One of the many lessons learned from 2020 is that planning and preparation are good things, according to Dr. Sepi Yalda, Millersville University’s (MU) coordinator for the Master of Science in Emergency Management (MSEM) program. Whether it’s natural disasters or pandemics, proper planning and preparation can save lives.

Dr. Sepi Yalda, coordinator for MSEM.

Now more than ever, to work as a professional in the field of emergency management often requires a formal education. Millersville’s online master’s in Emergency Management program was ranked as one of the 25 best in the country, according to BestMastersPrograms.org, coming in at No. 18 overall.

According to the website, “Students graduating from Millersville University’s graduate degree in emergency management enter the workforce as emergency managers, disaster response technicians, operations coordinators or business development managers. The curriculum includes crisis communication, GIS applications, disaster response, terrorism and theoretical perspectives of emergency management, to name a few.”

For Yalda, the program coordinator, the ranking is a culmination of hard work by all those contributing to the development and offering for a program that began more than a decade ago in 2007.

“The MSEM program was one of the earlier graduate programs in this field,” she said. “There are certainly direct applications of this discipline. A combination of theoretical and practical aspects of this field prepare students to enter the profession and perform at a high level in a broad range of positions.”

Millersville’s online program is 30 credits and designed to be completed in two academic years, but can be completed in a shorter timeframe as some of the courses are offered during the winter and summer sessions. Students in the program come from different academic disciplines and some are at different stages of their professional careers, Yalda said.

Interested students range from backgrounds in crisis communication, the business community and continuity of operations, emergency and disaster planning, emergency response and recovery, among others. This provides a unique opportunity for students to learn from each other based on their academic and professional experiences, Yalda said.

“What we believe is the strength of our program is that we address both the theoretical and practical aspects of emergency management,” she said. “We strive to prepare students for the broad range of career opportunities in the emergency management and related fields.”

The program began with a first cohort of 12 students, and 13 years later, the program has grown to more than 90 students. The fall 2020 semester marked the largest cohort of incoming students, Yalda said.

In addition to the required and a variety of elective courses, students have the opportunity to complete independent studies or research projects with faculty members with a broad range of expertise, Yalda said.

“There’s a lot of learning taking place between our students from each other,” she said. “Depending on the class, we have certain individuals with lots of experience. It’s a form of networking.”

While the online master’s program is 30 credits, Millersville also offers a 15-credit graduate certificate program, “Graduate Certificate in Disaster and Emergency Management.” Two other related programs include a dual degree with the Master of Social Work (MSW) and the new MSEM program with a track in communication with a focus on crisis communication.

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