Interview With Rising star: Tamara Corpin

Linda Crerar: Share with us what it was that drew you to the Homeland Security Emergency Management field.

Tamara Corpin: Before getting my degree in Homeland Security, my background was education. So, I had spent many years teaching and developing a curriculum. One of the hats that I wore wasn’t officially titled but developing Emergency Operations plans. And so, I enjoyed that aspect of what I was doing in education. I also really enjoyed just doing personal family preparedness for our family. So, when I decided to go back to school, I thought about, okay, what direction do I want to go? I was looking at other things that could do something general, like business or project management. I don’t even remember how I came across the degree program; I think I was researching, like, different aspects of emergency planning and that sort of thing.

Linda Crerar: Who was it that inspired you?

Tamara Corpin: In, taking this direction is my cousin who works with the Army National Guard, and she just got back from deployment. But she was a wildland firefighter, which is mainly dominated by men, and not that many women participate in that field. Her excitement for all that I would learn. The instructors I had, John Pennington, Jason Jenkins, Scott Preston, and Sarah Miller, all worked really hard to create these lessons because I did the entire program online. And so everything they put together, I feel like it made sense and made all of the information come together. It was also encouraged for us to do trainings. We did some online, but if we could attend some in-person, it helped tie everything together. So just working with our professors and everything that I learned, I enjoyed the entire program and the encouragement from our instructors and our classmates. I made a pretty good group of friends, and we would study together online, and I think that’s another thing to the flexibility. You know I’m, I’m still working, and you know I have a family and being I live about two hours from Pierce College. So hence, having the ability to do the entire bachelor’s degree online was really a benefit for me because it allowed me to fit around my schedule and then also still go after this even, even if I’m not nearby the college so, I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to attend the program.

Linda Crerar: I think you’ve already hit on a little bit with what we’ve been talking about, but why is it essential for educators and professionals in the HSM field to understand the need for diversity inclusion and equity within the education and the industry.

Tamara Corpin: I think it’s important because, especially if you’re looking at just one aspect of that, which is gender within the field, I think women have a lot to offer when it comes to emergency management. I think, just knowing that vast option is out there and having the ability to know that going into the field like I have. I can’t complain about any treatment I’ve had or anything like that. It’s been such a great collaborative experience through school, work, and trainings. All of the interactions I’ve had (mainly emergency management) are fields where everyone is excited to share what they know and not reinvent the wheel. So you’re not out there on an island on your own.

And so, I think it’s important to have various backgrounds and thought processes and all of that within this field. Because then that allows us also to reach more people and have better ideas and things like that when we’re responding to disasters or planning for something or whatever it may be.

Linda Crerar: And again, I think we’ve touched on this but, in your experience, what has been more valuable; your education or your experience and perhaps there isn’t an either-or, in that question, but can you talk about why those things complement each other?

Tamara Corpin: Yeah. I think that education and experience offers equal value. The education portion allowed me to understand and get an overview of what Emergency Management all entails. And then applying that education to experience, whether it was internships or volunteering or training, really rounded out the whole degree program. I would take whatever subsequent exercises I could find that applied to that subject matter, so I think it’s all-important to make a well-rounded educational experience.

And so, my internship in my program was scheduled for the end of my degree program. Still, our local private school said they need help developing an Emergency Operations plan. So I spoke with both John Pennington and Scott Preston and asked them, “Hey, can I rearrange these courses so I can take on this internship early?” It’s a really good opportunity, and they were like, yes. Let’s do this because it will help round out and apply your education to everything else. So it was my second term in the program, I started the internship, and I ended up doing Emergency Operations plans for K-8 private schools. Then I did some subsequent planning for the church connected to it. That led to other opportunities and working with a local school district on continuity of operations planning, and just really opening some doors to other trainings I might not have been able to get into without that experience or that current internship. And so, and it rounded out my resume. So, all in all, all of that was helpful as I was going through the program.

Linda Crerar: Can you maybe expand on any other lessons learned from both your education and your internship or work experience?

Tamara Corpin: One of the more significant lessons I learned going through is always to be willing to learn and look for learning opportunities. I think that’s so important, especially with evolving disasters. Some of the volunteer items that I was able to be a part of, we had the Eagle Creek Fire here, I believe was in 2017, and so when I started my program, I was able to volunteer with the community County Animal Shelter. They had set up a place for those coming across the river from Oregon to park their RVs and bring the animals to evacuate. And so I got to help provide for those animals and feed some of the firefighters. And then also put together emergency kits for those who had evacuated. So that gave me an eye into how those sorts of incidents are organized, whether it’s the incident command system used or just all the pieces and parts that go into a response.

Another volunteer opportunity was developing a continuity of operations plans for a small local private school. And that was one of the assignments I had for one of my courses. I think it was the business continuity class. I not only wrote cognitive operations plans, but I also audited their emergency operations plans.

So a lot of that different experience allowed me to apply what I’m learning, but while I’m going through that learning process, I’m able to ask for help. Because sometimes, when you’re interning or doing a volunteer project, you might not have access to experienced people who have been in the field or are currently in the field that you can ask questions up. So I was able to get feedback from my instructors.

Plus, when you are volunteering or interning or taking trainings you can make those networking connections. So, yeah, that can open up so many more opportunities. I can’t tell you how many times I would connect with those in the field, or who are first responders or some aspect with emergency management, which opened up training opportunities plus job possibilities for me as I got closer to graduating. So, all of that is so important to be successful once you graduate.

Linda Crerar: Well, definitely a good message to send. And it’s an important message for new students to hear how important that piece is because I come from a lengthy background of volunteering for everything. So talk, if you will, about what you are seeing in your future and your long-term goals.

Tamara Corpin: I’m excited because I ended up starting my full-time job in emergency management about three days after I graduated from the program. I was working for almost three years for a Medicare Medicaid insurance company and helped lead their covert response. I learned a ton from that whole process.

I have just started a new position with a consulting firm. I’m getting to work on projects for the state of California for their COVID response. I feel like getting different experiences in emergency management and through various industries, you can see how it’s applied.

I am excited about this new journey, and I’m excited about where it will lead and what other doors are going to open. So I will be in emergency management until I can’t be in emergency management. I’m hoping maybe someday I will come full circle back to those educational routes and possibly teach or help train others in this field. We’ll see what happens, but I’m excited to keep moving forward and learning and growing and hopefully positively impact this profession.

*Note: Youtube video links to follow in January 2022

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