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5 reasons you should get a bachelor’s degree in disaster management at Stempel College

When a crisis hits, first responders rush to meet the needs of impacted communities. They work long, grueling hours to help ensure the safety and well-being of those who need it most. At the Academy of International Disaster Preparedness (AIDP) at FIU’s Stempel College, first responders are building their skills in disaster management to help them plan for, respond to, recover from and mitigate damages caused by disasters near and far.

AIDP’s bachelor’s (BA) degree program in Disaster Management provides a complete educational paradigm for Emergency Management practitioners.  “Our classes take students through a comprehensive academic program that covers the five pillars of emergency management: preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery,” said Joann Brown, assistant director for AIDP who oversees the BA degree program.

“We’ve had first responders enroll in our program, exceed in their studies, and graduate with their degrees to better serve their communities,” said Javier I. Marques, executive director of AIDP. “Without Joann and the AIDP team, this program would not be where it is today. We can’t thank them enough for the hard work they have put in to prepare these students for success after graduation.”

(Left to right) AIDP alumni Firefighter Alex Batista, Lieutenant Javier Blanco, Firefighter Alex Garcia (all City of Miami Fire Rescue) and Firefighter Donald Willis (Miami-Dade Fire Rescue) at their FIU graduation. 

If you’re on the fence about getting a BA degree in Disaster Management, here are a few reasons that could help you out.

No matter where you are in your career, it’s never too late to get your degree.

AIDP students who graduate with a BA degree in Disaster Management come from different generations, backgrounds and experiences. The BA degree allows students to receive college credit through a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA), which connects their experiences outside the classroom, such as work, military service, fire/police academy training, and industry-related training certificates, to their studies in the program. For Yendy Gonzalez, a firefighter and paramedic with eight years of experience with the City of Miami Fire-Rescue Department, this was a relief as he had been out of school and working for the City of Miami Fire-Rescue for almost a decade. “It can be pretty demoralizing for someone who’s been out of school to start all over,” said Gonzalez. “I wanted to move forward, and this program at FIU definitely moved me forward.”

Learn from the best in disaster management.

AIDP instructors are among the best of the best in disaster management. They’ve gone through the academic rigor required to get to where they are and have served as first responders, responding to disasters across the globe. Many are members of the DHS/FEMA’s Urban Search and Rescue system and bring real-world experience from their time responding to COVID-19, devastating disasters like hurricanes, building collapses, mass shootings, and more. “A few have been emergency managers with major metropolitan cities and with some of the nation’s top disaster response organizations,” said Brown, director of the program.

Competitive internships at disaster management agencies are at your fingertips.

AIDP has a vast network of partners in the disaster management field that offer internship opportunities for its students. Through an internship, students can get first-hand experience of what it’s like to work for some of the top agencies in the state. AIDP students have gone on to secure internships with SouthCom, the United States Coast Guard, Emergency Management departments for Coral Gables, Miami Beach, Pinellas County, City of Miami, and more.

Your colleagues will be there to support you along the way.

Whether you’re new to disaster management or have worked in the field for years, AIDP offers an educational experience to fit your needs. As a student, you’ll learn from the best, but you’ll also have the opportunity to share your own experiences with others in the program. If you’re new to the field, you can trust that you’ll meet some inspiring students that would be happy to share pointers on how they got to where they are today.

“Along the way, I got to meet good friends with the same interests,” said Glen Stiles, an AIDP alum and a district fire chief with 33 years of experience with the Hialeah Fire-Rescue Department. “We got to exchange thoughts and different points of view on many subjects. This was more than just a degree for me, it was an amazing social experience that was educational and fun.”

AIDP offers a mentorship program partnering traditional students with adult learners.  The traditional students gain more insight into the field from their mentor, who has been working as a first responder and the returning adult learner has another resource to assist them with FIU forms.  To date, nearly 90% of the students have participated in the program. Alum Oliver Tassy, a captain with the City of Miami Fire Department, stated how rewarding it was to guide a younger student down the same career path he took and also get assistance in navigating the FIU system from someone who was more familiar with the process than himself.

Disasters can happen at a moment’s notice. Know what to do before, during and after they hit.  

Florida ranks 4th in the nation in the number of presidentially declared disasters. Yet, only a handful of universities offer a BA degree in Disaster Management in the state. “The threat from natural, man-made, biological and environmental hazards remains a constant danger, and a degree in Disaster Management is critical to providing the educational foundation for first responders in our community who find solutions to these challenges that face our community,” said Brown.

For Stiles, an AIDP alum, the best part about getting his degree was the sense of accomplishment he felt after graduation. “Whatever motivates you to get a degree, whether it is knowledge, financial, or a sense of accomplishment, you can never go wrong with the additional education,” he said. “The professors and support system at FIU made it a pleasure from start to finish.”

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here to learn more about a bachelor’s degree in Disaster Management, including requirements and other enrollment information.