2021 Outstanding Young Alumni Awards: CJ Anderson ’12 and Alex Knobbe ‘12

2021 Outstanding Young Alumni Awards: CJ Anderson ’12 and Alex Knobbe ‘12

Monday, September 13, 2021

CJ Anderson '12

Alex Knobbe '12

A foundation for success was forged at Midland University for C.J. Anderson ‘12 and Alex Knobbe ‘12. The two are being recognized with the Midland University Outstanding Young Alumni Award presented during Homecoming weekend, September 17-19. 

Anderson and Knobbe are two of the three founding members of Cognitive Clinical Trials (CCT Research). CCT Research is a network consisting of 22 clinical research sites in Arizona, Nebraska, Utah, Nevada, and Alabama, conducting studies in neurology, internal medicine, dermatology, and COVID-19. Anderson serves as CCT’s President, while Knobbe is the Vice President of Finance.

Many of the principles needed to be successful in the business world were instilled in the duo during their time at Midland. “My experiences at Midland were so instrumental for my career,” Anderson said. “I wanted a higher level of confidence and the ability to take on new challenges, and I wouldn’t have received that elsewhere. I had so many opportunities to be involved and learn important leadership skills. Alex and I lead 90 different employees at 22 different clinics and the foundation to be a leader was set at Midland.”

Anderson said the rapport built between professors and students helped pave the way for him to become an industry leader. “My wife went to a different university, and she doesn’t remember the names of her professors. I’m still friends with many of my professors and continue to lean on them,” he said. “I had great relationships with the professors who were mentoring me. I remember Dr. Janet Lack created a fundraising project for a village in Tanzania and encouraged me to lead it, even though I might have thought I was too young. That was just one of the examples where Midland helped instill confidence in me.”

While they were pursuing their individual careers after graduation, Anderson and Knobbe had visions that someday, they would run their own businesses. In 2017, Anderson and Knobbe joined forces with Nick Bruggeman to launch CCT Research. “We didn’t have a lot of interactions while we were at Midland, but I often noticed what C.J. was doing and had great admiration for him,” Knobbe said. “Having the chance to work with him, I’ve seen how he’s been able to lead so many groups and individuals.”

Knobbe says being involved in more than just classroom activities was vital to developing the necessary skills to be a productive and effective leader. “To me, you get out of college what you put into it,” he said. “I never wanted to blend in. I wanted more than just a degree. I wanted to have opportunities and have a platform where I could have representation on campus with students and teachers.

“I came to Midland because I wanted to continue playing basketball and work toward a degree in accounting. Midland gave me that opportunity, but it also led to something greater, which was all of the connections I built.”

Anderson and Knobbe have overseen continued growth from CCT Research over the past four years. That growth didn’t come without a few concerns along the way, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic started to take hold of the country in early 2020. “C.J. and I were actually back on campus in February of 2020, thinking about our time on campus and what our 20-year old selves would say about us today,” Knobbe said. “Then, about 30 days later, everything hits, and we’re wondering how we’re going to keep our company afloat.”

Several months later, CCT was tasked with one of the largest COVID-19 vaccine trials in the world. “In July, we were awarded the Astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial, and we set a very ambitious goal of 1,500 patients,” Anderson said. “We ended up with 1,460 patients, which made us the second-largest enroller in the world.”

Anderson believes passion and perseverance are the two key elements for anyone striving to be successful in managing a business. “It’s important to find something you have a strong purpose and mission for,” he said. “When you have big aspirations in life, it won’t always be easy. You’re going to get knocked down, but you have to care so much that you’re willing to persevere. Pick a career path you are passionate about, and don’t be afraid to dream big.”

Knobbe is grateful for the opportunities he received at Midland. As CCT Research continues to grow, he will rely on the foundations that were set nearly a decade ago. “I owe a lot to Midland for what they did for me, and I want to continue to represent Midland in strong and supportive ways,” he said. “Our expectations for CCT continue to grow as we look to increase our footprint in the industry. We’ve got challenges ahead, but thanks to what we learned at Midland and from our experiences over the past decade, we are ready to take them on.”