Humanitarian on a Mission

Aug 16, 2013 4:15 PM ET
Eric Barton

Spotlight on Walden

For a young Eric Barton, his goals were simple enough: join the military and get a good education. After 11 years of active duty service in the Marine Corps, the ’06 Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) graduate and current Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.) student knew that, whatever his future held, it would involve supporting America’s defense infrastructure. And he accomplished even more than he could have imagined.

His professional background includes foreign travel to more than 40 countries; management of contracts in excess of $2 billion dollars; and recruiting, vetting, and employing more than 8,000 employees as part of his government defense contracting company. He also spent time becoming an expert in international banking and international trade and arms regulations through the Department of State and the Department of Commerce. Not bad for someone with simple goals.

But for Eric, his career is so much more than just a job—it awakened a personal commitment to humanitarian work to make the world a better place. He says, “I am fortunate that my work has allowed me the opportunity to see the need people all over the world have for the most basic elements—food, shelter, security, and compassion—and to provide me with the opportunity to address those needs.”

Eric spoke with Spotlight on Walden about his mission to get a good education and help others.

What made you want to pursue a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.)?

I pursued an M.P.A. as a result of years spent working in Joint Combined Operations Centers performing intelligence fusion, source debriefings, and intelligence preparation of the battle space; my goal is to find innovative solutions to societal problems and challenges. Having spent several months researching potential academic institutions, I chose Walden because of its long history of academic accreditation and its role in supporting positive social change.

How did you first get involved in humanitarian work and volunteering?

I grew up in a pretty poor place with a lot of alcoholism. As a result, I feel compelled to make a difference. Nothing makes me feel more whole than when I’m doing something that improves another life. The older I get, the more important it becomes. I believe everyone should volunteer. You have to believe you can make a difference and that one person is enough. Just reach out. Take a chance to make a difference and it will make a great impact in your life.

Tell us about an experience that impacted you.

One of the best times I remember is taking my daughter Alexis to Uganda. We spent about a week there. I’d been working on shutting down a rock quarry for about six months. Widows and kids would hammer out stones. We continued to try to get the government to shut it down. I brought her there to see that. We helped the widows and children settle elsewhere. They were so thankful and happy—not only the people who we were helping, but the government officials who supported it, too. My education at Walden helped me understand that it’s really through policy that you can make big changes in a government. We really worked hard to close down the quarry through the legal system to make a policy change.

How will having your doctorate further your mission?

Through my doctoral study, I hope to determine which leadership styles and behaviors are perceived to be more effective in small businesses operating in war-torn regions. I hope to further the literature that demonstrates how businesses can thrive in dangerous places with constant threats of violence and with unstable environments. Ultimately, the results of my study may be used as information for individuals attempting to start or maintain small businesses in volatile regions such as war zones. I endeavor to be a leader in my industry. I’m pursuing my D.B.A. to gain knowledge to lead my organization.