredible thoughtfulness and clarity how their perspective on school, their education and their futures became more positive because of working with a Site Coordinator. The best part of any role I’ve had at CIS was when I got to meet current CIS students. I learned so much about our work and loved the opportunity to share, if just for a moment, in the lives these young people.
Q: What do you do when you are not working?
Chris: I have a small group of close friends who I enjoy spending my spare time with, finding new restaurants to try or planning weekend trips out of the city. I’m a slow reader, but I love a good book, cup of coffee and the company of my two cats, Moira and Mischa, on Saturday mornings. I currently have a stack of books piling up on my nightstand by queer and non-binary authors as I am trying to immerse myself in stories that reflect identities we don’t typically see in mainstream literature.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges in your role and how do you overcome them?
Chris: The biggest challenge for me is learning to take small steps toward big goals. As an organization positioned to change the way we educate and support the success of students, we must keep a long-term outlook on what we want to accomplish. CIS’ nearly 50 years of work has gotten us this far and there are 50 more years of work to do. I regularly remind myself that we are better served by taking the long-view, accepting the setbacks and staying focused on our North Star.
What does Pride month mean to you?
Chris: For me, Pride is a time to celebrate the radical beauty of queerness, specifically the way queerness shows us what’s possible—a world where restrictive binaries and social norms no longer matter. During Pride month, I take moments to celebrate and recommit myself to the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. I enjoy the festivities, the parades and parties, but it is more important that I take this month to reflect on ways that I can be more supportive of my community, exercise my rights to protest, vote, and stand firm in who I know myself to be.