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From Scranton to Sochi: Margo Christiansen ’05

Margo Christiansen ’05

A communications director counsels behind the scenes at the Olympics.

Margo Christiansen ’05 was ever-present at the Sochi Olympics this winter, easily spotted against the snow-covered trails in a navy blue U.S.A. parka. Although she spent many winter weekends as a child skiing Elk Mountain with her family, she is not an Olympic athlete. She was in Sochi working as the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s (USSA) Nordic press officer, a liaison between the athletes and the media. 

As the Nordic press officer, Christiansen worked with the ski jumping, cross-country and Nordic combined teams. (Nordic combined includes a ski jumping competition and a 10-kilometer cross-country ski race.) 

Christiansen was on the front lines in Sochi when Kikkan Randall, a four-time Olympian and a favorite to win the first-ever Olympic women’s cross-country medal for the U.S., was out-sprinted and eliminated from the competition. Even though the race for which she had prepared her entire career — the individual sprint — was now over, Randall had to quickly prepare for the media gauntlet.

“This was the most devastating day of my work career thus far,” said Christiansen. “Kikkan saw me and started crying. We pulled over to a corner of the media corral to collect ourselves.” 

After a few moments of consolation, the women talked media strategy. It is the kind of coaching that comes second in the Olympics, but is essential nonetheless. 

“There was a great level of trust there,” Christiansen said. “Giving communication and media counsel eventually became really easy because the athletes knew I always had their best interest in mind.”

Just like any coach, Christiansen is deeply affected by the outcome of her athletes’ races. 

Back in Park City, Utah, at the USSA’s headquarters, Christiansen’s served as communications director, the point person for all internal and external communication. She had moved to Park City, a favorite family ski spot, after a stint in marketing for Philly Edge and Philadelphia Weekly

Drawn to the mountains, she moved west and was thrilled to land the job at the USSA. She developed close relationships with the athletes over the past seven years with the organization, in part thanks to her work at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, a period of great success for the Nordic combined team. 

In Sochi, the team was less successful medal-wise, and Christiansen worked long hours, so there was a great level of comfort in returning to her temporary home with the women’s team, now her friends.

“She always put us at ease,” said Olympian Liz Stephen of Christiansen. “She genuinely cared about each one of us.” 

Christiansen shared meals with the athletes and looked on as they made valentines for one another. She and the other women gathered around the television to cheer on the U.S. ice dancers, and hugged when that team won gold.

“They accepted me into a very personal part of their lives,” she said, mentioning board games and phone calls to friends. “It was like any kind of normal family living room you’d see.”

Her own family’s living room was back in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the place that taught her the value of community. 

Her dad, Dave, is vice president emeritus in the Finance/Treasurer Department at The University of Scranton. She has fond memories of growing up as a University of Scranton kid, from trick or treating at her dad’s office to a special “Take-your-Daughter-to-Work Day.” 

Dave remembers fondly the years his daughters were in college. He especially enjoyed meeting them for lunch near campus. (Katie ’03 also lives in Park City.)

“It’s all in the family,” laughed Christiansen, who said, as a student, she learned just how much she had to gain at Scranton. 

“The University of Scranton taught me the importance of community, working together to achieve a common goal and learning how to work with others,” she said. 

She recently began a new job as the senior manager of communications for Canyons Resort, Utah’s largest single ski and snowboard resort. Although she will miss the athletes (and they will miss her, said Stephen), she’s excited to begin this new chapter.

“It’s a great opportunity, and I’m looking forward to applying my experience and education to this new role.”

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