Matt Thome ?17, who works for Southwest Airlines, visits a Crisis Communication class to share pu...
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Although his young career has technically stood outside of public relations, Matt Thome ’17 has repeatedly drawn on that Carthage major while responding to sudden organizational crises.

Based in Dallas as a customer experience strategy consultant for Southwest Airlines, he returned to campus Feb. 24 fresh off perhaps the most challenging situation yet. Speaking to students in the Crisis Communication class that Professor Colleen Palmer teaches, Mr. Thome described how the airline worked behind the scenes to communicate with stranded travelers and other stakeholders during its 2022 holiday travel fiasco.

Professor Colleen Palmer brings up a discussion point during a talk by Matt Thome ?17 in her Cris... Professor Colleen Palmer brings up a discussion point during a talk by Matt Thome ’17 in her Crisis Communication class on Feb. 26, 2023. In his day-to-day duties, Mr. Thome uses customer feedback to help improve Southwest passengers’ experiences in airports across the country. But the Carthage grad spent late December entrenched at Denver International Airport, rerouting thousands of bags. He moved lots of that luggage himself — with a few battle scars to prove it.

In earlier positions, he helped direct pro sports teams’ responses to criminal accusations against both coaches and executives, as well as public protests over police shootings. After faculty encouraged him to take on extra responsibilities and opportunities during his time at Carthage, Mr. Thome learned to thrive on chaos.

“I think that Carthage has prepared me to see all sides of an issue, both big and small,” says Mr. Thome, who also had majors in communication and a third (sports marketing) that he self-designed. “It’s not always about who the issue directly impacts. You also have to pay attention to the ripple effect and how your decisions can affect seemingly unimportant stakeholders and groups.”

Through the Aspire Network, alumni like him guide today’s students in several different ways. Faculty frequently invite them to speak in person or remotely, and many Carthage graduates participate in one-on-one mentoring.