Chris Minish: Making His Choice

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First-year student Chris Minish didn't imagine UW Tacoma as an option. Now he dreams of a job in computer graphics.

UW Tacoma first-year student Chris Minish. Photo by Cody Char.FIRST-YEAR STUDENT

“I don’t feel the anxiety anymore. I feel a healthy nervousness.”

This is freshman Chris Minish talking about his sense of anticipation for his first year at UW Tacoma.

Chris has come a long way from his time in high school, where he struggled with depression and suffered anxiety attacks.

Born in Olympia, he grew up in Shelton, Wash., living with his mother and older sister. His parents were divorced, and at 15 he and his sister went to live with their dad. When it became clear that he was not thriving in a traditional high school environment, a school guidance counselor suggested he look into an alternative.

He enrolled in the Insight School of Washington, willing to give that school’s all-online curriculum a try, but after a semester discovering that online learning wasn’t working for him.  Then he heard about the CHOICE Alternative School in Shelton.  The CHOICE School is an example of a growing trend in K-12 education: providing alternatives to the standardized model of public schooling. CHOICE offers students a looser structure: students develop a learning plan in close consultation with teachers and advisors. There is greater flexibility in how they accomplish that plan, with less reliance on daily attendance for fixed hours, and more focus on demonstrating learning through projects and portfolios.

The CHOICE School offered Chris just the right mix. “It was really great for me—the perfect blend of structure and freedom.”

Gradually, Chris caught up with and then moved ahead of what was expected.

Now it was 2014, and time to think about what might come next. This is when he met Maureen “Mo” Black, who has the impressive title of “student support interventionist” at CHOICE.  Her position is funded as part of the GEAR UP program (GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs—it’s a college-awareness-and readiness program).

Mo sent Chris on field trips to visit various college campuses. UW Tacoma was the first campus he visited, and it basically came down to love at first sight. Chris knew that personal interaction with faculty would be important to him, and the small class sizes at UW Tacoma were an important part of his decision to apply.

Chris has his mind set on a career in a technical field. As of today, his dream job would be working at nVidia, a world leader in so-called visual computing (as the company’s web site says, “the art and science of computer graphics”).

During the turmoil of his middle and early high school years, Chris never saw himself as someone who could get admitted to a prestigious university. But, he says, “It worked out! And here I am at UW Tacoma!”

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Written by: 
John Burkhardt / October 2, 2015
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or