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Emergency management is an emerging career choice


People have been interested in managing disaster since ancient times. Now that interest is being formalized as a profession and academic discipline, said Jessica Jensen, assistant professor in emergency management.

U.S. News and World report listed emergency management specialist as one of the 50 best jobs in 2011. Last summer, The Street listed emergency management as one of “10 college majors for a new economy.”

What is emergency management?

When people hear emergency management, they often think of flashing lights and sirens, said Carol Cwiak, assistant professor in emergency management. In reality, it is a managerial function that creates a framework for mitigating, preparing for, responding to and recovering from natural disasters, acts of terrorism or other large-scale events.

Emergency management has been elevated from a small assignment within someone’s job to a career because of awareness generated by events such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. When things went wrong during Hurricane Katrina, for example, people asked, “Isn’t that someone’s job?”

Emergency management is a growing field because government, businesses, schools, hospitals and other organizations need a plan for how they will operate during a major event, Cwiak said. And there is a trickle-down effect. If one organization’s plan relies on supplies from another business, the other business will need a plan to ensure it can deliver those supplies.

Making history

NDSU offers one of the few face-to-face emergency management programs, said Dan Klenow, professor and head of the department. Klenow and a colleague—both sociologists—conducted NDSU’s first emergency management research in 1979 following a tornado in Texas.

In 2001, the State Board of Higher Education approved a minor in emergency management at NDSU. In 2003, the board approved bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Cwiak was the first person at NDSU and in the world to earn a doctorate in emergency management, Klenow said. She and Jensen hold two of five emergency management doctorates in the world.

Because NDSU has been a leader in developing emergency management as an academic discipline, faculty help other universities and colleges develop emergency management curriculum. “Being part of building an academic discipline is a rare opportunity,” Jensen said.

In addition to studying research literature, emergency management students gain hands-on experience and develop problem-solving, leadership and communication skills, Jensen said. Faculty help students identify and secure their dream internships. Students are also involved in spring flood fighting in North Dakota.

In fall 2010, emergency management students managed the volunteer effort when “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” built a house in Moorhead, Minn., Fargo’s sister city. About 60 students were involved, including eight who served on the leadership team. “It really allowed the students to hone their logistics skills, the same skills they would draw on in managing a disaster response or recovery,” Cwiak said.

For more information about NDSU’s emergency management program, visit



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North Dakota State University
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Last Updated: Thursday, August 08, 2013 8:33:23 AM