NorCal Huskies

Husky profile: Chris Wiggum, ’98

CHRIS WIGGUM, ’98, B.A., Comparative History of Ideas

Higher education has two layers: academic experience and life experience. Some alumni like Chris Wiggum, ’98, have found ways to merge both. Wiggum graduated with a degree from UW’s Comparative History of Ideas (CHID) program, a unique, interdisciplinary major that teaches students to take a global perspective on culture, education and more to help solve current issues.

As a freshman, Wiggum participated in the UW’s freshman interest groups, or FIGs, in which students can take courses with other first-years to explore different majors and areas of study. “I found out about the Comparative History of Ideas program through a FIG,” Chris says, “The class was taught by Jim Clowes. It was an incredible class and Clowes was an amazing man.”

In his time in CHID, Wiggum was a part of a group of students that inaugurated one the unique aspects of CHID, a quarter-long study abroad program which is now required for the degree. Wiggum had the opportunity to visit Prague. “Learning the history and culture of another country while being in that country is invaluable,” he says. He fondly remembers making friends with local business owners and attending a performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Czech.

Despite the broad focus of his major, Wiggum’s goals were more specific. ”I always wanted to work in the film industry,” he says, “and I met professors who really helped me fall in love with it in my classes.” As a student, he would take as many film classes as possible. Along with meeting influential professors, he took advantage of the vibrant film community in the U-District. “On the day ‘Pulp Fiction’” came out, I skipped all my classes to catch a matinee viewing at the Neptune on 45th. It was probably one of my best movie watching experiences,” Wiggum recalls, “and with the Seven Gables, the Varsity and Sundance nearby, there was always a place to go.”

After graduation, Wiggum moved to San Francisco where he began to develop relationships in the film community through various jobs and projects in both film production and publicity. Originally aiming to engage in film production, he ended up landing jobs in public relations for events such as the San Francisco Independent Film Festival.

Today, Wiggum is a senior publicist at Pixar. “Public relations is never tedious as it requires a variety of skills to perform various tasks,” he explains. Working for a company with the level of success and recognition of Pixar means that Wiggum’s job is, as he describes, about maintaining the image of a company with an incredibly creative culture, dedicated to creating lasting characters who make an impact.

Pixar employees, however, are not immune to this impact. “The first time I saw “Up” in theaters, I let out the loudest sob in the middle of a scene. I was so embarrassed I practically buried my head in my girlfriend’s lap,” he laughingly recalls. This quality of visual storytelling is what makes Wiggum passionate about film. “Films allow you to live vicariously, experience other countries, maybe even other worlds,” he says. What he sees in films echoes one of the foundational philosophies of the CHID program. After all, as Wiggum says, “Experience is the best teacher.”