Cade Schneider grew up surrounded by family who fulfilled their desire to help others by working in the health care industry.
“I knew that I wanted to be the same way in terms of helping others, but I didn’t want to go into the medical field,” said Schneider, a Paris native who graduated from County Line High School. “I wanted to take a whole new approach.”
He found his way to help others by studying emergency management at Arkansas Tech University, and he found his opportunity by serving an internship with Dardanelle Mayor Jimmy Witt during the historic Arkansas River flooding of 2019.
Witt called the ATU Department of Emergency Management seeking assistance from a student in the program. Schneider, a May 2019 graduate of ATU with a Bachelor of Science degree in emergency management, happened to be standing in the department office when the telephone rang.
“I thought that the opportunity was rare when it presented itself,” said Schneider. “After giving it a bit of thought, I started quickly realizing the importance of this opportunity and the possibilities in the future with emergency management coming from the experience. I was about to get real experience in an emergency operations center and see how things are run.”
As the scope and severity of the disaster expanded, Schneider went from watching to actively participating in the mitigation efforts.
“It quickly changed from just handling communications to being (Witt’s) right-hand man in making sure his requests were getting done and handling connections and assets that were available,” said Schneider. “I know that being around when everything was happening and seeing how a good leader takes charge during disasters will really help in my future.”
Schneider developed social media posts that became the information conduit between the City of Dardanelle and its citizens during a time when reliable, accurate information was paramount. He also managed the flow of information going to and coming from the mayor’s office by ensuring that Witt was able to reach the most critical personnel at the most critical times.
“All through my college career, I heard the saying that communication is key,” said Schneider. “Now, I truly know what that means. If there is no communication between regions or even within our operation, nothing can or will get done. Communication is about finding a solution to a problem and then relaying that solution to other regions so when the time comes, they too can fix their problem in the same way.”
It was a real world, real-time laboratory that allowed Schneider to apply and confirm the lessons he learned in the ATU Department of Emergency Management.
“I learned how to communicate effectively so others can understand better and faster,” said Schneider when asked to reflect upon the most valuable aspects of his ATU education. “I also learned how people normally react during stressful times of a disaster, and I was able to incorporate that in how we communicated over a social media platform. I learned in the department how to listen and understand when someone steps up during a disaster and takes lead in a certain area. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. No one is the best at everything. Lead when you can, and follow when others take lead in order to get the best results.
“Also, I learned how to be personable when communicating and leading,” continued Schneider. “By being personable, it shows people that you care and take pride in what you are saying. This helps create trust and credibility. If you are not personable and just go straight by the books, it comes off as you’re only there to get the job done and you don’t care about anything else. People don’t like that and will not take you seriously if you are like that, especially when they are most vulnerable. I also learned how to network. This came to my benefit because while I was in school, I networked as much as I could whenever possible. Then, when I was helping Mayor Witt, I was able to utilize those connections, which helped and added needed resources and assets to our list.”
Arkansas Tech has conferred more than 1,100 emergency management degrees since developing its program in the late 1990s. In addition to the bachelor’s degree in emergency management, ATU also offers a Master of Science degree in emergency management and homeland security.
In 2005, ATU became the first institution of higher learning to have its degree programs accredited by The Council for Accreditation of Emergency Management Education.
Visit www.atu.edu/emergencymanagement to learn more about the ATU Department of Emergency Management.
Photographed (from left-to-right): State Rep. Mary Bentley, Dardanelle Mayor Jimmy Witt and 2019 Arkansas Tech University graduate Cade Schneider.