Dr. William A. Meehan:
Preparing for Success in Disaster Relief
By Dr. William A. Meehan
President, Jacksonville State University
Weekly Column - The Jacksonville News
While buckling their seat belts after boarding an airplane,
passengers heard the following from an attendant during the in-flight safety
presentation: “Your seat cushions can be used for flotation. In the event of an
emergency water landing, please take them with our compliments.” This classic
aviation humor provides a comical tone to emergency preparedness.
“Emergency management has come into its own over the past decade or more,”
said International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Marketing and
Communications Director Dawn Shiley-Danzeisen in an Emergency Medical
Services article last February.
“The whole field has grown from the local fire chief being emergency manager
for the county to having an emergency manager who coordinates all the fire
chiefs, rescue squads and government agencies.
"You want to have people who are educated and have the right resources at
their fingertips to coordinate your response plans and be there if a disaster
"You have to know how to manage the disaster as it’s occurring and know how
to clean up after it’s over.”
Jacksonville State University is on the front edge of education and research
in this rapidly developing field.
JSU maintains one of the highest enrollment numbers of any emergency
management academic program in the nation.
Students currently studying in the Institute for Emergency Preparedness (IEP)
at JSU reside in 49 states as well as several foreign countries.
What makes JSU’s Emergency Management Program unique is that it is delivered
through distance education, primarily via the internet, making the degree
program accessible to students around the world.
Once JSU successfully implemented the Bachelor of Science degree program in
emergency management, a graduate program was developed, approved by the Alabama
Commission on Higher Education, and implemented.
Dr. Rebecca Turner, vice president of Academic and Student Affairs, credits
the broad accessibility through the Web, as well as the extensive backgrounds
and credentials of the IEP faculty and staff, with the success and growth of the
After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Clemson University, Adam Crowe
began looking around on the Internet for schools offering masters programs in
emergency management in 2003. “I selected JSU because it offered a full online
degree program, was reasonably close to my home in Atlanta, and was
extraordinarily affordable,” says Crowe. Initially unsure as to whether distance
learning or even emergency management was right for him, Crowe decided to try
“Fortunately, the administrative staff for the distance learning program was
extraordinarily helpful in explaining the application process including
financial aid, acceptance, and general program requirements,” says Crowe.
“The courses I took through IEP provided an excellent foundation for a public
administration career. The discipline-focused courses were general enough for
broad application, but still provided both historical and contemporary
perspective on the critical curriculum topics.”
After graduating from JSU with a master’s in public administration with a
concentration in emergency management in 2005, Crowe accepted a job as an
emergency response planner for a local health department in Kansas City,
Missouri. “During that time, I developed plans and protocols for how this
community would respond to public health threats including disease outbreaks,
bioterrorism and pandemic flu,” says Crowe.
As Crowe presented on these topics throughout the community, the knowledge he
had gained at JSU was acknowledged by Jeff Hartle, the coordinator of the Public
Administration/Emergency Management masters program at Park University. Crowe
has recently accepted the opportunity to develop and teach a course on public
health threats in the field of emergency management at Park University in
Parkville, MO through distance education.
The exceptional IEP faculty at JSU are looking to develop new curriculum as
well. With the growing numbers of students interested and needed in the field of
emergency management, and successful graduates such as Crowe, JSU is seeking
approval for a doctorate in emergency management.
Dr. Turner is confident in the dexterity of the existing IEP faculty at JSU.
She says, “These faculty are capable of developing a curriculum worthy of
doctoral level designation and are already engaged in that process.”
JSU is currently seeking permission from the Alabama Commission on Higher
Education (ACHE) to offer a new academic program and the Southern Association of
Colleges and Schools (SACS) Commission on Colleges to make this new program the
first doctorate offered at the university. The acceptance and application of the
program would raise the level of accreditation of JSU from a Level IV
institution to a Level V.
“While we recognize that this role change and the corresponding development
and implementation of a new doctoral program requires a commitment of time and
resources, we believe the time is right for us to expand our educational
offerings in this manner,” says Dr. Turner. “We are optimistic about our
capacity to deliver a high quality doctoral program in emergency management that
is relevant in today’s global environment.”
Emergency preparedness for academics in the IEP at JSU means an urgent need
to equip all students interested in this field with the opportunity to reach the
highest level of achievement for the success of their career and future jobs.
For further information on the emergency management program at JSU, visit
Erin Chupp, a graduate assistant in the Office of Marketing and
Communications, contributed to this article.
About William A. Meehan
Dr. William A. Meehan is president of Jacksonville
State University. His column, "Town & Gown," appears in The Jacksonville News.
See story at The Jacksonville News's website: www.jaxnews.com
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