Christina Mortellaro

Christina Mortellaro in Washington, DC advocating with advocating for TRIO students with the US Congressional representatives


Passionate about her work, Christina Mortellaro makes a difference by providing direct support for students and building genuine relationships with colleagues.


When she was searching for a graduate program, Christina Mortellaro, a Batavia, NY resident, was a busy professional who was looking to advance in her field. She chose SUNY Brockport’s Higher Education Administration (MSEd) program because it offered classes online and fit into her life.

“I appreciated the asynchronous format to fit my coursework within my professional and personal schedule. The learning was grounded in theory but would be practical and transferrable,” Christina said. “Even though I had a substantial scholarship at a different private university, the same master’s degree would have cost double at the other institution.”

During her graduate study, Christina worked for the TRiO Upward Bound Program at SUNY Genesee Community College, called Upward Bound, where she advised first-generation, low-income high school students to prepare and guide them through college. As a first-generation college student herself, she was passionate about educational equity. After earning her degree, Christina was promoted to director of the TRiO Adult Educational Opportunity Center at SUNY Genesee Community College. Now she leads the federally funded program, which serves six contiguous counties in Western New York. In fact, when she told her parents about the promotion, her dad said, “Wow, your master’s degree really paid off!”

She is grateful that she gets to support adult learners at all different stages of their educational careers – whether it’s to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, a GED, a certificate, a micro-credential, or anything else.

“I feel honored to take on this leadership role, investing in my staff who provide most of the direct support to our participants, and help make a positive difference in the Western New York Community,” said Christina.

TRiO college access programs have existed for over 50 years, and the higher education professionals overseeing these programs have continuously fought for funding and bipartisan support. She hopes that one day she will be able to directly support the management of multiple TRiO programs or move on to similar educational opportunity initiatives within higher education. She is also interested in getting more involved with higher education policy and advocacy.

Christina would tell other students interested in working in higher education to be open-minded to various opportunities. She said they should take the time to hone their skills and then own them to discover where they want to go in the field.

“During my undergraduate years, I double majored in English and communication, so I wrote… a lot. After graduating, I served with AmeriCorps VISTA, where I developed my skills as a grant writer and program manager. Grant writing and program management were my gateways into TRiO and higher education as a whole,” she said. “I didn’t expect to work on the staff side of things in higher education, but I let myself be open to the opportunity. When you work in higher education, if you choose to actively volunteer and serve your institution on committees, you build relationships.”

She said that those relationships and service opportunities allow professionals to learn and grow in their abilities. Networking is important, but Christina said it’s about building genuine relationships.

“In my new role, I have a lot to learn regarding administrative responsibilities. I’m constantly asking questions to more experienced colleagues, but I demonstrate my genuine appreciation for their help,” she said. “Furthermore, I showcase my respect and gratitude to the staff I supervise, which helps build a more inclusive environment.”

Outside of her work, Christina is an avid reader and enjoys crafting, teaching cross-stitch classes, and spending time with her family and friends.

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Posted: March 24, 2023