From first-generation college student to the first female Athletic Director in the state of Arizona, Chris Haines has always been a trailblazer.
Christina “Chris” Haines was the oldest and only girl in a family with four children. She grew up in a small town in Illinois, and came of age during the Title IX era. She earned a Volleyball scholarship at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota where she learned and tried new things. Looking back, she remembers being more focused on athletics and socializing, until a teacher helped motivate her to become a better student once she went to college. She recalls, “College made me believe there were things I could do.”
She began her career with MCCCD at Mesa Community College. Haines was always up for a challenge at MCC, where she taught handball, aerobics, golf, and health, along with working in the school’s fitness center. In January 1990, Haines joined the athletics staff at South Mountain Community College, coaching basketball and working in the fitness center. She remembers her first day at SMCC, when she only had three players on her roster.
Within the next year, Haines built a competitive team by recruiting well, respecting her players, and promising them a trip to Disneyland. The team was made up of women from all different backgrounds, some of whom were mothers or had many other obligations in addition to basketball and school. Haines rearranged the practice schedule so that all players could be there.
Haines left SMCC in 1996 for a recruiting position with Weber State University. After a successful two-year stint, Haines recognized that she missed a direct connection to students and student-athletes. She returned in 1998 to serve as South Mountain Community College’s Athletic Director.
Haines “wore a lot of hats” while at South Mountain Community College. She was lucky to have helpful mentors, and her willingness to learn, lead, and say “yes” assured that she served many roles at the college. During her time at SMCC, Haines coached several sports, and her titles included Athletic Specialist, Athletic Director, director of the Fitness Center, Interim Dean of Enrollment, and Associate Dean of Student Services. Among her favorite projects was starting the Women’s Golf Team, which went to the National Championship in its second year.
Haines has left her mark on many campuses in the Maricopa District. Along with SMCC and MCC, Haines held several leadership positions at Phoenix College, including Interim President. She is currently the Interim President at Scottsdale Community College.
During her time at SMCC, Haines saw a lot of change in South Phoenix. From farmland and orange groves to a more developed business and residential area, South Phoenix evolved. And Haines believes that SMCC evolved with the community. South Mountain Community College, Haines argues, can really be the economic and cultural hub of the area. The school, she believes, has made an impact on the community in “ways that nobody can even understand.”
Faculty Researcher: Summer Cherland
Student Interviewer: Tommy Lathrop, 2019