Christa Byrnes, a professor in civil engineering, will be retiring from UW-Platteville after 22 years at the university.
Byrnes graduated from UW-Madison with a BS degree in Civil Engineering and later earned her master’s degree in Civil Engineering at University of Colorado – Boulder.
Then, attending Purdue University, she earned her PhD in Industrial Technology.
Even before completing her master’s degree, Byrnes had been involved in the world of civil engineering. Her family owned a road construction business, H. James & Sons, Inc., and she also worked for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Colorado Rural Transportation District.
Byrnes began her teaching career in 1986, starting at UW-Platteville.
In which department did you serve? What type of classes did you teach?
“I was with the UW Colleges Online and became a member of the UW-Platteville campus during the merger. With the UW Colleges I worked at three of the institutions (UW-Baraboo Sauk County, UW-Barron County, and Online). I was in the Computer Science, Engineering, Physics and Astronomy (CSEPA) department. I was a Professor of Engineering and served as Department Chair. I was also an Associate Dean at UW-Baraboo Sauk County and an Interim Dean for UW Colleges Online.”
While with the branch campuses she served as the advisor to many programs such as Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society of two-year colleges.
With UW-Barron County, she served as the adviser the UW-Barron County Future Engineers, UW-Barron County Dance Team.
With UW-Baraboo Sauk County, she advised the STEM club and the UW-Baraboo Sauk County Dance Team.
How did you become interested in teaching?
“My family is full of educators starting with my grandparents. Between my immediate family, my aunts and uncles and first cousins, there are 10 educators out of 20.”
What are some fond memories of your time as a college instructor?
“The biggest highlight of my career was serving as the advisor for the UW-Barron County Future Engineers. We competed in the National Rube Goldberg competition three times. The first time was an epic fail, but we were on the CBS Sunday Morning TV show. The second time we won an award for creativity. The third time we won the National Championship against such power houses as Purdue, Penn State, University of Texas and University of Tennessee to name a few. We had a story done on us by Wisconsin Public TV.”
Do you have advice to share with students?
“Remember, you are part of a bigger society and do your part to be a positive and productive member. Stay strong and always chase your dreams.”
Do you have any final words for the university?
“Good luck in these trying times and remember, we create excellent graduates for the state of Wisconsin and beyond.”
Do you have any comments to add about your experience at UW-Platteville, or as a teacher in general?
“I am very grateful for UW-Platteville for taking me in during the merger of the UW Colleges and am especially grateful for Provost Wilson and College of Engineering, Mathematics Science Dean Gribb for working with me and allowing me to become part of your team. I never set out to be an educator, but it has been the best life work one could ever ask for.”
Byrnes plans to retire entirely from education after 34 years of teaching.
Do you have post-retirement plans?
“I am sure I will stay busy. I am on the Board of Directors for our local Nature Center and Audubon Society. I will also be starting a small business called Morningside Mercantile. We will be purveyors of creations by Wisconsin Northwoods Artisans. I also plan to travel to see my children who live in Colorado and California.”
The UW-Barron County Future Engineers’ winning submission to the 2016 National Rube Goldberg competition can be found at: https://www.wisconsinlife.org/story/underdog-uw-barron-county-competes-for-the-rube-goldberg-national-title/