Emergency Management and Homeland Security fall 2015 outstanding grads


Andres Guerra Luz

The online master’s degree in emergency management and homeland security targets working professionals who want to advance in their careers.

The fast-growing graduate program prepares students to assume positions of leadership in emergencies and teaches them how to apply this knowledge in the real-world while they’re still in school.

The online program, which had more than 400 students at the end of its second year, has a little over 500 students enrolled for the fall 2016 semester.  The program’s director, Brian Gerber, attributes the program’s growth to ASU’s reputation.

“I think it speaks to the profile and status of ASU within the United States,” Gerber says. “We have a strong national profile and it allows a program like this to develop quickly.”

The fall 2015 convocation marked the first time students from this program walked across the graduation stage to receive their degrees.

“It directly applies to the name of the degree, emergency management and homeland security” says deputy sheriff Andrew Hall, one of the four graduates recognized at convocation. “You’re learning both fields and you’re able to take an elective to focus it on whatever interest you have.”

Hall, who works in the Contra Costa County Police Department in California, says the program also accommodates people’s time and financial commitments.

“You can do it in either one, two or three years,” he notes. “So depending on how busy you are at work, if you have a family, or whatever your needs are–anyone can finish on any timeline. And it’s super affordable, as master’s programs go, which was wonderful.”

The other three graduating students—Fernando Torres, Lindsey Means and Brittany Gorman—also worked full-time while pursuing their degrees.

Gorman, an operations supervisor for British Airways at Sky Harbor Airport, worked two jobs when she began pursuing her degree.

“With the schedule I kept,” she says, “being enrolled in an online program was the only way I was able to finish my classes so quickly.”

The graduate degree is structured this way, Gerber says, because it primarily serves those who are already working jobs but want to receive additional education to progress in their fields.

Torres, who lived in Payson, Arizona, at the time, says he wanted to pursue a graduate degree but driving an hour and a half each way from Payson to Tempe or the Downtown Phoenix campus would have been difficult on him and his family.

When he found out ASU was offering the program online, Torres says he knew it was the right choice, as it allowed him to still focus on his career and his family while he earned his graduate degree.

“Having the program available online makes it practicable and feasible for them to get a graduate degree,” Gerber says. “It fits with the university mission to make higher education accessible to everybody.”

But more important than the program’s accessibility, Gerber says, is its high quality.

The emergency management and homeland security program’s curriculum includes concepts of public policy and management, criminal justice, science, and technology. It also introduces students to a hazards/all-threats approach to emergency management, meaning they can apply this approach to any possible threat type.

“The curriculum was exactly pulled from the fields,” Hall says. “So you had experts in each field teaching the classes. And you noticed they weren’t always a professor, so to speak, but they were the expert in their field and you learned exactly what you went into that class wanting to learn.”

While ASU faculty teach in the program, there are also professionals from specific fields who teach in the program on a limited basis.

“As a consequence,” Gerber says, “the program is stronger because it blends that kind of practitioner perspective with traditional academic perspective.”

Gerber says his department spent a lot of time reaching out to professionals in order to gain an understanding of the real-world challenges that people in the field currently face.

By gaining this understanding, he says, the department can offer classes that address the current and future needs in the profession.

“We’re always thinking about how we can add material to the program that ensures we’re forward-looking,” he says, “so students can anticipate the next generation of challenges in emergency management and homeland security.”

In order to better acquaint students with these challenges, one of the main skills the program teaches students is how they can apply what they learn to the real world.

Gerber says students in the program are required to complete an applied project that “is designed to pull together knowledge, skills and abilities they’ve developed in the program and utilize it in a direct, practice setting.”

Students are also given smaller scale applied projects throughout the course of the program along with this cumulative applied project they complete before graduating.

All four graduating students say they are using their degrees to push forward with their career paths.

Means, who took the online program from her home in Utah, is now teaching at Utah Valley University and is planning to earn her Ph.D. in emergency management.

“It’s a great program,” Means says, “very cost effective, and works great for students looking for an online program.”

And for those worried about earning a graduate degree online, Hall says he was too before he earned his degree online.

“Going into it I was very skeptical, because in undergrad I thought online schools were silly,” Hall says. “Now working full-time, I realize that online schools can be just as good, if not better, than teaching in a classroom.”

For those interested in enrolling, the ASU emergency management and homeland security program is currently accepting applications.

To get more information on how to apply, visit http://asuonline.asu.edu/online-degree-programs/graduate/master-arts-emergency-management-and-homeland-security