Campus News - January 14, 2002

Spotlight

Payroll's Whalen finds her swing second time around at UNM

By Laurie Mellas-Ramirez

Christina WhalenCertified Payroll Professional Christina Whalen will finish reconciling more than 19,000 W-2 Wage and Tax Statements for UNM employees this month. Behind every number is a hardworker who deserves an exact accounting of his or her wages, she says.

"Customer relations plays a critical part in payroll. I try to put myself in the employee's shoes. If you don't get a paycheck, or it's wrong, that's personal," she says.

Whalen worked in UNM Contract and Grant Accounting from 1988 to 1992 before moving to San Diego to take an accountant position with San Diego State University Foundation. In 1997, after the birth of her daughter, she returned to UNM landing a job in Payroll.

Nominated for the Spotlight for providing outstanding customer service, Whalen describes her accounting functions in such clear detail that even a numbers phobe is at ease. Aside from the year-round task of ensuring the W-2 process runs smoothly, she works with accounts receivable, makes annuity payments, reconciles employee FSA accounts "an awesome tax benefit" and pays UNM's state taxes monthly.

"My job is to help employees. I want you to ask questions. Please don't work here for 20 years not understanding your paystub or W-2," she says. "I take pride in my customer service."

"I've always liked numbers," she shares. "I speak a second language and I've heard that it taps the same side of the brain as does math."

The daughter of a Western European-born mother turned golf professional, Whalen reads, writes and speaks German and earned a BBA at North Texas University on a golf scholarship.

"I attended first through third grades in Baden-Baden, Germany. A beautiful place most people have never heard of," she says. "I played golf all through junior high and high school. I still do, but not as much as I'd like."

Whalen scored the letters behind her name in fall 2000. After completing several UNM courses, she decided to take a shot at a master's and was recently accepted to the Public Administration graduate program.

A single mom, Whalen keeps busy as co-coach of five-year-old Summer's soccer team – and right brain. "My daughter also speaks and understands German," she notes proudly.

"I love what I do now and I love working at UNM," she says with a broad smile. "I highly recommend it."

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