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Emergency management major anticipates surge in career field


Although the COVID-19 pandemic is upending the norm in most sectors of society, students and faculty in Pennsylvania College of Technology’s emergency management and homeland security major remain steady, observant and engaged in their education as they watch the historic crisis unfold and their career field move to center stage.

“I do tell students jobs will be aplenty as there will be a lot of money thrust at health care, public health, emergency management, homeland security, other critical infrastructure sectors and private sector consulting for preparedness measures moving forward,” said David E. Bjorkman, instructor of emergency management/social science.

Pennsylvania College of Technology emergency management and homeland security student Joshua M. Walter, of Spotsylvania, Va., engages in a disaster response exercise at the Emergency Operations Center in Williamsport in 2019.
Pennsylvania College of Technology emergency management and homeland security student Joshua M. Walter, of Spotsylvania, Va., engages in a disaster response exercise at the Emergency Operations Center in Williamsport in 2019.

True to their profession, the Penn College students had already been studying past pandemics and crises and strategizing preparedness plans and response efforts for myriad scenarios.

“Even before COVID-19, we’ve talked often about the influenza pandemics in 2009 and 1918, so this type of natural disaster is nothing new in terms of the broader general discussion,” Bjorkman added.

Bjorkman was among public health preparedness professionals who engaged in a deployment at the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Southeast District Office during the height of the 2009 Novel Influenza A (H1N1) pandemic, supporting mass vaccination clinic efforts. Adding in his work as the emergency management coordinator for Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and service as a Baltimore City police officer, among other roles, Bjorkman brings years of expertise into the classroom.

The “classroom” for Penn College’s emergency management and homeland security students has been online since the end of March, when the college shifted to remote instruction due to the current crisis.

With an online option already among the degree’s offerings, moving all courses to remote delivery was a seamless operation, Bjorkman said, adding that this online move mirrors what’s happening in the field right now.

“Emergency operations coordination can be done remotely,” he said. “Many emergency management professionals have been teleworking through the activation of their virtual emergency operations centers, as well as by maintaining situational awareness using information sharing platforms such as WebEOC, a web-enabled incident management software.

“We acquired WebEOC in December, and students have been using this platform on a weekly basis within our Incident Command System class during disaster exercises. We virtually activate our classroom emergency operations center during class using WebEOC and Zoom technology. Students are coordinating and supporting responses to these simulated disasters in the classroom in the same manner, using the same platforms as professionals in the field.”

Joshua M. Walter, a junior from Spotsylvania, Virginia, is among Penn College’s emergency management students watching his career field respond to the crisis and learning along the way.

“The transition to online learning this semester has been challenging; however, adapting to changing situations is an important skill for both the classroom and the real world, and I think we have adapted well, given the unusual circumstances,” Walter said. “The COVID-19 disaster has provided a great opportunity to discuss and follow the response of public and private agencies across the country. Learning from this experience and being able to apply the techniques employed, lessons learned and new concepts developed to future disasters will help all of us, as students in emergency management, to excel in the career field.”

Penn College’s Bachelor of Science degree in emergency management and homeland security prepares graduates to manage the many phases of emergencies, disasters and crises. Emergency management positions exist at all levels of government, in public health departments and health care agencies, in nonprofit and faith-based organizations, and in a broad range of fields from transportation and energy to business and education.

Students can earn their degree on campus or online. A dual-degree option, featuring the addition of an Associate of Applied Science degree in paramedic science, is also available. Students can also earn up to two minors, including minors in criminal and restorative justice, psychology, history, biology and communication studies.

Penn College began offering its emergency management technology major in 2014. The major’s title changed to emergency management and homeland security at the start of the Spring 2020 semester to reflect the curriculum’s inclusive focus in emergency management, homeland security and other public safety and critical infrastructure sectors.

To learn more about Penn College’s emergency management and homeland security major, call the School of Sciences, Humanities & Visual Communications at 570-327-4521.

For more about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free at 800-367-9222.

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