Meet University Scholar Christian Chlebowski

Resume Highlights: Earned 3 Degrees in Four Years, Researched ‘Space Debris,’ Served as Co-Vice President of TEDxUConn

Christian Chlebowski '24 (BUS) '24 MSA, Pictured in front of Mirror Lake.

Christian Chlebowski '24 (BUS) '24 MSA earned three degrees in four years at UConn. Pictured in front of Mirror Lake, Chlebowski is getting ready to begin a job at the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. (Nathan Oldham / UConn School of Business)

Commencement weekend will be a busy one for Christian Chlebowski ’24, ’24 MSA, as he receives two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s in accounting, all earned in the last four years.

After he attends all three ceremonies, he is planning an all-out visit to the UConn Dairy Bar to celebrate with his family.

“I come from Somers, Conn., a small and fairly homogeneous town, so enrolling in college in a place as large and diverse as UConn enabled me to learn about topics I’d never heard of before,’’ Chlebowski said.

“The best advice I got was from another student, before I even started my freshman year. She said, ‘Try a little bit of everything!,’’ he recalled. “I’ve certainly tried to take advantage of all that UConn, and college, has to offer.’’

That has included researching the environmental impact of space debris, serving as co-vice president of TEDxUConn, leading the Honors Council, and preparing to be inducted into the School of Business Student Hall of Fame later this month.

During his four years at UConn, Chlebowski has earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting, a bachelor of arts in an individual major in government, policymaking and law, and a master of science in accounting.

Chlebowski, a University Scholar through the Honors Program, has accepted a position as a postgraduate technical assistant with the Governmental Accounting Standards Board in Norwalk, Conn. The private, non-governmental organization creates accounting reporting standards and principles for state and local governments. Not only is he excited about the work, but he is looking forward to “working with and learning from some of the brightest minds in the governmental accounting industry.’’

Erin Leigh, manager of Accounting Recruiting, Career & External Relations at the School of Business, said Chlebowski has a genuine love for learning, a unique sense of humor, and a welcoming personality. The combination will take him far.

“Christian is able to use his warm and humble personality and sense of humor to make sincere connections with everyone he meets,’’ she said.

Below he spoke with the School of Business team about his experiences:

How did you pick your majors?

My interest in business started in the fifth grade. My class created a business that sold toys and knickknacks at recess, and I was the treasurer who balanced the books. Something from that experience must have stuck with me.

I started paying attention to the news in high school civics class, and seeing accountants testify before Congress helped me realize that accountants could have a broader impact on public service. That led to my decision to create an individualized major in government, policymaking, and law.

There were a lot of things I wanted to know about–but I didn’t want to do a deep dive into all of it, I wanted to sample classes in those disciplines. I was the only business major in my Constitutional Law class, but I loved it. It’s a different thinking process than accounting and engages different parts of the brain.

And how did you accomplish so much in four years?

Honestly, I attribute a lot of it to late nights, Bookworms (café) hot chocolate, and a strong network of friends who always boosted me up and pushed me further than I thought possible. There’s something about that combination that promoted my “can do” (or “can try”) attitude.

Tell me about your research into space debris. How did you pick that topic?

When I took an international human rights class in the spring, the 18 students got to select their issue of choice, and we all chose vastly different topics. I wanted to explore debris in outer space and the impact it has on astronauts.

I focused on space debris because it is getting to be a bigger problem. There’s so much floating around in orbit and it will be there forever. The International Space Station has been hit by debris numerous times, in some instances requiring the initiation of “lifeboat” procedures due to oxygen leaks.

That class was so interesting, but also scary. We spent the semester hearing about in-depth and well-researched concerns about a host of issues. At the same time, it’s exciting to hear about people who are trying to make change, who are trying to make a difference.

What surprised you most about your business classes?

I walked into several classes not expecting them to be anything special–but I walked out loving them. One example was my VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) class, which involves helping people complete their tax forms. This is my fourth tax season, and although I enjoy filing people’s tax returns, the best part is meeting some fascinating clients.

Yes, you’re doing their taxes, but you’re also making them feel comfortable and explaining what you’re doing, and you’re hearing about their lives, old or upcoming adventures–and even the child they had last year.

You said you enjoyed serving as co-vice president of TEDxUConn. Tell me about it.

We host annual TEDx conferences on campus, elevating student-, professor- and community- voices. Through these talks, I’ve learned about the impacts of highways on marginalized communities, the role of bicycles in improving education and empowerment, and technological inequality’s impact on young students. These really expanded my horizons by pushing me to critically think and engage with the world I live in.

What is your advice to incoming students?

I consider myself very introverted and I’m not usually one to initiate a conversation. But, because UConn has so many opportunities, you get to ‘raise your hand’ and try things. Low risk. Low stakes.

I’d tell underclassmen that it’s great to be involved but don’t overextend yourself. I learned that as a freshman when I joined several clubs. I was running around from meeting to meeting and not having any fun. I’d say pick a few, and sink your teeth into them.

Is there any career wisdom that you can share?

One thing that’s been very helpful to me is to reach out to people by email. They might respond, or they might not, but usually when they find out you’re a college student they are willing to help. One connection begets another.

For example, I reached out to the Connecticut Society of CPAs when they were looking for committee volunteers and asked, ‘Can students join?’ And they said yes. If something interests me, I reach out and usually people are excited to talk about their passions.

What’s one favorite memory of your four years at UConn?

When I got here in Fall 2020, everything was locked down and I spent a lot of time exploring the woods around UConn. As freshmen, we would hike and build campfires and hang out.

This also might sound strange to someone who isn’t an accounting major, but I enjoyed attending the biweekly accounting research presentations by professors from other universities. Sometimes I only understood a fraction of what they said, but I always leave feeling that I’d unlocked a new section of knowledge in a cool industry.

What will you miss most about UConn after graduation?

I am going to miss bumping into professors and friends in the hallway and having those spontaneous, 15-minute conversations. When you apply to UConn, you think the university is so huge that you’re never going to know anyone. But you quickly make friends. Now I can walk onto the fourth floor of the Business School and know every professor. Not seeing these people every day is going to be strange.

I’ll also miss spending fall and spring days outside on campus. It is such a beautiful campus and I love to take advantage of it …until the wind blows, and it’s time to go inside!