Last updated on March 9, 2022
March is National Women’s History Month, and this year’s theme is “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” Dallas College is elevating and amplifying the experiences of our women-identified community members as a tribute to women of all cultures and their role in creating healing and hope throughout our community, society and world.
“Women historically have been in healing and supportive roles. It is affirming to see more and more women rise to leadership as they bring that with them to their roles and who they serve.” — National Women’s History Alliance
In celebration of the rise of women in leadership, we sat down with Christa Slejko, president of Dallas College North Lake Campus, to learn about her leadership journey.
On finding joy in supporting others in the Dallas College community
After 30-plus years with Dallas College, Slejko has reached the stage of her career where she feels she can give back and support others, particularly through mentoring, coaching and helping individuals amplify their voices. In her role as campus president, she engages with nonprofits, small businesses, corporate groups and community organizations, contributing to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). She says that being present in the community and interacting with others is “good for us. We learn what’s important and how we can work together.”
This is particularly true when she has an opportunity to “hang out with the students.” She takes pleasure and pride in reconnecting with former students, learning about how they are accomplishing their dreams and even seeing them on LinkedIn as leaders within their own organizations.
On navigating unchartered territory and seizing opportunities for growth
Slejko’s career at Dallas College began in IT and has taken unexpected twists and turns that eventually landed her in the president’s role. She has served as vice president of business services as well as a variety of interim positions. “I backed into this position. I never said that I wanted to be in the presidency,” Slejko said. With the support of “wonderful bosses and leaders,” she was encouraged to grow personally, professionally and in her career by pursuing her master’s and doctoral degrees.
On the people who have had the biggest influence on her success
“I don’t have that one person, but rather a handful of people,” Slejko said. A network of people supported and encouraged her to “be ready just in case,” and to seize those informal opportunities that might convert into formal assignments. She recalls that her first boss left a lasting impression on her because he was tough, which made her stronger. “It doesn’t matter if you see yourself that way — others may see something in you that you do not see in yourself yet.”
On developing resiliency and facing adversity with compassion
It is in challenging times that we realize that leaders are human, too. They experience challenges on a personal and professional level that not only change how the world sees them but also how they see and show up in the world. Slejko shared that she grew up navigating a challenging home life, including her relationship with her alcoholic father. As a child, she hated going through those difficulties. In retrospect, she realizes that it helped build her resiliency and ability to navigate adversity as an adult.
Shortly after assuming the president’s role, her resilience and ability to be there for others was tested with a Dallas College murder/suicide shooting. The event shook students, faculty and the community. She had to find strength to show up for the victim’s family during their time of loss and during the aftermath that traumatized many. Within the campus family, faculty members and students were terrified and concerned about their safety. Many struggled with whether they should go back to the classroom. Being present, listening and responding with compassion during moments of challenge and fear can tax a leader emotionally, physically and mentally. However, as she provided support to others, Slejko said, many supported her and offered the crisis management training and media communication preparation needed to help with healing and promoting hope.
On the advice she would give her younger self and wants to share with you
“Learn how to be better a storyteller!” Dr. Slejko declared with a playful chuckle. As a self-proclaimed shy person, she doesn’t like talking about herself or being the center of attention. However, she has learned that stories help to convey or reinforce a meaningful message that can resonate with folks. Stories have a way of showing just how human we all are.
On the importance of Dallas College’s mission and our role as educators
“The importance of my work is bigger than any one position that I had,” Slejko said. “Working in a field like higher education and being a member of an organization, the mission must always resonate. It is important to work at a place where you believe in why we exist.”
“Regardless of where you work in the college, you are an educator. Helping people understand how they contribute regardless of their position helps us all realize that the mission of what we do is bigger than any position we hold.”
Many students come with current or past situations that may impact their mental health. Every person on campus has a role to play in serving the whole student. “My personal joy is to contribute to someone else’s path or help them along their way. My day is made,” Slejko said.
“Dallas College is all about hope — inspiring hope and shining light on opportunities,” Slejko said. “It is our mission to support others in learning, growing and becoming better versions of themselves.”