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Why Study Disaster Management?

June 9, 2022

Teresa Van Horn, Ph.D.

LSUS Master of Nonprofit Administration

Louisiana State University Shreveport offers an online Master of Science in Nonprofit Administration with three tracks in administration, development, and disaster preparedness. The Disaster Preparedness Track focuses on the management of critical and crisis situations in primarily emergency relief organizations.

Why Choose the Disaster Concentration?

This track is an excellent supplement for a student interested in a career in crisis management or disaster services, either as a paid staff member or a volunteer. Courses cover key aspects of crises and disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. Disasters occur often, for example, in August of 2022, Hurricane Ida completely devastated several parishes and counties in the southeastern United States. In December of the same year, several tornados destroyed cities across the Midwest and claimed the lives of nearly 100 people. Today, a pandemic continues to cause daily loss of life. Floods, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, wildfires, terrorist attacks, pandemics, and most recently, a war in Ukraine provide examples of the types of disasters and crises that affect our world. Choosing this concentration will afford students tools to assist themselves and others in emergencies. Crisis events demand the attention of multiple organizations, and these organizations must be able to respond to a variety of situations and adequately meet the needs of communities.

What Is Studied?

The coursework encompasses crisis management and disaster administration at the local, state, and federal levels. Using historical case studies, students will analyze critical and effective crisis management. Students will explore various types of large-scale disaster operations, with each type requiring diverse planning, resourcing, skill-building, leadership, and execution. How communities plan, organize and respond effectively to significant emergencies are analyzed and mitigation will be evaluated.

Courses will explore different expectations for disaster administration at the local, state, and national levels, focusing on how these have changed over time and the complexity of policy issues impinging on preparedness initiatives. Collaboration between emergency management nonprofits and governmental agencies will be evaluated. Experiential learning is implemented in this concentration. Students will conduct interviews and original research projects that synthesize literature and propose more effective coordination and response. Students will also earn Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) certifications that may also be used as prerequisites for American Red Cross disaster training.

Careers Opportunities in Disaster Services

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that employment in this field has more than doubled since 1990 with continued growth projected through 2026. Individuals that work in Disaster Services have a common goal to ensure that when a disaster occurs someone is on the way to help. Disaster relief work is commonly divided into four phases: preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. Some workers have full-time positions with a primary focus on disasters. An example of this would be a disaster services director at the American Red Cross or a FEMA director. Others have relief-related training or specialized skills but work full time in a nonprofit or a for-profit on call to help when an emergency occurs. For example, a student currently enrolled in the concentration works for a telecommunications company in the e-commerce department, however, the company has a disaster response division that she hopes to work with as needed upon completion of her program. Many other people volunteer or work in temporary jobs that last only until recovery efforts are complete, for instance, a Red Cross local disaster responder or a FEMA temporary employee.

What Does It Take to Work in Disaster Services?

Individuals that work in the area of disaster services need good communication skills and are able to work cooperatively with others. I have personally served as a national disaster responder for the American Red Cross. I can say that every disaster and location is different, and the impact of the disaster varies. However, I have found that workdays on scene are long and challenging, both physically and emotionally. It is very stressful processing the scope of the destruction and particularly hard processing the impact on the people directly affected. While arduous at times, the work can also be rewarding. You can help others when they are in need, and serve people in desperate situations.

What Are Students Saying About Their Experience in the Concentration?

"Everything that was offered/provided within the course was useful for my learning and professional journey" - A. F.

"I am so grateful that this track was added" - K.W.

"This course gave me insights on the depth of what goes behind the scenes" - R.T.

"I really enjoyed the interview assignment. It had me step out of my comfort zone a little and I was able to learn a lot from the disaster relief case manager about the relief efforts in my community as well as making a new contact" - C.R.

"I appreciate the feedback that I received from you these past two courses because it allowed me to truly challenge myself academically this semester" - A. F.

"Thank you for the excellent and interesting courses" - C.S.

"Thank you so much for these amazing courses…I have really enjoyed them, and they helped to solidify my decision to go on to get a Master's in the subject" - K.W.

Learn more about this exciting program offered through LSUS.

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Christina Bourg
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