Past, Present, and Future: A Conversation with a Rochester Alum

Ever since I came to the University of Rochester, I’ve been really interested in getting to know the stories of alumni after they graduate. That is one of the reasons why I love my job as a Meridian (aka campus tour guide) because sometimes, if I am lucky enough, I get to give a tour for alumni and their children, and we all get to discuss the similarities and differences of the campus now and then.

During my tour, I always like to tell prospective students why I chose Rochester. Other than the open curriculum, I always tell them my alum interview story. On January 19, 2013, I had my admission interview with Mr. Johnston, a Rochester alumnus, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. During the interview, Mr. Johnston not only told me how much a Rochester education changed his perspective, but also how much he had grown during his four years here. I was deeply touched and that was when I realized Rochester was the place for me.

Ever since the interview, I have kept in touch with Mr. Johnston through emails. When the idea of writing a blog about life beyond college came to my mind, I thought about Mr. Johnston right away. I made a list of questions in regards to Rochester experiences and life beyond Rochester for Mr. Johnston, and he was very happy to share them with all of us!

Sophie Zhang: What are you currently doing? Is there any exciting major news about your life?

Chris Johnston: I’m currently the director of membership development for the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce. I also started my own business called Great Wines. Great Times. It’s an in-home/business wine tasting service.

SZ: What was your major when you were at Rochester? Why did you decide to major in this area?

CJ: I was a health behavior & society major. I chose this major because it encompassed so many different subjects that I was interested in: business, psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc.

SZ: Which freshman dorm did you live in? How did you like it? 

CJ: I lived in Gilbert Hall and loved it. At first I was nervous about dorm living, but the dorms at Rochester are much better than at most universities I visited. They are good-sized rooms and Residential Life does a great job at pairing you up with a roommate. I also like the fact that each dorm has a perk—closer to dining halls, closer to classrooms, or closer to athletic facilities.

SZ: Who was your favorite professor and why? What was your favorite class if you can still recall and why?

CJ: I really liked Professor Gamm and his politics courses. He does a great job at challenging you, making you think, and making political history interesting. He’s really into the success of his students.

SZ: How did Rochester change you and your life?

CJ: Where do I begin! What I learned from dorm living: Your roommate situation may not be a perfect match at first, but you have to get used to a different way of living. View it as a learning experience and it’ll be a life-changing experience. What I learned from college athletics: I was on the football team and I learned more than I ever imagined about worth ethic, team work, and focus.

SZ: Why did you choose Rochester at the beginning?

CJ: When I visited the campus I instantly knew I was going to Rochester. The students/staff were friendly, the architecture was amazing, and it was a campus on the rise. You could tell that they invested their endowment back into the University.

SZ: What was your favorite activity/club/job when you were here?

CJ: I was a member of the varsity football team and loved it. Ten years later, I still miss it! I also enjoyed writing for the Campus Times. I got a lot of value out of both activities.

SZ: What is your opinion about a Rochester education after you graduate?

CJ: The Rochester education never stops. The University of Rochester teaches you how to learn and gives you an insatiable desire to continue learning.

SZ: What was the biggest challenge you overcame at Rochester?

CJ: Rochester is a very challenging university. I was not prepared for that. I wanted to transfer after my freshman year, but decided to stick with it. Best decision of my life. I decided to take advantage of this phenomenal education and join more organizations, teams, etc.

SZ: As an alumni interviewer, could you please give prospective students some interview suggestions?

CJ: Advice to prospective students: Do more than just read the website. Dress to impress. Arrive on time. Bring your resume.

The Johnston family

*All answers are quoted from Mr. Chris Johnston, ’04

About the author

Sophie Zhang

I'm a member of Class of 2017 majoring in electrical and computer engineering and minoring in biomedical engineering. I'm originally from Chongqing, China, but I spent my junior and senior year of high school in Concord, New Hampshire. I am a campus tour guide, a brother of Alpha Phi Omega community service Fraternity and a contributing writer at Campus Times. I will also become a freshmen Resident Advisor and a senior interviewer next year. I am excited to meet all of you, Class of 2020 and 2021 in person!!!

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