As Tulsa’s Young Professionals approaches its fifth anniversary, the organization faces a slew of challenges, from the still-unsteady economy and shrinking employment opportunity to a mayoral regime change.
Tulsa Business Journal recently sat down with TYPros 2010 Chair Michael Christian, assistant VP of alternative investments with BOk Financial, to find out more about the man and where he plans to take one of the region’s largest young professional organizations.
Originally from Seattle, Christian attended Oklahoma State University on a wrestling scholarship and graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s in economics before moving to Tulsa to work for BOk.
Christian said the isolation of living in a new city drove him to TYPros.
“Before I moved to Tulsa, I had really only visited one or two times, including my job interview,” he said. “I had driven through a few times on my way to the airport, but I didn’t know anybody here.
“I was looking for an organization or an opportunity where I could meet a lot of people. I was also looking for a way to get engaged with the community.”
Christian said he was involved in philanthropy at OSU — he now serves on the OSU Alumni Board Tulsa Chapter — and wanted to carry that experience into his professional life. TYPros satisfied both of those needs.
It was also those interests that led Christian to become involved in the organization’s work crews.
“I was looking for areas where I would best fit, given the skills set that I have, and I found two crews,” he said. “One of those was the Next Generation Leadership Crew (an incubator for the organization’s leadership), which Karisha (Arnett, TYPros immediate past chair) was actually the crew leader for at that time. The other one was the Ambassador Crew, which was dedicated to going out and speaking to local companies to recruit new members of the organization.”
As he spent more time with the organization, Christian said, he wanted to assume more responsibility, which led him to first become a crew leader then to seek the chair position.
Now that he is assuming leadership of the 6,500-member organization, Christian said he will focus on three goals, all within the organization’s mission to attract and retain talented, young people. The first is helping the crew leaders and co-crew leaders achieve their goals and initiatives.
“I view myself as a manager of dedicated and passionate individuals,” he said. “Each of the crews takes on four or five different projects that they want to tackle during the year, and my primary responsibility will be helping them achieve that.”
Christian’s second goal is to continue TYPros’ involvement in the push for downtown revitalization.
Christian is certainly qualified to oversee such efforts. He is a co-founding council member of the Downtown Coordinating Council and a member of the Vision 2025 Task Force.
Christian said that, as the set that will most likely inhabit downtown, Tulsa’s young professionals have a powerful voice in how the process plays out.
“We formed a new crew called the Community Redevelopment Crew, and I think, through that and the rest of our organization, we can really become an advocate and a mouthpiece for revitalization,” he said. “The reason I think this is so important is that people often segregate Tulsa geographically, but downtown is unique in that it really doesn’t belong to anybody. People who work and enjoy the facilities downtown come from all over Tulsa, and the revitalization of downtown Tulsa can be a unifying factor for the entire city, something we as a city can be proud of.”
Christian said his third goal was to see TYPros take a more active role in recruiting young adults to live and work in Tulsa.
“We have good relationships with Tulsa businesses already, but I would like to augment those relationships with the skill sets that young professionals have,” he said. “I want us to really partner with them on going out to college campuses and helping them recruit those people.”
Christian said the main challenge TYPros faces in the coming year is retaining relevancy in the face of slowing growth.
“We are at a point where, like in any start-up, there was a lot of growth in the beginning as you take over an unexploited market, but eventually you level off into more of a flat growth pattern,” he said. “We need to continue to evolve and stay relevant to young professionals in Tulsa.”
Leader: Geoff Patterson, Patterson Realtors
Co-leader: Chris Guglielmo, Bluestem Resources Affiliated Group
Business Development Crew
Leader: Amie Roberg, CastleCom
Co-leader: Roxie Fencl, Addison Financial
Colleges and Universities Crew
Leader: Kate Hoback, The Addison Group
Co-leader: Derrick Baptist, Cox Communications
Leader: Jared Vazquez, Accent Realtors
Co-leader: Noah Spiegel, Tulsa Opera Inc.
Government Relations Crew
Leader: Chelsea Harkins, City of Owasso
Co-leader: Thamara Barthelus, Arvest Bank
Next Generation Leadership Crew
Leader: Ross McLaughlin, The Nichols Cos. Inc.
Co-leader: Brian Easlon, Northwestern Mutual
Special Events Crew
Leader: Mark Phillips, Tulstar
Co-leader: Carl Brandvold, Walsh Branding
Leader: Claire Roby, Clean Air-Cool Planet
Co-leader: Clarence Boyd, Selser Schaefer Architects