UTSA Commencement Close-Up: Chris Ahr rounds out his A&M bachelor's in theater, history and poli sci with a UTSA master's in justice policy
By James Benavides
Public Affairs Specialist
(Dec. 14, 2007)--Chris Ahr readily admits to getting funny looks when he tells people he's a Texas Aggie with a bachelor's in theater arts and double minor in history and political science, especially considering his job as a DEA investigator.
At UTSA's fall 2007 commencement ceremonies, Ahr will round out his eclectic educational background with a master's degree in justice policy from UTSA.
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Ahr is a diversion investigator with the Drug Enforcement Agency, a specialist who tracks the diversion of legal drugs such as prescription painkillers from the legal pharmaceutical market to the illicit drug trade.
"I enjoy the challenge of tracking 'dirty doctors,'" Ahr said. "Diversion is a relatively silent crime. Unlike a crack dealer on the corner or meth cook in a hotel room, the public generally doesn't really see or think of the negative impact of pill abuse, but when a 'professional' who has public trust is abusing power and putting drugs on the street, it becomes a major problem."
Ahr graduated from Texas A&M University in 2004 and entered the Drug Enforcement Agency Academy, having previously interned with the agency's Washington, D.C., office in 2003. He decided to undertake his master's in 2005, shortly after graduating from the academy.
Despite Ahr's resistance, a friend convinced him to attend night classes. The opportunity to study a field that interested him was too good for him to pass up. He was just starting his career, so night classes became the routine and he continued to take them year-round.
Ahr says the material presented in his classes helps him excel on the job. But, it was a two-way street. He applied knowledge from class to his agency work and the experience from his agency work provided real-life examples in class.
Ahr credits his professors for his learning experience, including coaching from his mentor, Associate Professor John McCluskey, who taught Policing and Crime; challenges in the Management of Justice Organizations classes of Professor Michael Gilbert; and discussion of hot-button issues with Assistant Professor Tanya Settles.
Of course, his classmates played an important part, too.
"Grad school wouldn't have been the same without my friends," Ahr said. "With them, I went from being a front-row kind of guy to joining all of the 'cops' in the back. I guess that made it harder to see the funny looks people gave us when we expressed our 'radical' ideas. I'll never forget the look on Dr. Settles' face."
Ahr's past is as eclectic as his education. A former member of Texas A&M's Singing Cadets, he performed for Russian General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Vice President Dick Cheney, First Lady Laura Bush and other dignitaries.
At the DEA, he helped prepare materials for then-nominee Karen Tandy's Senate confirmation hearing for DEA administrator. Now, with a master's in justice policy and the ability to see and understand the agency's inner workings, Ahr aims to advance in his career with the DEA, becoming a more effective leader and manager.