HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. -- Just last spring, Emily Lakamp was finishing her undergraduate degree in political science at Miami University.
Fast-forward to a year later and she’s a student at Northern Kentucky University pursuing her master’s degree in public administration and taking steps toward a career in emergency management.
Lakamp, 23, who has worked since April as a training and exercise specialist at the Hamilton County Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, said she quickly set her sights on the emergency management field after graduating from Miami because of her father, a Cincinnati firefighter.
“Public service and public safety have always been in my blood,” she said.
Lakamp learned about the NKU program's specialization in homeland security and emergency management and jumped at it, she said. Now, she’s finding out she’s not the only one right out of undergrad pursuing a future in an area she doesn’t have a past in.
“This field used to be heavily dominated by fire chiefs, police chiefs and public safety officials,” she said. “But more and more, there are people like myself entering the field — people who are getting their master’s but don’t have a background in fire or police or public safety.”
Now, even more people who want to serve their community but don’t have a background as a first responder will have the opportunity to explore a career in emergency management.
This fall, NKU will debut a new graduate certificate in emergency management — the first of its kind in the region — that will provide the core sets of skills and competencies people need in the field of emergency management without the financial or time commitment of a master’s degree, said Julie Olberding, director of NKU’s MPA program.
The certificate is designed for those who are interested in working in emergency management for local, state or federal government, or in universities, schools, hospitals, nonprofits or private businesses, but also for those already working in the industry as well, Olberding said.
“This program is definitely attractive to police officers and firefighters who are on the front lines — first responders who envision a career path where they’re moving into management and want to further their education,” she said.
Created with working professionals in mind, the 18-credit-hour certificate program is either partially or completely online and includes three mandatory courses in homeland security administration, emergency management and terrorism. The other credit hours come from a menu of electives students can choose from, such as volunteer management, human resource management and geographic information systems, which, Olberding said, is an increasingly important set of skills for emergency responders.
“Traditionally, people working in police or emergency management fields could have attained one of those jobs with a high school degree or associate degree or bachelor’s degree,” she said. “But the profession is changing so much today and there are new skills required to find a job in those areas.”
The program also will offer service-learning opportunities to students, likely within nonprofit organizations or communities in the region, Olberding said.
Dave Moore, a 2006 alumnus of NKU’s MPA program and founder and executive director of Cincinnati-based Africa Fire Mission, a nonprofit committed to building the capacity of fire departments across Africa, said the opportunities for careers in emergency management are continuing to grow.
“More and more, everyone involved in local government has a role in emergency management,” said Moore, who also is a former fire chief for Glendale Fire Department. “This program will look at the overall demands of emergency management and prepare people for working in emergency management at various levels — from local to state to federal — in the Tri-State region.”