I was born and raised in a very small town in upstate New York. My first time leaving the state was when I left to attend UCA as part of the freshman class of 2000. I graduated from UCA with my Bachelors degree in the fall of 2005 and immediately started working on my MFA which I completed in 2008. During that time I met and married my wife, Melissa, who was a nursing student at UCA. Shortly after graduation we moved to southwest Texas where I worked and Melissa continued to pursue her nursing Masters at the university. We had our first child, a son, in early 2012 and we still live in Texas. However, we both ultimately want to be back in central Arkansas where it still feels like home.
What are you doing now professionally?
I am a federal officer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. I work with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency on their Fugitive Operations Task Force locating and arresting at large criminals that have outstanding federal warrants.
Who are some early mentors or teachers that have inspired you?
I changed fields of study in college numerous times before settling in with the Mass Communications and digital film crew. Prior to that, Professor Lynn Burley in the writing department was one of my favorites. She was excellent at helping students find their strengths and motivating students to excel in their own way. Also, Bruce Hutchinson and Scott Meador were both a big source of motivation to continue with the program. I think they both are incredibly modest considering what they bring to the program and I always admired that in both of them.
Has your filmmaking background helped you achieve your professional goals? If so, How?
Actually, yes, it has. People are always surprised to hear that my degree has applied so well to my current position. The truth is, most employers will recognize having an advanced degree whether or not it is job specific. In my case, though, it has applied very directly and helped me not only transfer within my agency, but also obtain promotions and details that otherwise would not have been available. Early on in my career, prior to transferring to ICE, I was selected by a Sector Chief in the U.S. Border Patrol to work at headquarters as a public affairs officer. I was one of very few people in their law enforcement community who had a technological background that fit that role. Also, my degree was noted specifically in my most recent promotion as something that helped tip the scales in my favor.
What is the most helpful professional advice you have received?
An old supervisor told me once never to be afraid to contribute, seniority isn’t everything, and if everyone always likes you then you’re probably doing something wrong. I have found that all to be very true. Sometimes the newest people have the best ideas because everything is from a fresh perspective. No matter where you are on the corporate ladder, if you have an idea that you’re passionate about, run with it.
How did your experience at UCA help shape your professional career?
I moved away from my family in New York to attend UCA, so mostly it taught me independence. It may have taken me more than a few years to get on track, but I learned many valuable lessons at UCA. Also, once I found the digital film program, it helped teach me how necessary humility is in the work place. I studied with some seriously talented people who helped put perspective into my own abilities.
Any advice for UCA film students who intend to work in the film industry or elsewhere?
Be who you are and do what you want to do. Don’t allow yourself to feel trapped or be manipulated by insecurities. I have absolutely seen a pattern in my own experiences with my career. We have all heard the old saying about birds of a feather… Well that is very, very true. Use that to your advantage when you can because often times what an employer needs is the last thing they would think to look for.