The Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) recently enlarged the staff of licensed instructors at its Center for Maritime Education in Houston, adding to its ranks Captain Christine Shank, a former Kirby Inland Marine captain. Shank joins two other staff members working from SCI’s training facility, which the Institute recently equipped with new state-of-the-art computer simulation technology. Along with the improvement of infrastructure, SCI–Houston’s new expert hire reflects the Institute’s commitment to enlarge training to meet the needs of maritime industry professionals.
Originally from California, Shank attended Texas A&M University at Galveston. Although intent upon studying marine biology, she explored other options after encountering the A&M Corps of Cadets. Shank went on to graduate with a degree in Marine Transportation and a Third Mate Unlimited Tonnage license, and shortly thereafter began work for Kirby Inland Marine, where she stayed for thirteen years. During her career with Kirby, Shank trained five separate times to renew her license with simulator courses at SCI’s Houston Center.
Starting as a deckhand and working her way up to the wheelhouse, Shank worked full time on board vessels for several years. Later, she spent time shore-side in operations. Shank’s talents and dedication earned her recognition from colleagues and superiors. She served on the Coast Guard Chemical Transport Advisory Committee with other industry representatives, guiding policy-making through her professional experience and observations. She also extensively contributed to developing emergency response plans for floating vessels.
As a woman in the wheelhouse, a place predominantly held by her male counterparts, Shank attracted attention as she progressed in her career. She says, however, that she earned the respect of her colleagues through quality work—as, she says, “just another wheelman.” Shank learned to focus on common efforts and situations, which she believes equips her for positive interactions in the classroom.
Shank’s move to training comes as a boon to SCI, which will capitalize on her knowledge and involvement in the industry. Her “street cred” as a licensed captain and knowledge of life on board a vessel make her an approachable teacher. Shank also brings good communication skills to the table, bridging gaps between terminology and rubrics with terms and contexts in real-life circumstances.
Captain Stephen Polk, Director of SCI’s Center for Maritime Education, chose to appoint Shank to the faculty earlier this year because, he says, “Christine complements the existing philosophy of our professional training—hands on and supportive to mariners—and she brings the brown water [river] experience that strengthens our team of instructors and contributes to further simulation development.”