MBA, undergrad degrees from UPIKE prepare Gibson for leadership

Jordan Gibson, the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce (SEKC) President and CEO, is in charge of expanding the support network for businesses across the eight-county region, but the job starts with a core skill: interpersonal communication. “You have to know how to talk to people where they are, to build relationships and networks, to have healthy conversations that get past personal opinions,” said Gibson. “I try to convince people we can do more together than separately.”

He traces these skills to his roots in Pikeville, his hometown, and to UPIKE, where his mother worked, where he earned three degrees, and where he worked as Director of Alumni Relations.

For Gibson, UPIKE was a supportive, interconnected community. “One thing that UPIKE allowed me to do was to have the opportunity to pursue a field that was personally intriguing to me, while at the same time, to pursue business as a career end goal,” he said of his degrees in both comparative religion and business management.

Guided by such professors as Dr. Pamela Gilliam (now Assistant Provost) and Dr. James Browning, a professor of religion, he was able to navigate both course loads while taking a typical 18-21-hour schedule and finishing in one extra semester. He thrived within the small community of the campus and Pikeville: “It was a smaller school then and allowed me to grow personally and professionally. I loved knowing everyone and working with my best friends every day.”

His professors and supervisors soon recognized his leadership potential. After completing his Master of Business Administration at UPIKE and participating in Patton Leadership Institute, he became Director of Alumni Relations at UPIKE and then at Florida State College in Jacksonville, his career plans began to get more focused. On February 8, 2017, he began his position at SEKC. He has since been selected to participate in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Institute for Organization Management, and has also completed the Kentucky Institute for Economic Development and Leadership Kentucky. Former Chairman of the Chamber’s Board, Rick Newsom, said, “Jordan is an accomplished professional with a deep understanding of our region and a passion to see it grow.”

He admits that his job as Chamber of Commerce president “involves lots of meetings.” But the phone calls, fundraising and networking are more about building relationships and networks that promote his message of regionalism: “It will take a collaborative effort to grow the economy and recruit industry,” he says.

Today, Gibson and his wife, Karri, enjoy the quality of life in the region, which includes its business climate. Gibson says, “In my job, you have to have the ability to communicate your value proposition: what benefits do we offer and how can we utilize them to help our members be more successful.”