In the college, students learn how to take care of crises, including prevention, instant reply and dealing with the aftermath.
The faculty’s dean, Robert Griffin, has spent over two years in the field. Since the first manager of the Arlington County, Virginia, Office of Emergency Management, Griffin led relief attempts to Florida, New Orleans and other disaster-hit Locations.
Griffin talked with U.S. News concerning why the faculty is so applicable, and where he hopes to take it. (The interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
How did this faculty get started?
In 2015, in Army (Andrew) Cuomo’s leadership, UAlbany was advised to endure a school for crisis preparedness, homeland security and cybersecurity. We call it CEHC. It is like 120 points in Scrabble should you spell out everything.
Why today? Is it a part of events, or even a desire to professionalize particular areas?
Both. You start out with 9/11 — Homeland Security steps up and you begin to see either the need for professionally elevated staff in these areas, and frankly, you start to find out what happens when you don’t have specialists helping in emergency preparedness. You looked at what happened with Hurricane Sandy, along with the governor recognized we are seeing an increasing number of forms of disasters, and we all had to get a cadre of educated professionals.
I think we are beginning to see the natural development of the field, all three elements of the field, toward a profession. When I got to the fieldback from the late’80s or early’90s, emergency management was a place that, at least at local government, the folks who couldn’t cut it in flame and law enforcement travelled.
What exactly does the curriculum entail?
The academic programs at CEHC draw from several areas, such as general administration, criminal justice, electronic forensics, atmospheric science, general health, political science, computer science and informatics. In January of this past year, we introduced in the data analytics, that the information sciences, into the school. In order to graduate our program, you need to not only do academic work, but also 100 specialist coaching hours and internships.
I’m sure that we continue to do good research and we are academically sound, but also thinking about producing job pathways.
Will graduates typically go to search for DHS, thenlocal or local emergency services?
What is interesting to me is that the job market is not so much that the public sector — though we are operating using the three-letter agencies along with the national, local and state governments. It’s personal industry. Whether it’s cybersecurity or emergency preparedness, the abilities they’re coming out with are abilities industry needs — which means they’re getting jobs. You may perform anything from working for the huge data companies, the Googles or even the Microsofts, or even for private infrastructure businesses. Whether it’s the electrical firms or other utilities, then you’re starting to see an increasing number of emergency preparedness functions in both the public and private sectors.
What sort of graduates are we seeing?
I actually think (diversity) isn’t simply a moral imperative. We need to bring new folks into the area, and they must have a diversity of thought, a diversity of approaches. … The idea of attracting more women and minorities into programming and to tech and intelligence analysis — that is something the nation really needs.
How do you inspire more women and minorities to come into the field?
We’ve got this really neat application with the college in the high school — an current program where seniors can take college-level classes. Equally important to me is performing things such as the Lego Challenge, or Women in Coding. We are creating a connection with the Girl Scouts and their cyber badges. We are also at the intervening stages of working with community schools to show a pathway in the community schools to the university.
It is really important that we are building a support system for folks that aren’t normally STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics ) candidates.
What sort of real-life instruction do students get?
We sent pupils to Puerto Rico (later Hurricane Maria). I really have a couple of pupils who missed graduation in order to be in Puerto Rico for a few of those deployments. Some worked together with the SUNY Maritime College students — we actually housed the pupils on the ship. When you begin to watch our pupils go down and actually see the great thy can perform in a neighborhood, it really drives home how important the area is.
Puerto Rico is recovering from Maria. What more do you have intended there?
Besides the governor’s initiative (to refurbish homes and provide assistance), we are also working to establish a long-term research facility with the University of Puerto Rico, in order to actually do research in areas which are traditionally underrepresented — things like long-term retrieval and long-term societal resilience.
What is coming up in the school itself?
We are going to get courses in UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and drone technologies. We are going in order to perform some indoor flying. I consider this as at which the faculty fits in, not just with the students but the answer community — how can we deliver research into new and evolving technologies and really kick off the tires and begin to develop policies and procedure for them? Another thing is, it is going to be quite cool on Friday nights to be able to perform drone races.
Do you expect the faculty to continue growing, given the requirement to respond to terror threats in addition to climate change?
There is definitely expansion. We’re looking at a couple new master’s programs, in information sciences, information analytics and intelligence investigation. We’ll bring to a fresh M.S. in cybersecurity, along with an M.S. in emergency administration. All these will flow into a Ph.D. or could be standalone amounts.
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