Kristen Tener (formerly Bloom) never imagined that she would someday become a seafaring university administrator. When she graduated from Bret Harte High School in 2007, she was a multifaceted student who juggled several sports (including kicking for the football team), student leadership and a passion for theater that she maintained into her college career. Although none of her interests were nautical in nature, in Tener’s words, “If you’re in your comfort zone, then you’re not growing.”
Last month, Tener was promoted to associate dean for student engagement at California State University Maritime Academy (Cal Maritime) in Vallejo. Due to her new position, this year was the first in three and a half that she was not aboard Cal Maritime’s Golden Bear when it set sail on its summer voyage April 23.
Tener graduated from the University of the Pacific in 2011, where she majored in theater and minored in math. Two years later, she obtained a master’s degree from UOP in student affairs. As an undergrad, she worked as a residence assistant; in graduate school, she was resident director; and post-graduation, she took a position as residence life coordinator at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont. In 2015, she was appointed to her first nautical job as company commandant at Cal Maritime.
“I didn’t really think that I would fit the mold,” said Tener regarding the position. “Before this, I had no idea (Cal Maritime) existed.”
Upon arriving at Cal Maritime, she received a crash course in naval customs and attire.
“Part of my job is to wear the uniform,” Tener said. “I showed up the first day, and the running joke was that my belt was wrapped all the way around my body. You were supposed to cut it, but I didn’t know that.”
Tener was initially placed with engineering students, which gave her the opportunity to learn the mechanics of a ship. “(Engineers) have their own language,” said Tener, who attended the students’ classes and joined them on watches and in the engine room aboard the Golden Bear.
The learning curve was steep, but it was worth the effort.
“If I knew (Cal Maritime) existed when I was going to college, I would have gone this route. When you go out to sea, it’s all completely relevant.”
When asked if Bret Harte High School prepared her for such a challenge, she replied that her time there helped her realize that she thrives in a close-knit environment, which is what drew her to Cal Maritime. Additionally, she says her experiences in athletics and student leadership taught her “If you’re not happy with something, you have to step up and do something instead of complaining about it.”
Tener recalls that her favorite teachers at Bret Harte were Timothy Randall, whose enthusiasm for math inspired her own appreciation for the subject, and Colby Barker, who was her “role model in life.” She credits Barker with helping her through her first years as an undergrad student. “I would email him saying, ‘I think I need to drop a class!’”
When asked about Tener, Randall wrote, “Any success or accomplishment by Kristen will never surprise me, as hard work has never been a stranger to her. … Along with her integrity and willingness to jump right in, she has an ability to have fun when the time is right and to treat people across the spectrum with respect. News of her promotion puts wind in my sails.”
Looking forward, Tener hopes to start a family with her husband, Matthew Tener, who she married in 2016. She plans to continue to expand her boundaries and go where she is needed. “I like the idea of forward momentum.”
However, she is wary about focusing heavily on the future. “When you try to plan too much, it drags you down,” said Tener. “If you’re fulfilled, then that’s all that really matters.”
Follow Dakota Morlan on Twitter @DakotaMorlan_1 .