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Second Time Around, Alumna Cristi Cartwright
Achieves at Mercer, Learns Skills for Advancement


West Windsor, N.J. - Upon graduating from Steinert High School 15 years ago, Cristi Cartwright enrolled at nearby Mercer County Community College to "please her parents." But, she says, "I really was not ready to go to college at all."

For Cartwright ('06, A.A., Communications), the path back to earning her associate degree posed its share of challenges, but was well worth the effort. "Mercer definitely changed my life," she says. Now an administrative assistant to the manager of employee relations for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, she credits Mercer for bolstering her self-confidence and providing the skills she needed to master her job and forge ahead professionally. She is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in Liberal Studies with a minor in Psychology at Rider University.

Recalling her less-than-stellar grades during her first experience at Mercer, she came to a turning point at age 21. "I started to set goals," she explained. At the time, Cartwright worked as a customer service representative for Educational Testing Service (ETS). As part of its benefits package, ETS offered college tuition reimbursement. "I did not want to pass up that offer so I jumped at the opportunity," she said. "Finally, I was doing something on my terms. I had to bring up my GPA. It was not an easy task."

Cristi Cartwright '06

Employed at ETS full time, Cartwright attended night classes at Mercer. "I really loved my classes," she said. In addition to her courses for academic credit, she took noncredit business classes in Excel and effective business writing at MCCC's Center for Continuing Studies, which enhanced her skills and led to a promotion. "I learned how to communicate well, be responsible, multi-task, and not break under pressure. I gained a lot more than just a degree. With all my responsibilities, I became a mature adult."

She particularly remembers History Professor David Collier, who fascinated her with his passion for local history. Not previously a history buff, she credits him with making her "see the subject in a whole new light." She credits journalism instructor Carrie Wainwright with helping her strengthen her writing and editing skills.
On a mission to absorb all opportunities, Cartwright wrote for The College VOICE and worked for WWFM, the college's professional classical music radio station. In 2004, she was named to the Dean's List.

The drive and work ethic Cartwright developed during her Mercer years has carried over to her current post at NJDOT, where she performs a wide range of administrative duties and has been promoted twice. "I love being able to help people solve their problems," she said. "I work with a great group of people. We teach each other new things."

The desire to help people is fueling a future direction for Cartwright. Citing some of her own rough patches as a teen, she hopes to one day become a family therapist. She notes that years ago she could not have fathomed such a goal. "I have proven to myself that I can do it," she said.

"If you take advantage of all Mercer has to offer and believe in yourself, then life will take you where you're supposed to go," she said. "Nothing feels better than accomplishing something you never thought you could do and then seeing that piece of paper with your degree listed on it. No one can ever take that away from you."

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