Name: Linda Singh
Hometown: Baltimore, Md.
Profession: Maryland Adjutant General
Degree in Progress with Capella University: PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
Major General Linda Singh was just four months into her job as Maryland’s Adjutant General when Baltimore exploded in April 2015. The death of a young man while in police custody caused a public outcry, particularly in the city’s African American community, and riots and lawlessness broke out in some neighborhoods. Singh, the first female and first black individual to be appointed to head the state’s National Guard, activated 3,000 air- and guardsman at the request of state and local officials.
“I had to be strong,” Singh says. “We had to deliver a clear message that we were there on behalf of the community. No matter how things turned out, we were there to maintain law and order for everyday folks.”
It was a powder-keg situation, but Singh’s extensive experience in the military and her ongoing education helped her navigate the constant challenges. Here, she talks about her background, her work, and her decision to pursue an advanced degree.
Q. What’s a typical day for you?
A. The adjutant general is Maryland’s top military officer. I serve as the primary advisor to the governor on all military issues, including homeland security, and oversee our response to everything from civil disturbances to disasters—hurricanes, flooding, even snowstorms. There are a lot of meetings and phone calls with the governor’s staff, community leaders, and sometimes the Pentagon.
Q. Can you share a bit of your background?
A. When I joined the military in 1981, I didn’t even think about being an officer. I was just 17, and I’d had a tough time during my high school years. Joining the National Guard was a chance to get away. I was an enlisted soldier for 11 years, serving in Kosovo and Afghanistan. I rose through the ranks, and in 2013, I was appointed to command the Maryland Army National Guard. In January, the governor named me adjutant general, which oversees all the branches of the state’s National Guard as well as the state’s emergency management agency and the Maryland Defense Force.
Q. What was your strategy in responding to the turmoil in Baltimore?
A. Clear leadership was important. We had to be clear and concise about our actions. I needed to have a good relationship with other leaders and the community. There were lots of questions and plenty of confusion, but I knew I needed to be strong for the community. The message I had to deliver was that the National Guard was there in Baltimore in support of local police and authorities to help support people and protect property.
Q. You’re in the process of completing your PhD. Why did you choose Capella?
A. I wanted a program that incorporated both industrial and organizational psychology. There were a handful, but most of them were residential programs that didn’t fit my life. Plus, I wanted a program where the students were older. Capella’s program is full of professionals who are extremely experienced. They’re already working in industry and advancing in their professional fields. I learn a lot from them.
Q. How do you find time to study for a degree?
A. It isn’t easy. In fact, in late 2010, right after I signed up to pursue a degree at Capella, I was deployed to Afghanistan and had to put my studies on hold. The hours were long, and Internet connectivity was bad. There was no way I could’ve served and done the program at the same time. Even now, the most critical piece for me is finding time.
Q. What has been the biggest challenge?
A. Given the pace and unpredictability of my work, it’s extremely difficult to keep up with the learning milestones I set up for myself. I’ve had to redefine for myself and be realistic about what I could accomplish. I’ve had to take it slower; working on my research plan hasn’t gone as quickly as I hoped. But I’m still determined to complete things.
Q. How has Capella been a good fit for you?
A. The course structure is very straightforward and simple to navigate. If I need help, I know where to find a tutorial or who to call. If you use these tools, you’ll be successful. It’s been easy to see what the roadmap is and how I’m going to get from point A to point B. That clarity helps me to be very focused.
Read more about Major General Linda Singh.
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