Roanoke College

Turnbull values skills learned at Roanoke

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  • Turnbull values skills learned at Roanoke

  • 03/29/10
  • As the World Bank's business continuity officer, Chris Turnbull '00 travels all over the world helping the Bank prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies. He says he is not "pulling people out of rubble,'' but rather showing his organization how to continue their business in the face of disaster.

    "I happened to be training staff in New Delhi, India, three days before the Mumbai attacks,'' Turnbull says. Because of his training, staff knew what to do when they learned three of their colleagues were trapped in the hotels.

    In the fall, Turnbull took officials in La Paz, Bolivia, through an earthquake simulation. "During that exercise, I provided them with twists and turns, so they had to use the resources and tools I told them about to get out of the situation," Turnbull says, "especially when lines of communication are tenuous at best."

    Turnbull values the communication skills he developed at Roanoke. "I am able to organize thoughts -- both written and verbal -- quickly and concisely," he says. "I need to speak clearly to get my job done. That's critical. Every single one of my courses at Roanoke College required writing. I took opportunities to speak, as an admissions tour guide and in club meetings. Speaking publicly helped me focus my thoughts and ideas."

    Turnbull says his job is not rocket science, but a lot of "intuition and innovation under fire. Knowing how to think on my feet is my biggest success factor. I emphasize that every time I talk to Roanoke College students, and our students well exceed graduates of other schools."

    As an English major, Turnbull convinced Mark Petersen, director of student activities, to fund a music project. "The project ended up being my Honors Project and another independent study credit. It also helped me get my first job in public relations when I graduated," Turnbull says.

    That job, at the Roanoke public relations firm John Lambert Associates, allowed Turnbull to do just about everything - write speeches for politicians, manage communications programs, develop plans, and work with media. He later earned a master of science in management from the University of Maryland.

    He also made invaluable contacts while his wife, Carrie Mullen Turnbull '00 earned her doctorate in veterinary medicine in St. Kitts, West Indies. When another student at Carrie's school was shot and killed, the institution hired a U.S.-based security consultant and Turnbull escorted him around the island. When the Turnbulls returned to the States, the consultant hired Chris to work at the World Bank.

    Turnbull says that if one thinks of any major international event that has caused turmoil in the last year and a half, "the team I work with has been involved in making sure the World Bank staff is safe and our business can continue." That includes the civil unrest in Madagascar, the coup attempts in Bangkok and kidnappings in Central America.

    Many of his friends and fellow Roanoke College graduates give back to society in some way. "I feel this is a common thread. There's a reason why I love what I do," he says. "It's because when I go to places in the Sudan, Indonesia and Pakistan, I can see the tangible effects of the training I'm doing and the plans I helped to write."