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May 4, 2010
MARYVILLE, Mo. - When Lincoln, Neb., native Annie Mack, received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Northwest on Saturday, May 1, she became the first graduate with the University's comprehensive crisis response minor.
Better yet, the hands-on experience she received at Northwest helped her land a job as a civil defense programming specialist at the Nebraska State Emergency Management Agency in Lincoln. As she approached her graduation, Mack said she went straight to the agency's director to discuss her skills. She began work in her new role on Monday, May 3.
Mack said field training exercises like Atlantic Hope, during March in Fort Pierce, Fla., and Svetlina, in Macedonia each May, provided invaluable preparation for her new career. She also completed Campus-Community Emergency Response Team (C-CERT) training.
"If I was graduating right now with just my degree in psychology and my minor in I don't know what, I'd probably be feeling a little bit lost," Mack said. "But I feel like everything that CCR provides you with, it really prepares you to know that, yes, I do know what I'm doing and it gives you the confidence to go out there and do it."
Northwest launched its comprehensive crisis response minor last year as a multi-disciplinary program that combined coursework from the departments of communication, theatre, and languages; psychology, sociology and counseling; geology and geography; and history, humanities, philosophy and political science. The minor provides students with a balance of theoretical knowledge and practical skill sets that can be used in public, private and non-profit spheres. Graduates of the program also earn a Professional Development Series Certificate through FEMA's Emergency Management Institute.
"We really are trying to prepare our students so they can work in emergency management or disaster relief, and they can also work with non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross," the program's interim coordinator, Dr. April Haberyan said, noting that U.S. News & World Report recently called emergency management one of the 50 best careers.
Northwest is the only university in the region with a comprehensive crisis response minor. About 35 students are enrolled in the program, while about 50 more are taking the crisis communication courses individually.
"The minor might not fit everybody's schedules, but they see the real need for some of the course offerings," Fischer said. "It's reaching beyond minors to other students."
The minor includes hands-on courses such as Intro to Disaster Response and Recovery, Principles of Humanitarian Relief, and International Relations. Within the courses, students must work through scenarios of all kinds.
"If a complex emergency were to happen, like a nuclear power plant goes off, what are you going to do?" Mack said. "We actually did convoy operations. It sounds so far-fetched, but being able to think on our feet and critical thinking skills are totally different in that situation. There's just nothing to compare it to."
Mack said she already has begun recommending the minor to incoming students and students who are undecided.
"When I meet new freshmen that come in, or I get introduced to younger students, we talk about our majors and minors, and I'm like, 'well, look at this,'" she said. "Sometimes I get the look of 'Why would I do that?' Then I talk about it and they get interested."
Mack added, "I don't think students realize that it's applicable to any major. A business major could surely apply the different skills that you learn into what they're doing. You don't have to just save the world and do emergency response."
Fischer said he recently suggested the minor to a special education major, saying the skills that are taught would be valuable in his career.
"These are skills that they can take and enhance their resume," Fischer said. "They can say to an employer, 'Here, we had these kinds of things happen to our organization or in our community. I'm here and willing to respond.'"
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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