Reducing the impact of hazard events through education, research and service.

Vision and Mission

The Department of Emergency Management and Disaster Science understands Emergency Management to be three things: an emerging academic discipline, an emerging profession, and a distributed function. 

The emerging academic discipline of emergency management is the scientific study of how human beings create, interact, and cope with hazards, vulnerability, and associated events. The principle method the emergency management discipline uses to understand these topics is integration and synthesis of scholarship from the diverse disciplines that study these issues at the individual and household, organizational, community, national, and global levels in the areas of preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. The product of this synthesis is used by scholars to both educate students and guide their own research.

The academic discipline of emergency management serves the profession of emergency management charged with protecting "communities by coordinating and integrating all activities necessary to build, sustain, and improve the capability to mitigate against, prepare for, respond to, and recover from threatened or actual natural disasters, acts of terrorism, or other man-made disasters" (Principles of Emergency Management, 2007, p. 4) in two ways. First, the discipline provides the field with graduates of degree programs at various levels who have been socialized into this synthesized way of thinking and who approach their work with an understanding of the history of the field, the complex nature of the contexts in which emergency management exists, and how evidence might be used to inform practice within context constraints in all of the aforementioned areas. Second, the discipline provides the emerging profession with research in these same areas.

Yet, the emergency management academic discipline also informs the distributed function of emergency management. This phrase, "distributed function", recognizes that emergency management professionals do not "do" emergency management. Instead, the responsibility of "doing" emergency management lies with entities distributed throughout our organizations and jurisdictions at every level. The discipline seeks to educate individuals who will go on to work in organizations, departments, and agencies throughout society so that they may carry through their careers knowledge about emergency management science and how the work they will do relates. 

The Department of Emergency Management and Disaster Science seeks to educate individuals who will go onto work in and/or otherwise serve the profession with its bachelors, masters, and doctoral degree programs. The Department leverages a variety of minors to engage students who will go on to work in the distributed function.

Our understanding of emergency management and our role as part of the academic discipline has led us to design our curriculum to:

  1. Clearly reflect a strong foundation in academic scholarship related to individual and household, organizational, community, and national/global preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation
  2. Provide consistent opportunities through class activities and projects to apply what students learn, particularly through projects that engage students in our community 
  3. Foster a rich learning environment wherein people with diverse backgrounds and career goals interact and learn from one another
  4. Be a strong complement with a unique identity that is supplemented by 
    • Student completion of one or more required internships at all degree levels
    • Student pursuit of training specific to their intended career path
    • Student development of professional networks
    • Faculty professional development mentoring from the start of all degree programs to their completion and beyond

Further, our understanding of our role within the academic discipline has led our faculty to each be deeply committed to being excellent educators, seeking ways to bring about synergy between education, training, and practice, actively engaging with practitioners including through emergency management professional associations and other service activities, and contributing to the body of knowledge through our own research.

Our strategic plan was developed to accomplish this vision and mission.

History of Emergency Management at NDSU

Involvement in disaster research at North Dakota State University extends back to 1979 when departmental faculty received National Science Foundation funding to study the impact of a large tornado in Texas. The establishment of a specific Emergency Management curriculum, however, began in 2001 when the State Board of Higher Education approved a minor in Emergency Management. In 2003 the State Board approved proposals to offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in Emergency Management. As a result, NDSU became one of the many undergraduate programs in Emergency Management, one of the few with master’s degrees, and the only doctoral degree in the United States that was specifically granted in Emergency Management. The first bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees were awarded in 2004, 2006, and 2009, respectively.

The degree programs were initially nested in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. The department was renamed the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Emergency Management in 2007 and became its own department, the Department of Emergency Management, in 2010 under the leadership of Dr. Daniel J. Klenow. Leadership of the department transitioned to Dr. Jessica Jensen in 2017. This transition is notable because it marks the first time a tenured emergency management doctoral degree holder became the head of an emergency management department. The Department name changed to Emergency Management and Disaster Science in 2021.

Due to budget cuts at NDSU, admissions to the masters and doctoral programs were suspended in 2021. A "teach out" of remaining graduate students is expected to complete in Spring 2024.

The program has three tenured/tenure-track faculty dedicated 100% to emergency management. All faculty hold doctoral degrees in emergency management. 

4 Ways to Support Emergency Management at NDSU

1. Donate. The North Dakota State University Development Foundation has an account for donations to the Department and another for the Emergency Management Scholarship Fund. Donations made to the Department exclusively fund alumni events and support student professional development (e.g., attendance of conferences). The Emergency Management Scholarship Fund provides support for three scholarships recognizing: 1. academic and professional excellence, 2. passion for emergency management, and 3. personal and professional growth while a major. 

Those interested in supporting either fund can mail checks to the NDSU Development Foundation at 1241 N. University Drive, Fargo, North Dakota 58102. In the subject or notation line of the check you should write Department of Emergency Management or Emergency Management Scholarship Fund depending on which you desire to support. 

Gifts can also be made to the Department Fund online  and the Scholarship Fund online

Few disciplines have such a clear and profound impact.  Donations benefit not only the Department at North Dakota State University, but by extension the newly developing discipline of Emergency Management, and disaster mitigation, preparation, response, and recovery.  Your contributions make an impact at the local, county, state, national, and international levels.  

If you would like to discuss an endowed gift, or another form of gift beyond those identified above, please contact Viet Ngyuen, Associate Director of Development, at (701) 231-6800 or

2. Wear your department T-shirt and baseball cap. Don't have one and want one? Contact Carol Cwiak at to find out how you can get yours.

3. Display your department poster. Contact Carol Cwiak at to find out how you can get yours.

4.  Get the wallpapers.Choose Department of Emergency Management and Disaster Science for your cellphone and/or computer wallpapers. Just save these NDSU approved images and you are on your way! 

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