Cumberland University

Justin Bradford (Class of 2008)

L to R:  Scott Lawrence, Justin Bradford, Paul Stumb

What does Cumberland University mean to you and how do you feel about being recognized as the recipient of the 2017 Rising Phoenix Award?

Everything that I've accomplished in my post-Cumberland life and career can all be traced back to my alma mater. For me, it was about the people I met and the connections that were made while attending Cumberland. My career began at Cumberland all because of a conversation that was had on a bus on the way back from the Tennessee Aquarium. It goes back even farther to how I even arrived at Cumberland. I transferred to Cumberland without visiting the university. I just wanted to be closer to home. To go from blindly transferring to a school and diving deep into being involved with student organization to graduating and being recognize by my alma mater means everything to me. 

You can win awards that others vote on, but when your alma mater recognizes you for your achievements, that's on another level. To know that your peers from college recognize the hard work and dedication that someone puts into their career is an absolute honor. Receiving the Rising Phoenix Award is something I never imagined I'd ever see. I was in a meeting when my phone rang, so when I called Curt Baker (from the Alumni Association Board of Directors) back and he informed me of the award, I was floored. It's actually difficult to put into words how I immediately felt because of how surprised and exhilarated I was. 

This award means so much, but I know that I could not have been successful in my career without the support of family and friends, especially my parents Jerry and Vivien who, without their support and love, I wouldn't be the man I am today. Thank you to Stephanie Walker for nominating me and to the Cumberland University Alumni Board for selecting me. A tremendous thank you to Jonathon Hawkins because without him, and the opportunity he gave me, my career never would have jump-started like it did.

Do you have any special memories or stories about Cumberland that you would like to share? Favorite professor, coach, staff member that greatly influenced you?

I have way too many great memories at Cumberland. Most of them were because of the people that I surrounded myself with at the university. Some of my favorite moments in class with with Dr. Ron Turner and his political science classes. We didn't really agree on much about anything when it came to politics, but we both respected each other's opinion. He was able to challenge the way the class thought about certain issues to make them understand the opposition, which in part helped one back their own views even more.

Outside of class, I was heavily involved in extracurricular activities. Theatre is what helped shape me for the future. My first semester after transferring to Cumberland, I was in an Intro to Theatre class with Doc Menefee. He basically recruited me for a role in "You Can't Take it With You" as Ed, the crazy xylophone player. I had always enjoyed acting and being on stage, but it was difficult to do both in high school. From then on, I made some wonderful friends in the program and had plenty of great experiences on and off stage with that crew.

I'm also a Kappa Sigma and am still close with brothers in my fraternity. That was also another experience at Cumberland that was unique. With the university being fairly small, any extracurricular activity had the opportunity to make a big impact on one's life. My fraternity, my involvement in theatre, band and being Student Government President all helped shape who I am today.

Tell us about your current and past jobs and how Cumberland may have helped you prepare for success.

My most immediate job after graduation was with Cumberland University in the Office of Advancement as the Alumni Relations Coordinator. It was a great first career experience as I was able to teach myself a lot of the skills that helped get me to where I am today. In this job, I learned as much as I could about social media and event planning, as well as networking. Those three things all play a major role in my current career.

Currently I have a dual life. During the day (and some nights) I work with the Nashville Symphony as the Digital Media Manager and Producer. At other times, I'm the host of Penalty Box Radio on ESPN 102.5 The Game and the Managing Editor of Both the show and website are specific to the sport of hockey. And on some Saturdays in the fall, you can hear my voice at Cumberland football games as the public address announcer, a job I do take very seriously. Cumberland was my first job and obviously my first foray in the non-profit world. After being in the corporate world for awhile, I was very happy to get back into non-profit (and the arts) with the Nashville Symphony. 

Building relationships is what Cumberland taught me. Relationships that you build in college can last a lifetime, and so far, many have. That's one of the biggest things I've taken away from my time there. It's what made it a family. Especially with the boom of social media, it's made it easier to keep up with so many friends from college. But, it's not just about keeping with friends, it's about utilizing the connections made there to advance my career. Friends and colleagues have been references. A fraternity brother writes for my site. Whatever connection it is, it's important, and people come into your life for a reason. 

Tell us about the impact Cumberland has had on you as well as the impact you see the university having in our local and regional communities.

The impact that Cumberland has had on me continues to live with me all the time. My schedule keeps me busy, but I still like to be involved in some form or fashion. I enjoy doing public address announcing for Cumberland athletics whenever I can. It's a great way for me to stay connected to the university. And that right there it what's important for alumni, no matter the school, to remember. While not everyone can give large gifts or be at every event, just being involved can make a different. Each student has their own story and their own activities they were involved in while in school. Those are the ones that make the biggest impact on your life. Find a way to be involved with the people that made a difference on your life.

 Cumberland continues to churn out great, skilled, talented graduates from every school. We may be small, but we are fierce. More and more people are learning about what makes Cumberland special. It's the people and the experience. I see more marketing initiatives to grow the brand that is Cumberland and it makes me smile every time I see it.

 It took some trials and tribulations in life to realize what was important to me in this world. When I think back to my time at Cumberland, I was happy. There was a time in my life recently where I wasn't happy and I needed to make a change, because I realized then how important happiness is to one's life. The people that know you the best are the ones that can tell when you're not happy, and while you may not realize it, it can spread like a cancer. After a big nudge, I made that mental change in knowing that I needed to find fulfillment in a career that would make me happy. One with a happy balance. Only when I realized that did I take what I learned at Cumberland, networking, building relationships, understanding the importance of character and using my voice to make a difference did I re-ignite my career. It's those little things from school that stayed with me this past decade.

Those little things I learned from my peers, professors and staff at Cumberland are why I'm so honored to receive this award. I'm proud to be an alumnus of Cumberland University, because without it and the time I spent there, I wouldn't be where I am today.