Chris Blackburn ’04
Hometown: Lewisburg, WV
For Chris Blackburn ’04, people engagement has always come naturally. So, shortly after enrolling at West Virginia Wesleyan College, he decided on a degree in public relations, a natural fit that gave him the opportunity to strengthen his skill and take it into a variety of areas and specialties. He credits his academic path at Wesleyan for preparing him for jobs in media, advertising/marketing, professional speaking and facilitation, higher education, corporate communications, human resources, and leadership development.
Blackburn is now the global manager of learning and development at Expedia Media Solutions based in Seattle, WA. If you ask him what learning and development is, he will tell you he makes people better people.
“I get the opportunity to help my colleagues learn, grow, and succeed in both their personal and professional lives. One day I can be developing online-learning around a new digital advertising product, and the next I am standing in front of a group making figurines with play dough as a means of team development,” he said.
In his role at Expedia Media Solutions, Blackburn works with teams in five U.S. cities, as well as in Canada, London, Singapore, Sydney, and Tokyo. While he says the opportunity to see and experience the world is a privilege of his position, it is the moments he spends engaging with his global peers that he appreciates most. He credits Wesleyan’s public relations program for always stressing audience adaptation and for preparing him to ‘think critically and creatively.’ Working in his field, he has to constantly assess his audience’s needs and adjust his messaging accordingly.
For current students, Blackburn recommends reading Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. He has witnessed that self-awareness has risen as one of the highest ranking, desirable skills among employers. The foundation of his career has been centered on the statement, “In order to be a better professional, you must commit to being a better person.”
“Your level of emotional intelligence can determine success in areas of management, leadership, colleague interactions, and promotion opportunities,” stated Blackburn.
He earned his master’s degree in communication studies from West Virginia University while working in the Admissions Office at Wesleyan. He spent five years communicating with high school students all over the United States and helping them achieve the great experience that Wesleyan provided him. After Wesleyan, he worked at two other institutions managing fraternity/sorority affairs, had the opportunity to briefly work at the national headquarters of his fraternity, Theta Xi, and spent three years as a professional motivational speaker. After leaving Theta Xi, he moved to Seattle and transitioned into a training and development role with the City of Seattle before landing his current job.