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An Experiential Approach to Emergency Management

CEHC Shares Training Program with International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters

CEHC students participate in last summer's “NY Hope Disaster Response" exercise at the New York State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany, N.Y. (Photo by Patrick Dodson)

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 16, 2019) – Undergraduate majors in the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC) must complete 100 training hours before graduation – a unique requirement that is being shared with some of the field’s leading educators and practitioners.

The college’s experiential learning approach is the topic of an article published in the International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters’ special edition on teaching.

Co-authored by CEHC faculty and staff, the article, titled “Beyond Internships: Experiential Learning as a Tool for Emergency Management Education,” dives into the college’s training hours program, explaining how it’s run and the benefits of blending academics with learning outside of the classroom.

“The training hours requirement of our curriculum has been something new for all of us,” said Samantha Penta, CEHC assistant professor and the article’s lead author. “Experiential learning is emerging as a best practice in higher education and we are proud to share our unique approach as a model that other institutions can learn from.”

CEHC offers various training opportunities throughout the semester, both on-campus and with partners such as the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) and National Center for Security & Preparedness (NCSP). The purpose, according to the article is to prepare students with “skills, knowledge, and experiences from outside of a classroom setting… to build their professional portfolios.”

The training requirement is broken into four tiers – foundational training, professional development, community engagement and concentration-specific training. Each is assigned a minimum number of hours needed for completion.

Students work with their advisor and CEHC’s assistant director of experiential learning to create a training portfolio that supports their academic interests and career goals.

“We’re thinking very holistically about this,” Penta said. “Our students are being exposed to real-world situations through authentic simulations and hands-on opportunities with our partners. They are also learning soft skills – like how to dress for an interview and write a resume. It all counts toward shaping them into professionals.”

Launched by Gov. Cuomo in 2015, CEHC has accumulated 657 declared majors, 381 minors and 176 intended majors in its Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (EHC) program alone, as of this semester. When adding its Department of Informatics, along with graduate-level programs, the total student number jumps up close to 2,000.

Penta believes the college’s experiential learning approach is playing a role in its high demand.

“Everything we’re doing is next level here,” she said. “We want to prepare our students in the best way possible as they enter the workforce.”

The article’s co-authors are CEHC Assistant Professor Amber Silver, along with Samantha Phillips, the former director of NCSP and Emily Barrett, who led CEHC’s experiential learning efforts for more than two years.

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