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Student Profile: Keeping Exchanges Clear in a Crisis

Student Profile: Keeping Exchanges Clear in a Crisis

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Interview with AMU Alumnus, R. Carter Langston

The following profile is the tenth in a series of student profiles of our students and alumni at the university.

Job title: Public Affairs Supervisor, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Degree earned: M.A. in Emergency and Disaster Management, 2016, American Military University

What have you been doing since earning your degree at AMU?

Since I earned my degree, I have enjoyed spending more time with my family. I also network with colleagues within the public affairs community and accept more of the leadership opportunities available in public affairs, strategic communication and outreach.

What led you to choose a master’s degree with AMU?

In 2005, I completed a two-year program to earn the International Association of Business Communicator’s ‘Accreditation in Business Communication’ designation. Since that peer-awarded designation provided me with functional credibility, I sought a master’s degree program that provided complementary operational skills. AMU and its emergency and disaster management program caught my interest because of the program’s flexibility and the necessary operational element of communication before, during and after a crisis.

Tell us about your position at your employer.

Within U.S. Customs and Border Protection, I am a Supervisory Public Information Officer. I manage 12 specialists who answer international travelers’ questions related to the Trusted Traveler Program.

In April 2016, I was selected for a six-month special assignment to serve as the Deputy Director of Communication for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Management Directorate. I handle the department’s internal communication.

Did your degree with AMU help prepare you for specific challenges you’ve come across?

My degree in emergency and disaster management, combined with my experience in strategic communication planning, issue management and crisis communication, prepared me to lead strategic operational communication and crisis action planning. In crisis management, I lead by developing a strategic operational framework, coordinating with multiple stakeholders and synchronizing those stakeholders’ actions.

I integrate messages across an ever-increasing number of channels when time is of the essence and work products are the immediate need. Based on my broad understanding of emergency and disaster management, I am ready for the challenge of communication leadership.

What are the biggest challenges in your industry?

The biggest challenge in public affairs and emergency management is the speed at which new technology is developed and adopted. Technology has changed the media landscape and the speed at which public affairs responses are expected.

Information technology also improved the speed and reliability of information in emergency management to establish a common operating picture between agencies. As government agencies continue to develop their process for adopting social media into their media relations, public affairs requires new skills and capabilities. Soon, communication professionals will stop separating social media and traditional media and incorporate them in a single, unified communication effort.

Is there a particular class or professor at AMU that stood out?

While I appreciated all of my professors at AMU for their real-world experience in emergency and disaster management, Dr. Randall Cuthbert provided exceptional guidance and mentorship in the crisis action planning and capstone classes. He frequently recommended additional reading sources and held discussions that related to the material discussed in class.

What are two key pieces of advice you would pass on to someone new to online education?

Know your deadlines and requirements. Plan your time to honor your commitments. Maintain a disciplined approach to study time. Read the student handbook and the syllabus in each course thoroughly to understand your responsibilities and those of your professor.

What is your favorite thing about online learning?

I have a full-time job with significant responsibilities and a demanding part-time job as an Army Reserve Public Affairs Officer in a joint unit that deploys frequently around the world. I also have a family and an active outdoor lifestyle. I needed a program that offered me the flexibility to complete my degree requirements on my schedule.

Online learning fit my lifestyle and my needs. It was a lot of work, and I often sacrificed sleep for coursework.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy spending my free time with my wife and our children. We visit our extended family and play with Dickens, our Cavalier King Charles spaniel. I enjoy camping, swimming, biking, running, fishing and most other outdoor activities. In addition to play time, I enjoy helping Boy Scouts earn their merit badges in Emergency Management, Communications and Citizenship in the Nation.

Our student profile series gives a face and personality to our dedicated online learners at the university. Interested in learning more about your online education options? Explore our schools and programs at AMU.

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