Yes, it’s true. After 7 wonderful years as Nutrition & Health Education Specialist with the Montana University System Wellness Program, I have decided to pursue another opportunity as Research Dietitian with The Food & Health Lab here at Montana State University.

This decision was not easy. I recently heard someone talking about how joy and sadness often coexist, and that is absolutely the case in this situation. I’m feeling joy for a new, exciting challenge, and an equal amount of sadness for leaving behind a job, coworkers, and MUS employees that I truly love.

But the emotion that has risen above all else is gratefulness. So I want to share my gratefulness for the following people that have made my time with MUS Wellness so invaluable:

The early adopters: Neal and I started our positions in the summer of 2012. It was a time of significant change for MUS Wellness. The individual campus Wellness programs that had existed for years were no longer, and a new centralized Wellness program with new staff had been put in place. Change is hard. We understood that. We heard from many of you who weren’t crazy about the new system. But as we got new programs and initiatives up and rolling, many of you also welcomed us with open arms. You participated in monthly challenges when they involved tracking with pen and paper. You listened to our early webinars when no one else in your office was doing so. You jumped on board and signed up for Limeade as soon as it was launched. I will forever be grateful for you— the MUS plan members who gave us a chance.

The sustainers: I’m also so grateful for those of you who continue to participate in our programs and believe in the value of what we are doing. You ask questions, you provide feedback, you pay attention. In a world of so many emails and distractions, I am thankful for those of you who make Wellness a priority. I’m tremendously proud of the Wellness program that we built over the past 7 years, but it couldn’t have been done without people who care.

MUS Wellness Champions: The employees who go above and beyond, who volunteer their time and effort to promote the Wellness program for no other tangible benefit than a bi-monthly newsletter and an occasional swag item. You make a difference and you make your workplace a healthier, happier place. I’m thankful for everything you do to make the Wellness program a success.  

Campus Benefits Representatives (CBRs): The unsung Human Resource heroes of our MUS campuses. So many of you went above and beyond your job duties to make Neal and I feel welcome on your campus.

The MUS Benefits team, especially Director of Benefits, Mary Lachenbruch. Many times, when faced with difficult decisions, Mary’s answer was always, “We’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do for our plan members”. Mary genuinely wants what is best for every plan member in the University System and is deliberate and thoughtful in her decision making. The same can be said of the entire benefits team. You may not see or recognize them, but know that you have a very dedicated team of people working hard to keep medical, vision, dental, and retirement benefits as robust, affordable, and accessible as possible for MUS plan members. On a more personal level, Mary has always been a huge supporter of family, work/life balance, and whole-being wellness, and I am so fortunate to have had her as my supervisor.

Last but certainly not least, my teammates, Neal Andrews and Kelsey Hartzheim: I don’t have adequate words for these two; they are my work family.

Neal – Thank you for your unyielding, and at times undeserved, support and encouragement over the last 7 years. You always saw the best in me. Thank you for being the creative genius and editor behind all of our Wellness materials. Without you, our videos, podcasts, and webinars would be so boring. I often tasked you with “bringing the jokes” and you never failed to deliver. Your passion for this work is inspiring. I always enjoyed seeing you light up when taking the stage for any presentation, when helping someone find a way back to physical activity after injury or years off, or when planning Wellness activities for the future. I can’t wait to see what you will continue to bring to MUS Wellness. Thank you also for enjoying snacks as much as I do.

Kelsey – Thank you for your patience, kindness, and support in my time with Wellness. I will never forget listening to your end of a 20+ minute telephone conversation that, in my view, seemed to just be going around in circles. When everyone else in the world would have lost patience, you persisted; you were determined to help this person and make sure they were a satisfied customer. You extended this patience to me in every situation and I am grateful. I hope you realize what an incredible asset you are to MUS Wellness. Even 7 years in, I always found myself telling people to ask you if they wanted to be sure they got the correct answer!

For all of the other people that made this job so wonderful – a smiling face and hug at WellCheck, a jar of homemade spaghetti sauce delivered to my hotel in Missoula, a handwritten note of congratulations when I had my son – thank you. I will be keeping my same email address, and I would love to continue to hear from all of you. Drop me a note. Share a recipe with me. Tell me a Wellness success you’ve experienced.

With deepest gratitude and until next time, Happy Eating!

Cristin Stokes

7 thoughts on “Farewell from Cristin

  1. Cristin,
    I only met you once (that I remember) – when you came to MSUB with Monica. Thanks for bringing so many great nutritional programs and opportunities to us. All the best in your new position.

    Judy A. Williams, JD, CWLS
    ASMSU Billings Student Legal Services
    SUB 213
    1500 University Drive
    Billings, MT 59101
    (406) 657-2365
    This email may be privileged Attorney-Client communication. It is not intended for transmission to, or receipt by, any unauthorized persons. If you have received this email in error, please delete it from your system without copying it, and notify the sender by reply e-mail or by calling ASMSUB Student Legal Services at 406-657-2365, so that our address record can be corrected. Thank you.

  2. Cristin,
    even though I’m retired now, I want to thank you for all the wonderful healthy cooking classes and great tasty recipes you had at all your campus seminars! Having Neal as comic relief was very refreshing and made the seminars fun! You two made a great pair during the webinars too!
    Having Neal use you as a demonstrator At his fitness classes was a lot of fun too!
    Thank you for caring so much for the health of all of us!
    Good luck on your new endeavors!

  3. Hi Cristin,

    I haven’t worked at UM for 2 years, but I just wanted to tell you how much your advice, classes and overall attitude really helped me for the 5 years that your time overlapped with mine. I was one who was initially skeptical when they changed our wellness program. But it turned out to be a vast improvement from the well checks to the addition of you and Neal. I loved the challenges and all you guys do/did.

    Take care and good luck in your new position. I know the Wellness Program will definitely miss your warmth and genuine care for everyone.

    Wanda LaCroix

  4. Hello, Cristin,

    Thank you for the beautiful farewell message. I have enjoyed knowing you and I have appreciated your expertise as a registered nutritionist. Your videos and workshops are informative, engaging and fun–they have added value to my meal planning.

    I wish you well in your new position as MUS’s Research Dietitian with The Food & Health Lab!

    Kind Regards and Montana Cheers,

    Denise Grabowski, Flathead Valley Community College

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