Friday, July 21, 2017

SUU is All About the People for Brooke Russell

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Brooke Russell was always a true Cubs fan, but after graduating from Southern Utah University in 2002, she added the Thunderbirds to her favorite mascot list.

Brooke attended high school in Las Vegas, NV, and Woods Cross, UT, and after feeding a serious habit of Nielsen’s Frozen Custard in the Davis County area, Brooke enrolled at SUU, found that Brad’s Food Hut helped curb her cravings, and became a loyal Cedarian. 

With a double major in Psychology and Interpersonal Communication, Brooke’s academic training and involvement in student affairs and activities at SUU propelled her to a career in higher education. Today, she works as a production coordinator with the Center for Excellence in Higher Education where she produces video content, TV and web advertising, as well as radio advertising for non-profit colleges in the western United States.

“It wasn't a career I decided to pursue, it was just something that I fell into and actually really enjoy,” she says of her work. “One of the coolest parts of my job is interviewing our graduates and hearing the stories of how their lives have changed because of their decision to be educated.”

Some of Brooke’s fondest memories as a student at SUU include running a kissing booth at the Halloween Howl (more recently renamed “The Scream”), late night drives to Vegas for In-N- Out Burger (before St. George had one), and sharing one bathroom with six girls (a lesson in patience and humility).

One stand-out experience was being persuaded to audition for the Parowan Community Theater. Performing on stage was something Brooke had never done before, but she decided it was a chance to get out of her comfort zone. She was cast as a chorus member in Brigadoon with several other SUU students, and sang and danced on stage in front of a live audience. It was something she will never forget, and probably never do again.

Brooke lives in downtown Salt Lake City, right across the street from the Utah State Capital. She enjoys the view from her home, loves utilizing public transportation and being “car-free” in the traffic filled city. While Brooke’s professional career has always been in higher education including a stint at Stevens-Henager College, part of her will always be with SUU-- in the dorms of Manzanita, the ballroom of the Sharwan Smith Student Center, and the classrooms in the Centrum.

Brooke loves Southern Utah University and the Cedar City community. She visits regularly because one of her passions is hiking, and everyone knows some of the best hikes are found in southern Utah.  She also enjoys kayaking, snowshoeing, skiing, and being in the outdoors. 

SUU really is all about the people; friends, professors, and staff all combined equal awesome sauce!,” she says. “When I think of my SUU favorites, I think of the good, the bad, and the ugly, all of it!  So cliché I know, but while I don't know that I'd like to go back to dorm-living, apartment-sharing college life, it was such an amazing time and really shaped who I am now and what I value the most.”

Friday, July 7, 2017

John Marriott is Living His Dream on the Stage

Looking for a famous SUU face? You might just find one next time you board a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ship where John Marriott is living his dream of performing and leading a team of entertainers. 

Performing numerous shows each day as captain of the cruise line’s vocal team, John loves traveling the world, visiting the shores of new places, and even revisiting some of his favorites: Australia, New Zealand, Bora Bora, Asia, and Alaska.

“I knew I loved singing and being the center of attention,” John says of his decision to pursue a career in the field of entertainment. “Whenever there was a video camera, I weaseled my way into every shot.”

John credits his family for helping him pursue and discover his musical talents. He particularly appreciates his parents for introducing him to musicals, plays, the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and tours that came through Cedar City. 

Raised in Cedar City, just south of the SUU campus, John graduated from Cedar High School before becoming a Thunderbird where he was a member of Acclamation for four years and Presidential Ambassadors. These two groups opened up doors of the entertainment and public relations worlds to him, and provided a chance to meet amazing people. Performing with Acclamation eventually led him to audition for the Tuacahn Center’s company in St. George, Utah, where he was a cast member.

Graduating from SUU in 2000 with a degree in public relations and advertising, John took a job as an executive team leader with Target.

“I was hired by Target because I was able to apply ideas and experiences learned from real life PR/Advertising campaigns and projects that we participated in through our classroom assignments,” he says. “The Communications Department (at SUU) was outstanding and all of the professors were hands on and willing to mentor us.”

John loved this work at Target, but never gave up on getting a break in the entertainment industry and now he is able to say he loves his job as a performer and the opportunities that come from it. 

Working for Norwegian Cruise Line is not his only brush with entertainment fame though. He recently performed in the Tony nominated musical, “Swing” where he played the trumpet, ukulele, harmonica, and sang. 

John loves getting back to Cedar City when his schedule permits to spend time with family, and he loves traveling, baking, being a twin, and anything Wizard of Oz. But one of his greatest accomplishments is being the “favorite uncle to 18 beautiful and amazing nieces and nephews,” he says.

Although he doesn’t have an exact address right now (living on the cruise ship and touring the oceans doesn’t lend itself to a permanent location), he does have a storage unit in Utah, and will always call Cedar City home. He is proud to be a T-Bird and loves his memories of SUU.

“The biggest smile comes across my face every time I think of my time at SUU,” he reflects. “From my first day to my last day at SUU I have nothing but the fondest of memories. I would recommend SUU to anyone because of the quality of education, brilliant professors that are educators as well as friends, and because there are so many ways to be involved other than just attending classes every day.”

“Some of my best friends are those made at SUU,” John says.  “We laughed hard and worked hard.”