Meet Distinguished Alumni awardees Andrew and Kirsten Skinner

By Zoe Lance

Andrew and Kirsten SkinnerWhen Andrew and Kirsten Skinner tell people their feelings about CSU Channel Islands, they don’t hold back.

“I tell them that we’re not just satisfied with the experience we had,” Andrew said. “I tell them that we’re the biggest fans of CSUCI.”

Since graduating in 2004, the Santa Clarita-based Skinners have stayed engaged in the CSUCI community, using their time and energy to spread the word about the University’s educational mission. They are the 2019 recipients of the University’s Distinguished Alumni award, which recognizes outstanding alumni for their professional achievements, service efforts and support of the University community.

“When we were at CSUCI, the people you hung out with weren’t just your friends — they became your family,” Kirsten said. “That’s stayed true ever since we’ve graduated.”

The couple met at CSUCI as Business students, taking classes together. They fondly remember the energy of being at the University in the first few years. “It was really neat to be part of the genesis of CSUCI,” Andrew said.

Shortly after graduation, Andrew suffered a spinal cord injury in a snowboarding accident. With their family and friends, Andrew and Kirsten worked hard through years of recovery and therapy. In 2008 they co-founded the Triumph Foundation, deciding that they wanted to assist others who were going through similar experiences.

The Southern California-based nonprofit organization has helped over 5,000 children, adults and veterans with spinal cord injuries or disorders. Its team has given out thousands of care baskets, and provided hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of grants and accessibility equipment. They also organize adaptive recreational activities and community fundraisers.

Andrew splits his time between visiting hospitals and managing the foundation’s team. Kirsten handles the foundation’s operations, and coordinates a partners’ support group. They both agree that their experience in CSUCI’s Business program, as well as the support of faculty and staff they stayed in touch with throughout Andrew’s recovery, has set them up to successfully run a nonprofit.

“What you learn in the classroom is definitely useful in the field,” Kirsten said. “The management, bookkeeping, marketing and communication skills you learn are really important.”

Andrew believes that his CSUCI education and the skills he learned both in and out of the classroom helped him move forward.

“My injury limits what I am physically able to do, but I have my education to fall back on,” Andrew said. “My mind is stronger than ever, and because of my education I was able to find a way to persevere. It lifted me up, and I’m really thankful for the honor of being chosen as a distinguished alumnus.”

The Skinners proudly represent CSUCI, and are active members of the Alumni & Friends Association. They hope that their 8-year-old daughter, Betty, decides to be a Dolphin one day.

“CSUCI has been there for us all along,” Kirsten said. “It gave us the platform to do incredible things to help other people.”

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© Spring 2019 / Volume 23 /Number 01 / Bi-annual

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