Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Chris Johnston


Name: Chris Johnston ’04
Occupation: Sales, Marketing, Entrepreneurship
Education (UR and additional): B.S. Health & Society – UR 2004; MBA – Simon School 2006
Current city/state of residence: Newburyport, MA
Current city/state of residence: Family: Wife, Grace, BS, Biology & Psychology, PhD, Neuroscience
Community activities: Volunteer, Rotary, Chamber of Commerce.

Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

When I visited UR’s campus it grabbed me right away.  Everything from the people to the architecture – the second I stepped foot on campus I knew I wanted to go there.  When I got there and learned about the Rochester Curriculum I knew I made the right decision.  During my junior year, I would talk to friends at other Universities that haven’t started working on their major yet because they were still fulfilling requirements.  Not at UR!

When and how did you choose your major?

I was undecided when I got to UR.  I, honestly, had no clue what I wanted to do.  I settled on Health & Society because the courses in the major encompassed so many different areas – Accounting, Marketing, Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology, etc.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

Varsity Sports – in particular, football, but being a varsity athlete was the most valuable experience of my life.  Time management is the best asset I gained from playing football.

Greek Life – Psi Upsilon, having a social life is just as important as being a good student.

Meridian Society – Being the face of the University for prospective students was a powerful experience.  Learning to provide a positive yet honest opinion of UR has helped me formulate effective conversation techniques in my sales jobs.

Campus Times – going into college I never wrote a news article in my life.  I wanted to try something different.  Getting people to submit articles on time was a challenge – and I loved every second of it.  Seeing students wait for the latest edition of the CT was a great feeling.  It taught me that long hours and hard work pay off.  Not to mention, in business, writing is one of the most important skills to possess.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I am the Director of Marketing for a small winery, Mill River Winery, on the North Shore of Boston. Directly out of the Simon School, I worked in University Development.  Working in this industry allowed me to build my communication skills.  Also, meeting with successful alumni in many different fields was very enlightening and helped me realize what exactly I wanted to do.   As the Director of Marketing for a family run winery on the North Shore of Boston has been a much welcomed challenge.  We have many barriers to break down and just as many paths to build.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

You will not recognize until after you graduate, but every class you take at UR is teaching you how to be an entrepreneur.  It is an amazing feeling when you recognize this and start to challenge ‘the norm’ at your employer.  I worked at a few places that didn’t welcome this type of thinking.  My advice to you – GET OUT!  You worked too hard to be stifled in a bad work environment.

Where would you like to be in five years?

I always admired Steve Jobs during his presentations with the big screens behind him.  That’s where I want to be.  I want to be the go-to market expert.  I want to be so busy doing public appearances that I have to hire people to do my ‘normal work.’

How are you still connected with the University?

I am a member of Rochester Career Advisory Network, Simon Alumni Advisory Council, Alumni Interviewer and member of the George Eastman Society.

What advice do you have for current students?

Think outside the box.  Everybody knows the economy is very tough right now.  What everybody doesn’t recognize is that the economy is tough for people that aren’t aggressive.  You are a UR graduate.  You just spent the last 4+ years of your life developing your own independent thoughts and personal responsibility – take advantage of that.

Also, take advantage of the UR Alumni Network.  It is a close-knit group that always welcomes new members.  Instead of asking for jobs just ask for advice.