Taking on crisis

Most college classes seem boring and irrelevant, but in Michael Caudill’s crisis communication course anxiety will kick in.

Caudill challenges students in a sink or swim attitude to learn how to be a public figure during a crisis.  Students participate in mock public hearings, interviews and television briefing where they receive hands on experience that will certainly help the resume. He believes the class will give students an opportunity to compete in the business world.

“When being interviewed for a job, or promotion, let people know that you have crisis communication skills.  You have experience from this course and know how to handle situations.  Anybody in a hiring position will remember that during an interview.”

Caudill has been a communications professor at WCU since 2004 and is teaching courses on intercultural communications, crisis communications and presentation style speeches.

He got interested in crisis communication while serving in the military. He was station in Hawaii, the closest at the time geographically to Vietnam where he became a traffic accident investigator.

“I was a military policeman. By nature of the field I was constantly talking to people that were in a bad place.  Learning how to calm people down, break bad news to people was something I ended up doing,“ said Caudill.

Caudill is also a former RN and has worked as a Mobile Intensive Care Nurse in the Emergency Department of hospitals in Los Angeles and Washington D.C.  His military involvement and nursing experience lead him to realize how to become a good crisis communicator.

“I have a personal quality of being able to empathize with people. I enjoy breaking down complex things to make them understandable.”

During his time at the Red Cross, Caudill was trained how to respond to a crisis.

“I had really good relationship with my boss as an intern. She supported me but she threw me into some real serious things; she coached me.”

Through his training, Caudill was able to master how to handle a crisis by being thrown constant challenges through interviews, press releases and conferences.

The crisis communications course at WCU is important for more than just communications majors, it can be used in any major.

“Any field you go into, [crisis] is going to happen.  And the response that most people have when a crisis happens is to panic.  My course will teach you how to remain calm,” Caudill said.