Congratulations to This Year’s Rising Star! –  Brandi Hunter

Brandi Hunter
Educational & Outreach Coordinator
Center of Excellence – Homeland Security Emergency Management

“Brandi Hunter is a standout star. As a recent graduate of the Homeland Security Emergency Management (HSEM) degree program at Pierce College, Brandi is a person who acts when opportunities appear. I reached out to Brandi on LinkedIn about an internship position at the Center of Excellence for HSEM and Brandi responded immediately. When we talked it turned out she had the qualifications and skills we needed to serve as an Educational & Outreach Coordinator for the Center. Her enthusiasm and experience in reaching out to vulnerable communities to inform and educate people about career opportunities in the all-hazard emergency career fields were inspiring.  Her insight and energy are a wonderful addition to the Center’s staff.” – Kellie Hale, Program Manager for the Center of Excellence – Homeland Security Emergency Management

What drew you to the HSEM field?

Brandi: Around a decade ago, my father suggested that I investigate the HSEM program at Pierce College and informed me that this field was going to be a high demand career pathway. However, I disregarded his push and proceeded to do other things. It was not until the end of 2018 that I chose to pursue a degree in HSEM. Once I began to take my first two quarters in the program that I was drawn in. When I learned about how vulnerable populations are often excluded from emergency planning and the repercussions that these communities face after a disaster occurs, as a result of poor planning, I felt compelled to become a part of that solution within HSEM.

Did you enjoy your time in the HSEM degree program? Do you plan on pursuing a BAS in HSEM?

Brandi: I did enjoy my time in the HSEM degree program. I made some great connections with my classmates and my professors were not only knowledgeable and supportive, but I consider them mentors even now after I have graduated. As for pursuing a BAS in HSEM, that is something I am still mulling over. I want to make sure that I am making the right decision as it pertains to my education and career path.

Who inspires you?

Brandi: My family has always inspired me from day one. But it is my father that inspires me. He is an entrepreneur, he’s driven, and he has always motivated and supported me to make something of myself even to this day. Outside of my family, it is my mentors that inspire me. The fact that they care about me as a person, make themselves readily available to help, are passionate about what they do, and are great examples of leaders, inspires me daily to better myself personally and professionally.

You are the founder of Aspiring Emergency Managers Online (AEMO). Tell us about how you came up with AEMO and why? What is your overall goal for this organization?

Brandi: The concept of AEMO began at the beginning of this year around January. But the premise behind AEMO was not birthed until June. I came up with the concept when I was searching for mentors that were in the emergency management field. I wanted to learn more about the field on my own, outside college studies.

I joined an emergency management Facebook group and found at first it was inviting, and members were eager to answer any questions that I had. But things took a turn when I noticed that members of the group were not so inviting to aspiring emergency managers like myself. An aspiring emergency manager is one who looking to get into the field of emergency management. The messages and attitudes were off-putting and made me question if this was the right career to get into. That drove me to think of a resource that was meant for aspiring emergency managers to utilize to find jobs, learn about other industries within emergency management, find mentors, and overall become job-ready and a competitive applicant.

I mulled over this idea more when the COVID-19 pandemic began shutting down businesses, schools, and a shelter-in-place was put in place. By June I had an “ah-ha” moment and decided to start a group on LinkedIn because I found the social media platform to be more supportive and professional.  With those factors, I established the Aspiring Emergency Managers Online group on LinkedIn.  The vision is to empower aspiring emergency managers to discover and pursue a path to a fulfilling career in emergency management so that they can establish their own marks on the world.  I am extremely proud of this community as it has helped our aspiring emergency managers to land jobs as EMs and obtain internship opportunities.

What do you hope to get out of working with the Center of Excellence – Homeland Security Emergency Management? 

Brandi: The Center is doing great things when it comes to outreach efforts in the community by promoting pathways in HSEM. What I hope to get out of working with the Center is to create an awareness in Washington State’s K-12 and the higher education institutions of the HSEM field and the programs that offer HSEM degrees with our collaborating colleges.

You said that your goal is to “one day ensure that vulnerable communities truly receive equal treatment and opportunities before, during, and after a catastrophic event.” Why is it important for educators and professionals in HSEM to understand the need for diversity, inclusion, and equity within education and the industry? 

Brandi: This aspect is important because our vulnerable communities need to have faces that represent them at the end of the day when it comes to emergency planning to ensure that such communities and populations are resilient after a disaster. When we talk about the “whole-community” approach in HSEM, whether that be within education or the industry, this concept must be taken into consideration so that people are not being excluded in disaster planning, response, and recovery efforts based on biases, ignorance, and negligence. FEMA even states that the whole-community approach is effective when “working together, everyone can help keep the nation safe from harm and help keep it resilient when struck by hazards.” We must have people who are from these communities advocating for their equality when it comes to emergency management.

Which has been more valuable in your career, your education, or your experience?

Brandi: My experience. I say that because after I have completed my education and retired, I will still have my experience.

What are your long-term career goals?

Brandi: My long-term career goal is to continuously help and boost the trajectory of other’s education and careers in HSEM. My goal will always be to help people achieve their own goals.