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News Feature

Oct. 18, 2022

First emergency management graduate advancing career with help of Northwest experiences

By Kourtnie Stenwall, communication assistant

As communities throughout the United States expand their focus on resilience and hazard mitigation issues, Northwest Missouri State University alumna Annie Mack Vest is applying her extensive experience in hazard mitigation to benefit clients across the Central Plains and Southeast United States.

Annie Vest

Annie Vest

Vest, who was the first graduate in 2010 of what is now the emergency and disaster management program at Northwest, began her career that year with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, helping communities navigate FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation programs.

She continued her career in multiple hazard mitigation roles in Oklahoma from 2011 until earlier this year, including as a state hazard mitigation officer. More recently, she became the mitigation and disaster planning lead at Freese and Nichols, a consulting firm serving clients across the southeast and southwest United States with the design and management of infrastructure projects.

Vest supports communities in Fort Worth, Texas, while providing hazard mitigation and disaster recovery planning services and supporting clients in identifying and pursing mitigation funding solutions.

“My heart is at the local level, and that’s what Freese and Nichols does best,” Vest said. “It’s an incredible fit, and I’m just really excited to have this opportunity to expand my skill set outside of just Oklahoma where I was previously working.”

Vest chose to attend Northwest because of the opportunities it offered for academic and personal growth. As a freshman, she was certain she was going to be a school counselor. After taking a disaster psychology class, her interest in emergency disaster management piqued and led her to join Northwest’s emerging program in that field.

“At the time, I was really struggling personally to find out what I wanted to do professionally, and that class really helped things click,” Vest said. “Then, they were starting the disaster management program and that changed everything about my professional trajectory. By the time I graduated, because of the academic path I was able to choose with the emergency management, I ended up graduating pretty high in the class and succeeding very well professionally.”

Annie Vest participated in simulated disaster exercises as an undergraduate student at Northwest and is the University's first graduate of what is now the emergency disaster management program.

Annie Vest participated in simulated disaster exercises as an undergraduate student at Northwest and is the University's first graduate of what is now the emergency disaster management program.

While the annual Missouri Hope emergency and disaster management exercise is now a key component of Northwest’s program, Vest participated in a similar exercise in Florida. As she got involved with the emergency and disaster management program, she also helped establish the first club for students involved with the program at Northwest.

The impact of Northwest continued into her senior year with faculty giving her advice on how to apply for jobs. She connected with the state director of emergency management for Nebraska, which helped her secure a job helping with the state’s hazard mitigation. She showed her skillset in training and education but also her willingness to take initiative.

“I don’t think without Northwest and without that group of advisors that I would’ve really understood how to get a job,” Vest said. “I think I would’ve been stuck in that ocean of people just blindly submitting resumes and then landing somewhere at random.”

Vest continues to use the skills and advice she gained at Northwest. She says she is appreciative of the connections she made through the University.

“Still, to this day, it remains the best years of my life,” Vest said. “I just had some girl friends from Northwest come and visit me in Tulsa a few weeks ago. The friends that I’ve made there are truly my lifelong friends and family. That connectedness among the students and the student body was excellent.”


Dr. Mark Hornickel
Administration Building
Room 215