Marquette’s campus and the surrounding area houses hundreds of security cameras. Some are hidden and some are in plain view, but all of them connect to the Department of Public Safety’s headquarters in a room filled with monitor screens. Communications Officer Karen Walshon is tasked with keeping watch over these camera feeds to help keep students safe all over campus.
Walshon has been a communications officer with DPS for nine years. This type of officer has two main jobs; one is monitoring the security cameras. There are live feeds from the video cameras around campus in the room where communications officers work, and the officers watch for any suspicious behavior. The second job is dispatching. Officers receive calls for an officer or for some other form of help and then send officers where help is needed. When Walshon explains her work to other people, she compares it to a job in a police force with an extra element.
“I tell them that it is similar to a police dispatching job, but I feel that it is a lot more than that because we have cameras, and I don’t think a lot of police departments have the cameras we have,” she said.
Walshon grew up in the village of Skokie, Ill., and began her service at DPS working in Student Safety Programs as an undergraduate at Marquette. She started as a student safety patroller and later became a LIMO driver. After college, she decided she wanted to be involved in dispatching. A spot soon opened up at Marquette, so she applied and got the job.
“I like that you never know what kind of phone calls you are going to take,” she said. “It can be anything.”
Walshon attributed her easy transition to working in DPS to her years of service in Student Safety Programs. The time she spent as a student gave her time to learn more about the entire branch of DPS and Marquette as a whole.
“It probably helped that I was already really familiar with the campus and the department,” Walshon said. “It helped me a lot being familiar with the buildings (from working with public safety). Also, knowing where everything is (was helpful). A lot of my job is working with cameras, and knowing (where) things are really helps a lot because I can pull up a camera right away and know which direction it is facing at a certain intersection. If you aren’t familiar with the area it’s really hard to learn.”
Holly Schaller, also a communications officer, works with Walshon. She said her co-worker has an incredible work ethic.
“Karen is great to work with,” Schaller said. “She always has a good attitude about the job. She’s very knowledgeable and works quickly and efficiently.”
Lt. Katherine Berigan, who supervises the communications officers, said Walshon’s calm demeanor and experience as a student have contributed to her success at DPS.
“She is dedicated, knowledgeable and calm in even the most stressful moments, and I think it is great she has (risen) through the ranks from a student working in SSP to the position she is in now,” Berigan said.
In 2005, Walshon was the recipient of the John J. McGinnis Professionalism Award, which is given to the DPS employee who displays the best representation of the department’s values. She was also a Public Safety Merit Award Recipient in 2008.
Walshon said serving students is a highlight of her job with DPS.
“It’s nice helping people. Everyone who calls us needs help with something, either with information or requesting an officer.”