It is my honor to share my passion for this great nation, the world we live in, and my desire to make it better. My vision is that education is the key or hub of the many aspects involved in professionalizing emergency management and preparing a quality, competent workforce.
We undertake the continuous and challenging endeavor of preparing public safety professionals to lead, prevent, and respond to problems in a very complex world. The challenges facing these professionals have become more frequent, convoluted, and require the engagement of all aspects of society. As educators, we must develop robust program offerings with rigorous academic content. The content must be properly sequenced, integrated, relevant, and anchored to the many external standards that guide practitioners and institutions of higher education. Our instructors must embrace facilitative learning techniques that provide students with a meaningful active learning environment – a learning environment that provides ample opportunity for students to think analytically, critically, and creatively. Students need enough learning space to apply what they have learned and to demonstrate what they can do. Meaningful feedback must be provided, as student achievement is determined through a variety of performance-based assessments.
Stakeholders’ involvement in curriculum development, delivery, and assessment is critical to providing content that addresses current industry needs, innovative concepts, and current workplace trends. This multidisciplinary network of support provides the voice for the public and private sectors, other academic institutions, and the student base.
A community of scholars provides a perspective of the discipline’s identity and how it relates to education, professional development, and creating a community of lifelong learners. They will integrate scholarship and research, generate new knowledge, and promote the application of research in the field. We embrace the programs, workshops, and content produced by the individuals in the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) Higher Education community and our academic colleagues nationwide.
Program learning outcomes are developed to include general education courses and to integrate into the next level of academic achievement. Articulation agreements are established among institutions of higher education to provide a smooth academic progression. Best practices are shared on student recruitment, retention, and completion strategies. Meaningful pathways are provided from secondary education career programs into entry level college courses. Networking occurs all along the academic continuum from secondary education through master and doctoral programs. We communicate with other Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) training partners and the National Training and Education Division staff to stay connected to emerging doctrine and training programs.
It is through education that we increase a culture of respect for others, regardless of background, as we contribute to a very global society. We commit to equity in our student body and teaching staff.
Educators provide career connections in many ways. An example of these connections is focused career planning, portfolio development, service learning, capstone projects, internships, and several others.
I’d like to share an outstanding role model for young people preparing their career portfolio in homeland security and emergency management. Her name is Callie M. Gorgol, and she is known to share her passion about emergency management and her enthusiasm for her future service to our nation. Callie’s initiative to excel in her pursuit of an academic background and career in emergency management is remarkable. She has thoroughly embraced every opportunity to learn, grow, and find her “wings” in this field. Using her talents, she actively sought every opportunity to shadow field professionals, and she began by volunteering at the Adams County Department of Emergency Services. Callie’s degree only required one formal internship experience; however, Callie also chose to volunteer her time as an intern at the FEMA EMI Higher Education Symposium. Through this event, she was exposed to many exceptional presenters and participants, both educators and practitioners, and welcomed her learning in and out of the classroom. From this network, she learned about emergency management successes and failures and how to grow personally and professionally from these experiences.
Callie consistently and positively differentiates her performance and continually seeks opportunities for advancement. Callie was recently selected to participate in the White House Internship Program and will serve in the Administration Office of the Chief Logistics Officer for White House Continuity of Operations.
The White House Internship Program provides a unique opportunity to gain valuable professional experience and build leadership skills. This hands-on program, designed to mentor and cultivate today’s young leaders, strengthens participants’ understanding of the Executive Office and prepares them for future public service opportunities.
During this prestigious opportunity, Callie plans to apply the skills and knowledge she is gaining in the classroom to her role in the White House Logistics Office while garnering valuable insight into emergency management and continuity planning for all components within the Executive Office of the President.
Educators provide the opportunity for rich real-world analysis through challenging case studies, current event discussions, and opportunities to engage with practitioners on actual events or planning aspects.
We often serve midcareer professionals, many of whom are female, who are looking to make a change in their lives. Sabrina Williams is one example. We offer programs to orient students to national and international current events, discuss successes and challenges, and learn from senior influential leaders in the field. Sabrina shared her enthusiasm and interest in participating in an operational emergency management exercise at the college. Through a series of meetings, we connected her with the Director of Public Safety and Security, and she became a part of the college and local police exercise planning team.
Educators look for evidence of impact. How well are we preparing the workforce to meet the challenges of a global society? Are our students getting jobs, getting promoted, continuing to develop their career portfolio through professional development, and making an impact to make a safer and less vulnerable world?
I encourage us to do our jobs, do them well, and then do a little more. One of these areas could be to serve as a career advocate for another emerging leader in the field. As a career advocate, you can create opportunities to share your knowledge, dedication, and commitment while providing access to experiences and networking opportunities. By providing networking opportunities with professionals with diverse pathways into the field, you can provide a new leader with access to a rich, experienced professional group.
We serve as advocates and guide students toward targeted experiences for advancement and networking. I began working with Theodora Michaels, an entertainment attorney from New York, in her pursuit of an emergency management degree. The quality of her work was impressive, and she became our first honors student in the program. Her culminating experience to earn the degree included research and authoring a paper on an emergency management topic with a submission to the International Association for Emergency Managers annual conference call for presentations. Her concept was accepted as part of their formal conference agenda, and she provided an intriguing, well-received presentation on “Hactivism” within their overarching theme of “New Partner Practices.”
I encourage us to be visible role models by offering to serve as a guest speaker, attend field trips, and mentor interns. I opened by sharing my passion for this great nation, the world we live in, and our desire to make it better, and I encourage you to share your passion as well. I challenge us to surround ourselves with great people – those who share our values and those who challenge us and help us grow.
Many working professionals struggle with work/life integration. We recognize the challenges of child care, elder care, home responsibilities, and quality of life. We design our academic programs to be flexible, affordable, and offered in the traditional classroom, online, and hybrid environments. As an organization, I encourage us to develop career advocacy and advancement programs that provide access to experiences for growth, through networking, education, and professional development.
There is great satisfaction in making a difference in some small way, in giving back, in sharing openly so the next generation of professionals can achieve their dreams and life’s potential. I hope that the readers today find value and inspiration in our messages and pay it forward.
Kathy Francis, MS, CEM, MDPEMP
Executive Director of Emergency Management Programs
Mid-Atlantic Center for Emergency Management
Frederick Community College