Rebekah Cain finds niche in communications sector

Rebekah Cain '98 has had a busy 12 years since graduating from Roanoke College. She moved from California to Salem to attend Roanoke, then to Pittsburgh, Boston, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., before landing in Louisiana. She spent 10 years in the tourism industry, working at the Smithsonian in Washington and at European Incoming Services in Boston, planning trips to exotic locales throughout the world. With the Smithsonian, she planned excursions within the U.S. and Canada, and in Boston she planned custom tours of Italy.

After her stint in the tourism industry, Cain decided she wanted something different. She found a new direction with the American Red Cross Southeast Louisiana Chapter as the public relations and communications liaison, which also allowed her to help with the rebuilding effort of parishes affected by Hurricane Katrina. She provides the media with information about the Southeast Louisiana chapter of the American Red Cross. Cain updates the chapter's Web site, Twitter account, Facebook page and web blog. She also creates press releases, brochures and other items for quick, informative communication.

Cain says that one of the most important aspects of her job is to remind the public of the services the American Red Cross provides. She says the two biggest emergency concerns that the chapter deals with are hurricanes, which generally happen between June 1 and November 30, and house fires, which are year-round occurrences. In Southeastern Louisiana, for example, there is a house fire every 15 hours. The American Red Cross provides the people affected by fires with caseworkers who help the residents find clothing, shelter and food while they decide how to proceed. She stresses that the American Red Cross' purpose is to "to help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies." Cain's chapter covers 13 parishes in southeastern Louisiana.

The Southeast Louisiana Chapter also is connected to the international network of disaster preparedness, which deals with issues such as the earthquake in Haiti. Cain's job is to provide southeastern Louisiana with coverage of what the local chapter is doing to help the American Red Cross. She stresses that she must maintain a balance in her coverage of the American Red Cross and the Southeast Louisiana Chapter because her chapter does not have the resources that the American Red Cross has. She says "we [the Southeast Louisiana chapter] cannot put people on a plane to Haiti." She has recently overseen the completion of stories about individuals and groups from Southeast Louisiana that have helped with the relief effort in Haiti, such as the five-year-old girl who sent the entire contents of her piggy bank to Haiti.

As busy as she is now, Cain also maintained an active life while studying at Roanoke College. She spent her junior year abroad at the University of Trier in Germany and says it was the "best thing I did in college." While at Roanoke, Cain worked in the foreign languages computer lab and was a member of both the German and multicultural clubs. She also was involved with Maroon Corps, the PEP (Peers Educating Peers) team and the Sexual Assault Awareness and Recovery Team. Cain also served as a Resident Advisor in Tabor Hall during her senior year.

Cain majored in international relations and minored in German, and she says both have been valuable, especially when dealing with different cultures. When she worked in Boston, she often dealt with tourism agents from Italy and discovered culture clash very quickly. She says that in Rome, unlike in the United States, people are not "obsessed with getting things done immediately," so she had to allot extra time when dealing with businesses overseas so as not to upset her American customers.

Cain says that she blossomed during her time at Roanoke, describing herself as a 17-year-old freshman straddling the introvert-extrovert line. She said the small class sizes, relationships with professors and living on campus helped her to come out of her shell and prepared her to "jump with both feet" into the real world after college.

She said her best skill is her problem-solving ability, one she honed at Roanoke "arguing why I believed what I believed." Cain still keeps in touch with her advisors, and says that one of her international relations professor looked her up and visited her while she lived in Boston and Washington, D.C. It was then, Cain says, she knew that she had a support system at Roanoke, even after graduation.

Although Cain majored in international relations, she credits her German minor with giving her a "broader sense of another culture" and says it is important for students to be curious about the world. Cain says although her job does not directly parallel her major, the international relations major influenced her tremendously and gave her a foundation for accepting differences and other cultures with ease. Her advice to future students? "Have an idea of what you want to do, but don't get locked into it."