North Texas Daily

Emergency management and disaster sciences department established at UNT

Emergency management and disaster sciences department established at UNT

September 19
11:42 2016

Since its establishment in 1983, UNT’s emergency management and disaster sciences program has worked toward becoming one of the best programs of its kind in the United States. Students in the program have been sent to work for national emergency management organizations, like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross, and even international non-profit organizations.

Previously established as just a degree program within the department of public administration, they have now expanded into their own department entirely as of Sept. 1.

“This really is an investment from UNT in the future of emergency management education and research,” EMDS department chair Gary Webb said.

EMDS is still a part of College of Public Affairs and Community Service, but it will now offer a wider range of degree plans and master’s programs.

With this newfound freedom comes a fresh focus on resources for students and improving research. UNT is ranked as tier-one in research output and, Webb said, this opportunity for growth within EMDS contributes to maintaining UNT’s status.

Undergraduate program director Laura Seibeneck said this allows students to explore new opportunities concerning emergency management.

“There’s a wonderful sense of excitement,” Siebeneck said. “The students feel like they’re a part of something special.”

The expansion is aiming to offer more areas of study, increase online classes for distant students and the provide the opportunity for a graduate degree.

So far, the EMDS program has offered one degree in emergency administration and planning. The department is now looking forward to creating a new degree or certificate in homeland security.

Since UNT established the EMDS program, students from long distances have showed interest in the program. Over time, EMDS has gained popularity and has worked toward making the program more available to students who don’t live near campus, whether it be in another town or state. The expansion will be able to help increase the number of online classes available to distant students.

“This will increase our program’s visibility,” Siebeneck said. “It will give them an opportunity to expand networks for careers or graduate school.”

EMDS is also looking at other ways to expand their program. As of right now, there is only a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in emergency management. Being its own department now, EMDS will soon work towards offering a Master’s degree of their own.

“I can look forward to returning to a school I love for a graduate education now,” emergency administration and planning junior Robert McWilliams said.

Since UNT’s EMDS department works with groups and organizations all over the country, the expansion will further advance the resources students need to succeed beyond their undergraduate education, university officials say. These advancements include updated equipment for their Emergency Operations Center to improve their simulated disaster management experience. The skills they gain from these EOC labs help them become better leaders and decision makers under uncertainty.

The expansion also opens the door for more adjunct professors into the classrooms, who can apply their practical experiences to the theoretical curriculum. Webb said he is looking forward to the department’s national search for more researchers and professors to help EMDS grow.

“A lot of eyes are on UNT with optimism and we’re going to deliver,” Webb said.

Webb said the EMDS department is UNT’s way of reestablishing its dominance as the best place to study emergency management in the nation. This opportunity for growth will allow visions for the department to become realities.

For students like McWilliams, these new opportunities will make a positive change for students studying emergency planning.

“This expansion makes us feel like the school is investing in our education,” McWilliams said.

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Bina Perino

Bina Perino

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