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March Alumni Recognition: Christian Johnson

Mar 1, 2018

Christian Johnson, a recreation and special events coordinator at Centerville-Washington Park District in Centerville, Ohio, has been named The Patton College’s March Alum of the Month.

Johnson, who graduated from Ohio University with a master’s in Recreation and Sport Science in 2015, recently completed Event Management School, a two-year program sponsored by the International Festivals & Events Association (IFEA) and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). She is now recognized as a Certified Festivals and Events Associate.

“I have a passion for special events,” said Johnson, a Pickerington, Ohio, native. “Everything from the planning to the execution excites me.”

Johnson’s certification required 60 hours of coursework, as well as developing an event concept for a select city (in this case, Philadelphia), with eight different teams competing to create the most outstanding event. Johnson’s team – which designed “First of Philly: Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going” – won both the People’s Choice award, which is voted on by first-year program participants, and the Judges Award, which is determined by a panel of internationally known event managers. The event sought to promote tourism and revitalization by presenting “historical firsts of Philadelphia” through enrichment, music, culture, and interactive activities.

Johnson found the exercise incredibly valuable.

“Special events are all the same, no matter the size,” she said. “They all involve some form of budgeting, marketing, risk management, volunteers – all kinds of people. However, it is important to remember that each event is unique in its own way. This conference certified me as an expert in planning and executing special events. It taught me how to create those unique experiences regardless of whether the event is for 100 people or 100,000.”

Johnson graduated from Kentucky State University with a bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education in 2012. She completed an internship with the U.S. Navy during her junior year, which opened her eyes to recreation management. She taught for a year after graduation before moving on to event-planning.

“I understood that there are various ways to teach people, and most people learn from their experiences,” said Johnson. “I wanted to produce those memorable experiences.”

Johnson decided to pursue a master’s degree. She toured OHIO’s campus, spoke to several professors in the recreation department, and was immediately sold on The Patton College. She believes OHIO taught her a lot about discipline and opportunity.

“I like to think that school is one long special event planning process,” said Johnson, laughing. “It’s a matter of planning your time, making connections with people that will help you get the job done, budgeting, creating timelines, and calculating your risks.”

Johnson was quite involved on campus. She served as a teacher’s assistant for multiple undergraduate courses and started two organizations: Ohio University Black Graduate Student Association (OUBGSA) and Personalizing Our Wellness (P.O.W.) Inc., which created an eight-week health and wellness program for teenage girls at Athens High School. Johnson also attended the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association (OPRA) annual conference, where she now speaks as a professional.

“There were countless experiences that I was able to be a part of – either because I asked or because someone at OU saw that I could benefit from furthering my education outside of the classroom,” she said. “This is one of the attributes I loved about OU. This school fosters an environment that allows any student to create or take advantage of opportunities that will align with their desired career.”

In her current role, Johnson has planned and coordinated numerous events, from summer camps to the park district’s BIG Backyard Party, which in its second year attracted more than 500 people. She hopes to one day serve on planning committees for both the Olympics and the Super Bowl halftime show.

“I want to be part of two of the world’s biggest special events,” she said. “Why not, right?”