As soon as the sun comes up, CSUDH Workforce Integration Network (WIN) Director Krystal Rawls is ready to go. The self-described early riser says she typically finds it hard to sleep past dawn. “There’s too much life to live to sleep through it!” she says.
Part of the reason she’s so eager to get her day started is her passion for her work at CSUDH. WIN aims to highlight the career opportunities available for CSUDH students and other members of our community. As director, Rawls uses advanced technological resources, combined with university and industry-generated business data, to demonstrate the benefits of the CSUDH educational experience in promoting all stakeholders: students, staff, faculty, employers, and the local community.
“Networking is a huge part of my job,” she says. “I spend about an hour or two every day responding to emails to make sure I address the needs of other departments and colleges—most often offering information about how WIN serves the campus and what resources we offer. Another significant part of my day is developing and analyzing workforce trends and programs to address skill gaps.”
This networking aspect of the job appeals to Rawls. “I enjoy working with so many different partners’ groups. I mentor interns, do research alongside faculty and staff, and work with some of the most creative and passionate community members in the South Bay. In addition, I make sure our community is represented in national and global learning conversations. For me, it’s a total WIN!”
Prior to coming to CSUDH in 2020, Rawls served as a faculty member at CSU San Bernardino, teaching management skills. “I love teaching,” she says. “I love when students see themselves the way I see them: full of promise and hope. I saw a need to explicitly articulate the value I saw in students, so I started teaching it in class and modeling my appreciation as a manager/leader. This led me to my current career in workforce development.”
Born in Hawaii, Rawls was an “army brat” who moved around a lot during her childhood. She eventually settled in California, where she has spent most of her teen and adult life. Her family is the one thing she says she could not live without—and what a family she has! Rawls has 16 (!) siblings and 7 daughters, and is married to a retired Navy veteran.
Rawls’ proudest contribution to campus is her work with the Open Skills Network Open Recognition Workgroup, which revolves around identifying the skills and strengths of first-generation and exploring students. “I love showing students they have more skills than they think they have,” she says.
When she’s not working—she’s still actually kind of working. “I love love love my work,” she says. “It can be soothing for me to read innovative articles about the work I do. When I’m not officially working, I’m writing scholarly articles about ways educators can show students we value their lives and experiences. I don’t have a great work-life balance because my work is a passion project!”
Her innovative work with WIN has drawn attention to the university, and Rawls is often asked to speak to fellow educators at conferences across the globe. This year, she will be presenting at events in Boulder, Colo., Portland, Ore., and Vienna, Austria—among others.
“I love that DH is looking for ways to showcase the amazing people who work and learn at the institution,” says Rawls. “When I think about why I work at DH instead of another institution, it boils down to a very selfish thought… I want to be a part of the magic that pushes people to see themselves in a positive and productive light, instead of as a deficit!”
To that end, she was thrilled to see Thriving Educators and Thriving Students as pillars of the new Strategic Plan. “When I saw those pillars, my heart leaped for joy,” she recalls. “We are not here to survive but to thrive. I want to be a part of that!”
Black Panther ! My license plate reads “WKANDA.” I run a website called Nation of Wakanda and own the entire graphic novel series. Bit of a fan!
The V.C. Andrews series that begins with Flowers in the Attic.,
Carlos Santana at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. After his official set he said, “If y’all don’t have any place to be, I’m going to keep playing.” He played for almost three more hours and I was in heaven!
Favorite food? Least favorite?
My favorite is ramen. Least is okra.
Cats or dogs?
Dogs. Pit bulls or labs, specifically.
What is one superpower you would like to have?
To translate all languages fluently. I could end conflict with such a power!
If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you?
Vanessa Williams. She was the first Black Miss America and I remember people saying she and I favored each other when I was younger. I think she would understand my struggle being a Black woman in a system that doesn’t love Black women.
Favorite childhood memory?
My 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Auerbach, read a poem I wrote out loud to our class, telling them that honest writing is the best writing. I had been criticized because the poem was dark and had decided I’d never write again. It meant everything to me that she acknowledged the content above the tone!
What is one thing you could not live without?
My family and pets.
Describe yourself in three words:
Authentic, accurate, and passionate.