Carnegie Mellon University
April 23, 2015

Eye on the Prize: Alum Engineers His Future

Eye on the Prize: Alum Engineers His Future

Chris pictured with Michelle Kwan, Former Olympic Figure Skater; Senior Advisor for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs US State Department and Member of President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.Chris pictured with Michelle Kwan, Former Olympic Figure Skater; Senior Advisor for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs US State Department and Member of President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

When Chris Watts (E’08) enrolled in Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering as an undergraduate in 2004, he had no idea that in less than 10 years he’d be sitting on the President’s Council of Sports and Fitness. But that’s just one of the high-profile appointments he’s had since breaking into the social sector of the sports industry.

“I wanted to take the thought process and the values that make you a successful engineer, and apply those to something that I was passionate about and that would make a positive impact on society,” he said.

For Watts, a former member of the CMU varsity soccer team, that something was sports and fitness.

Deciding to explore this passion in the business sector, in 2010 he applied for an MBA in Strategy, Entrepreneurship, and Social Responsibility at George Washington University. Immediately, the director of the program invited him to South Africa, to study the impact of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and their sponsors during the World Cup.

Though he had no experience in the field, his passion drove him to take the leap. “I realized, I just have to do it,” he said. “I knew what I wanted. I had to just start.”

The risk paid off.

When the President’s Council reached out to the university in search of fellows, Watts’ advisor recommended him for the appointment. Before he started his first semester of graduate school, he was named a consultant on the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.

Watts is now the managing director of 4POINT4, a sportswear & technology start-up that offers customized sports apparel and equipment to teams and organizations, while donating a percentage of every sale to programs committed to supporting healthy communities. “We want every athlete to play for a cause, to play more than the game,” Watts explained.

This work may seem a far cry from the world of engineering, but Watts says his experience as a Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) student was integral to his success.

“The reason I’m in this field now I attribute 100% to my time at CMU,” he said. “That idea they instill in every student, to put your heart in your work. It’s a major part of whatever school you’re involved in, whether it’s drama or business. And that’s what inspired me to make the transition to pursue the career I’m in today.”

Now based in Washington DC, the Pittsburgh native says he tries to make his hometown a part of everything he does. Through 4POINT4, Watts has connected with several Pittsburgh-based start-ups, including Athlete Tracks, an organization that creates team management software; and THREAD, a social enterprise that employs Haitians to collect used plastic bottles and turn them into fabric.

He’s certainly come a long way, but Watts says that his CEE background still informs his professional life on a daily basis. “I may not be mapping out groundwater solutions anymore, but it’s still the same process,” he says. “Understanding and evaluating a situation, identifying the problem, and breaking down steps to solve it.”



Share On Facebook