When he was looking at colleges, Journalism and Electronic Media alumnus Justin Crawford (‘18) only seriously applied to one school: the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
“UT is the flagship of Tennessee. It’s where a lot of people from my high school I went to wanted to be, and my dad was a Tennessee resident, so I said let’s stay true to the blood and go Vol,” he said.
Now he’s excited to come back to campus this spring to celebrate his placement on the Volunteer 40 Under 40 Class of 2022, an honor that he said was “the most rewarding feeling in the world.”
Besides being deadset on going to UT, Crawford was also determined to go to journalism school. Once he explored what the College of Communications and Information had to offer, it only sweetened the deal to become a Volunteer. He saw that even incoming freshman were given a chance to get hands-on experience through various opportunities at CCI, and Crawford jumped at the chance to do as much as he could once he started at UT.
By his sophomore year, Crawford had launched a talk show and was heavily involved with both the Daily Beacon student newspaper and was a host and executive producer at the Volunteer Channel. He then began working very closely with CCI’s social media team, hosting and producing special series on their Snapchat story for the last few years of his time at UT. In addition to his media career at UT, he was also a Tennessee Cheerleader and heavily involved on campus as a student leader in the Center for Career Development, Leadership and Service, Multicultural Student Life, and several other campus organizations.
“It was always about the audience and the fans, as a leader as a cheerleader, as a host for snapchat, VOLTalk, whatever I did, that volunteer spirit is exactly what I was chasing in those roles,” he said.
Crawford had his hands and heart in everything while he was an at UT, and that hasn’t changed at all since he graduated and entered the workforce. He continues to thrive on variety in his current position as a special projects manager at NBCUniversal—where he also oversees NBC the Young Professionals Network. He is also executive producer and host of the “Men of the Hour” podcast and hosts several special programs in the NYC area, including Times Square New Year’s Eve, exclusive celebrity interviews with entertainment news outlets, and more. When asked what exactly he does, the answer is basically anything and everything he can and wants to do right now.
“The job is exactly what you want it to be – everyone asks, what is that? I host, I produce, I do sales, I do all this different stuff. That’s where I want to add value to the company and it’s where I’ve been given opportunities,” he said. “Right now, the beauty of being this young (25) and having done what I really wanted to do, and knowing that there’s no time limit, I want to stay at NBC for as long as it makes sense for my early career. Right now there’s too many opportunities to take, and people to meet, and things to accomplish at the company.”
Crawford said the Volunteer spirit was something he wanted to embody in everything he did at UT and now that has transferred over to his approach at NBCUniversal. He interned and visited Los Angeles and New York City multiple times while he was still an undergraduate, and in his junior year he promised himself that he would take everything he learned and experienced with him to New York City, and that included the Volunteer spirit.
“The Tennessee spirit volunteerism is a part of your experience at the campus and is never something that you took for granted, because that’s something that made the school different from every other university. I think when you go to school at UT, you decide if [the Volunteer spirit] is something you’re taking with you when you graduate,” he said.
This is part of what drove him to create “Men of the Hour,” because he wanted to take the words and lives of inspirational men and disseminate their wisdom and passion to listeners to enhance their lives. Crawford said he also tries to bring that same energy to his other work at NBCUniversal, which includes managing projects with the senior leadership team that includes live events, ad sales, client partnership opportunities, and overseeing the Young Professionals Network. He also gets to manage internal events, which includes fireside chats and being a moderator or interviewer.
“People tell me all the time that I’m the cheerleader of NBC and all other things in my life, that’s all I’m ever going to be a cheerleader, a leader, and a host. And I get to do it now professionally because I groomed those skills through the Volunteer spirit that UT is built on,” he said.