New degree aims at disaster planning
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 13:02
One woman had the foresight and motivation to push for a program right here at ASU to face the potentially disastrous challenges of the 21st century.
Debbie Persell, director of ASU’s Regional Center for Disaster Preparedness Education, has created such a program. ASU now offers, AAS, BS and MS degrees in disaster preparedness and emergency management as well as a graduate certificate. The program also offers scholarships.
All of the programs are online and have students currently enrolled around the globe. There are 83 full-time undergraduates currently enrolled and the very first graduate student will receive a Master of Science degree from the school in August.
“The program was created in light of current events and the obvious demand,” Persell said. Disasters strike, and when they do, having first responders that are well trained in disaster life support, and educated leaders working at and taking control of a site can be the difference between life and death, Persell said.
“The program is needed and growing fast,” said Brent Cox, an assistant professor and former police officer. “All of our instructors are still operating as first responders and/or emergency management professionals in one form or fashion.
According to Cox, it is important to stay on the cutting edge, especially when it comes to dealing with chemical spills and fires. Not only are there new chemicals, but there are new and better ways of dealing with the old ones, Cox said.
There are multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary programs, so students from many majors can benefit from taking these courses. The degrees are added value, said Persell. Someone with an undergraduate in criminology or nursing, for instance, could add the MS in Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management and become extremely marketable.
In fact, there’s been a major disaster in each of the last 10 years in Northeast Arkansas.
The career prospects are very positive and growing annually, Cox said. All levels of government have emergency response personnel, from the local fire department on up to FEMA. Additionally there are hundreds of health services and non-governmental agencies like the Red Cross and the World Health Organization.