With a background in television and a warm demeanor, Christian Garman has a talent for talking to people and making them feel at ease.
“I have a pretty good knack for getting people to relax and just talk,” Garman said.
While that trait has served Garman especially well when he hosts the weekly Gulf Stories Moments radio segments that air on radio station WUWF, where he talks to University of West Florida professors about their myriad of research along the Gulf Coast, it’s also helped him in his variety of other roles at the UWF Innovation Institute.
For instance, Garman helps lead a number of design thinking efforts, beginning each project by interviewing individuals and companies about their problems and issues.
Garman said one of the most rewarding parts of the design thinking process is the “humbleness” of going into it knowing that he doesn’t have the answers and he can only discover them by listening.
“My favorite thing about this, by far, is that there is a significant lack of ego in design thinking,” Garman said.
Garman moved to Pensacola as a child in 1979, when his father, Steve, was hired as city manager of Pensacola.
He graduated from Pensacola Catholic High School and later earned a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications and film from UWF.
Before he graduated from UWF, he was already working at television station WEAR TV-3 as a cameraperson when an opportunity arose that he couldn’t pass up.
“Through sort of a miracle of timing, six months after I was hired, they were launching a sister station in Fort Walton,” Garman said. “They hired me, the camera guy, to be the weather guy for their little sister station WFGX.”
Not long after that, he became a fixture on local television when he was selected morning weather anchor and eventually meteorologist at WEAR TV-3. He served in that role from 1997 to 2016.
As much as he loved that job, his priorities eventually shifted.
“It was an amazing job…very challenging, very rewarding and definitely very fun. But it was hard to picture that I was going to do the same job at 65 that I started doing at 21,” he said.
When the Innovation Institute launched StoryLab, which highlighted the work of the Innovation Institute, faculty and students at UWF, Garman accepted a position to co-manage the new endeavor.
“When I came here, my role was going to be more about the storytelling side of the Institute,” Garman said.
He also became involved with design thinking, eventually going to the Stanford d.school to train.
“It was wonderful, and an extreme amount of learning in one week,” he said of the design thinking boot camp.
That training has enabled Garman to help lead numerous internal and external design projects as well as the Institute’s design thinking workshops.
In addition, he has facilitated UWFs massive open online courses, or MOOCs, which comprise Mother, Mother Ocean, Gulf Stories Two and Cross-Cultural Competency. Garman also is a key member of the Institute’s Swarm Team.
“The way I always describe our work is it’s design thinking, but it’s also visibility,” Garman said.
More recently, he hosted and helped facilitate the Institute’s Research Theme Roundtables, where area industry leaders gather with UWF faculty and staff to discuss collaborative ideas.
“They really do accomplish a specific task of bringing the community and UWF closer together and establishing relationships,” Garman said.
Despite all the roles he now fills at UWF, Garman has the occasional opportunity to fill in as weatherman back at WEAR.
“It’s wonderful,” he said. “I never saw that coming.”