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Meet Chris Franken

Chris Franken
Director of College Planning and Assessment
Eastview High School (MN)
Twitter:
@chris_franken

How did you become the director of college planning and assessment at Eastview?
When Eastview High School first opened in 1997, I was hired as a teacher for a district-wide career development program, and more specifically, a health careers course for students interested in the medical field.  As a health educator, I was additionally assigned to teach a wellness course for Eastview students. Within two years I was asked to assume the role of college counselor for identified gifted and talented students. Although I had some background in career development, when I stepped into the role I had to get up to speed quite quickly! I completed a master’s degree in educational leadership and an educational specialist degree in educational administration during the initial years of my college counseling role. By 2008, with some retirements and shifts in both counseling and administration, the position evolved to include support for schoolwide college-related processes, as well as administration of state assessments. For me, this position has been the best of both worlds. Another counseling colleague serves as co-leader for our department by providing leadership for several school counseling initiatives such as support for mental health, equity, and intervention programs.

What made you decide to get into this field?
It feels like this field got into me! It’s been quite a journey – one that I could never have predicted for myself. When I was asked to make the move from teaching in the classroom to student services and counseling to work with the GT program, I had already been considering going back to school to pursue either licensure as a school administrator or as a school counselor. I was very interested in working individually with students and enjoyed helping them to explore careers. I was intrigued by the opportunity to provide guidance with the college search process and to help young people in the transition beyond high school.  

What is your favorite part of the job?
The students! I’ve found tremendous fulfillment in helping Eastview students to reflect, explore, and achieve. Having the opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds in our school has been also been richly rewarding. I feel the same sense of satisfaction when working with a student accepted to a highly selective dream school as celebrating another student’s success in passing a state proficiency exam or reaching the needed credits to graduate. Every learner has value and every young person deserves support to achieve to their potential and beyond. Each has a story and I have had a unique opportunity to listen to and be part of many wondrous stories.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
Lo and behold, within three weeks of starting my position as a gifted and talented college counselor, I was boarding a plane to San Antonio. It was September 2001, and I was on my way to attend my first NACAC National Conference. I will never forget how the pilot walked down the center aisle, made eye contact with every passenger, saying “Good morning” to each of us. This was shortly after 9-11, of course, and made for quite an interesting journey. Indeed, I came back from the conference smarter, more grounded, energized, and intrigued by this whole new adventure called college counseling. And I must mention the influence of Frank Sachs from the Blake School and Phil Trout from Minnetonka High School. As it turned out, Frank’s own kids were on my counseling caseload. When we first met he promptly said, “You must join MACAC (Minnesota ACAC) and you must be part of my government relations committee!” I remember asking, “What is MACAC?” I eventually served as government relations co-chair, and then as one of MACAC’s delegates to the NACAC Assembly.  It was a few short years later that Phil Trout convinced me to accept the nomination for president-elect. The opportunity to serve MACAC and NACAC is one of the most professionally rewarding experiences I’ve had in my career thus far. I now serve on the NACAC Current Trends and Future Issues committee. Involvement in MACAC and NACAC has broadened my knowledge and insights and I attempt to pass this on to better help my students, parents, and colleagues.  

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I love to spend time being active in the outdoors, hiking, biking, golfing, boating, and skiing. As a true Minnesotan, one needs to find something to do in the winter. I am an avid cross-country skier and have now completed five American Birkebeiner ski marathons. Time at the lake cabin is a must to restore and provides a wonderful venue for all of these activities.  I also find great joy any time that friends or family will meet up for good food and a delicious craft beer or glass of wine over which to share intriguing conversation.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games trilogy. I found her character to be quite inspiring in a “rebellious champion” kind of way. She’s athletic, courageous, independent, a survivor, and leads with a strong sense of moral obligation and compassion for others.

Describe yourself in five words.
Evolving. Strategic thinker. Passionate. Learner.

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