Creating community led to dream career

Creating a sense of community has always been a central value for Brittaney Bunjong, who graduated from the University of Washington Bothell in 2016 with a degree in Media & Communication Studies.

IAS alumna '16 Brittaney Bunjong
Brittaney Bunjong, Media & Communication Studies alumnus: “I just want people to eat together and cook more.”

Ever since she was a kid, her family regularly ate dinner together and hosted summer barbecues and food-centered events for friends and extended family. Now, with the help of her interdisciplinary UW Bothell degree, she has found a way to integrate her love of bringing people together with her professional roles in music, technology and food.

“When I began my studies at UW Bothell, I was like, ‘I’m creating my own path,’” Bunjong said. “I had every opportunity to make my own major, in a way.”

While in school, Bunjong leveraged a connection at UW Bothell to get her start in the coworking community management industry, which led her toward podcasting, event planning, artist management and food blogging.

Since graduating, Bunjong has worked for companies such as WeWork and the UK-based The Rattle. She also was featured as an allrecipes’ “Cook 2 Follow” in 2017 for her food blog. Her current blog is with the tagline, “I just want people to eat together and cook more.”

The power of a mentor

One of the most pivotal moments when Bunjong was a UW Bothell student was when she took Dr. Wanda Gregory’s Interactive Media Course her sophomore year.

She had been thinking about starting a food blog and wasn’t sure where to start. During her final project for the class — a Diners, Drive Ins and Dives-style review video — Gregory encouraged Bunjong to follow her passions.

“I was in front of the camera, and Wanda pulled me aside to say, ‘You have a real knack for this. Have you ever considered doing a food blog? Have you ever considered, you know, being in entertainment?’” Bunjong said.

“She was like, ‘If you make a conscious effort to take my classes, I’ll make sure to help you succeed,’” Bunjong said. “It was the first time someone saw me, believed in me and said, ‘Hey, I want to help you.’”

Gregory, lecturer in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, said that she knew from the first time she met Bunjong in one of her classes that she was an extremely motivated and creative individual. She said, “What I really appreciate about Brittaney is that she is a risk taker and not afraid to follow her passions. She is fearless and I am honored to be one of her mentors on this amazing path she has created for herself.

“Brittaney is someone who will make an impact in the world.”

Life after college

Bunjong has applied her many skills across multiple positions and industries, but community building has always been at the heart of her professional growth.

Right out of college, she started working as a community manager for Cloud Room, a Seattle-based collaborative workspace and cultural hub, after Gregory put in a good word for her with the owner.

While at the Cloud Room, Bunjong started her own podcast and company called Citrus Room where she featured a wide range of personalities, from her childhood best friend to an up-and-coming artist. After an interview with two aspiring DJs — DJ Han and DJ G-Lo — she was inspired to expand her brand to event planning and hosted a party where they could perform.

“Because I had an event background, I was able to plan a party, and we decided to call it Citrus Room Squeeze at the time, as a spin-off of Citrus Room,” Bunjong said. “It started off with 60 of our friends and family back in 2017 to now having 600 people attend our parties.”

Pandemic pause

In July 2018, Bunjong moved to Los Angeles with a few of her friends from UW Bothell and expanded Citrus Room’s events to the LA area. Citrus Room hosts events there every month at venues including El Cid and Lock & Key while still also hosting events once a quarter in Seattle at Q Nightclub.

Bunjong at work
Bunjong at work

When events were put on pause during the pandemic, Bunjong started managing musicians and artists, which later helped her land the job with The Rattle, a startup community of “artists, hackers, makers and inventors all determined to change the world.”

The interdisciplinary nature of UW Bothell’s Media & Communication Studies major helped give Bunjong the tools to be a successful entrepreneur as she navigated the music, tech and food worlds.

“So podcasting turned into music, turned into having someone do a live set on my show, to let’s do a party, to let’s do a party with music that I love and bring people together,” Bunjong said. “It all worked. It’s just always how I was. I just had to say ‘I’m gonna do something’ and I was set on it.”

Lockdown connections

During the pandemic, Bunjong said she and her roommates always ate meals together and found physically distancing-compliant ways to keep a sense of community during a time of social isolation.

“I definitely took advantage of the lockdown and cooked a lot during the pandemic,” said Bunjong. “It brought a sense of comfort, it brought a sense of home. And I just love to bring that to other people. My life is about creating community.”

She currently hopes to bring that feeling of home to those who visit, where she posts seasonal recipes — such as heirloom tomato and peach salad, pan-fried rice paper dumplings, and kelp noodle pesto — with the hopes that people will make her recipes and gather together.

“Growing up, we never went out to eat. My family always ate dinner together,” Bunjong said. “My mom always cooked for us, and when friends were over, she made sure none of them went home hungry.”

Influential experiences

Looking back at her formative family years, Bunjong said “those early experiences influenced the direction of my life. Now, even though it’s just me and my roommates, we all eat together whenever we can. It’s how I create community. And my website is a way to bring that feeling to the world.”

Looking ahead to the future, Bunjong said there’s still a lot she hopes to accomplish. Whether it’s starring on a cooking show or going on tour with one of the musicians she manages, she’s willing — and ready — for more.

UW Bothell prepared her in many ways for her multi-faceted roles, she said, noting that her major taught her how to adapt to different environments and connected her to professors who helped her along the way.

“I wouldn’t have met my professors. I wouldn’t have met the people I live with. I wouldn’t have been able to meet my really close friends. I wouldn’t have been able to explore and challenge myself because … there wasn’t one track,” Bunjong said. “I wasn’t a computer science major. I wasn’t a psychology major.

“Media & Communication Studies gave me the tools to design my path.”

And now, Bunjong has come full circle. “She returns to UW Bothell as a guest speaker in my classes and inspires the students to build community and give back to others,” Gregory said. “Students really appreciate getting her perspective as a graduate and seeing what she has done with her multifaceted, interdisciplinary degree.”

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