Interview with Sarah Miller

1.) How does it feel to be the Interim Chair for the BAS HSEM Degree Program?

Busy! Very, very busy! This was a very unexpected change that happened really close to the beginning of the term. Faculty had to be reassigned to new classes, students had to be assigned to new advisors, new students had to be oriented, and there were meetings. So many meetings! But it’s been really great to start getting to know the faculty, staff, and administration on a different level, and to make contact with all the students I hadn’t yet met.

2.)   What are your goals for the program to keep the curriculum up-to-date with the effects of climate change and new technologies?

We have to keep the curriculum up-to-date with a lot of things, including climate change and technology. Being a technologist myself, it’s easy to focus on that aspect and see all the possibilities, but I know there’s a lot more that has to be done. This fall we’re doing our scheduled curriculum update, so we’ll be taking a look at all of our current classes and pathways and make sure they work for the needs to the modern workforce. We have great team of regular and adjunct faculty, all of whom are current or retired HSEM practitioners, who are all pitching in on this effort, lending their expertise where it can be most useful.

3.)   I know the BAS HSEM degree program is looking to include special certifications for students to obtain in areas such as Cybersecurity, Business Continuity, or Mental Health? Can you share more about what these certifications may consist of and when they could be available?

It’s going to be a while before we can solidify these plans. As I mentioned before, our scheduled curriculum update is happening this fall and we have to get that done and out to the cooperating colleges in time for them to adopt all the changes by Fall 2023. As part of that process though, we’ll be looking at where/what we might be able to offer as certificates at either the AAS or BAS level. I’ve already had conversations with the Computer Information Science and Criminal Justice Chairs to see how we might be able to partner on some of these things going forward.

4.)   Are you seeing a diverse population of student enrollment? What steps do you think need to occur to improve the diversity of our student population?

There is a concerted effort across HSEM to fulling embrace Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in everything we do, from hiring to serving our communities. Professional organizations now exist in the HSEM field that are specifically dedicated to DEI. As part of our curriculum review, we will be working to ensure that our current curriculum adequately addresses these issues. We know from research and from simply watching the news that communities around the country are continuing to struggle with adequately serving their historically underserved populations. Part of the solution to that is hiring diverse people to run HSEM related programs. We will continue to enhance our programs to help students better understand how to serve the people they are responsible to. I’m hopeful that we can also increase our outreach and recruitment efforts in the coming year to reach a broader range of students.

5.)   Are there trends or areas that you believe the industry will be looking at in the future that will be of interest? Particularly to a more diverse audience?

One of the strongest trends in HSEM right now is the recognition and acknowledgement that disaster preparedness, response, and recovery is not solely a government function. Governments have to empower people in their communities to become their own best resources, while recognizing that there are systemic barriers that prevent some people from fully doing so.

Another strong trend is the acknowledgement of the important of DEI in all phases of activities. I’m actually speaking on a panel soon about the role of equity in crisis decision-making. The goal of that project is to build open source, equitable decision-making models that can be executed using artificial intelligence. It’s a big effort, but one that I think we will ultimately be successful in.

6.)   How can the Center of Excellence – Homeland Security Emergency Management help the degree program (e.g., marketing, workshops, and forums)?

I’m hopeful that our partnership with the COE will continue to get even stronger as we move forward. Marketing, special topics workshops, and forums are critical to the field in general and to the success of the Pierce College HSEM programs.

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