The diva was out of town the past few days, attending the annual Higher Ed Conference, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Lots of issues were discussed and some of them are worth talking about here in the coming days. For more details about the conference, and a list of resources provided by that program, go to this site.
I participated in two sessions, one dealing with the outcome of an invitational workshop on recovery theory, held last Nov. and the other a session on the uses of social media for emergency management. Re the first, the results still are not fully analyzed and documented; the topic remains a difficult one to describe, let alone provide insights and guidance for. (If it were easy, we might have a Recovery Framework by now.)
The applications of social media to EM, a topic that interests lots of people, benefited from an array of panelists representing private, non-profit/humanitarian, and public sector users and promoters. The audience had lots of good questions too. Although this topic was covered in a session at Higher Ed last year, the level of knowledge and sophistication of questions was much higher this year. It’s interesting to be able to observe a significant gain in knowledge and experience in a year.
What was not so positive was the general discomfort and disappointment that many educators expressed privately. From my conversations with many participants, I have some impressions I want to share. My observations of the problems that are bothering people include:
- admission policies for Higher Ed EM programs that are so open that many unqualified students are beginning graduate work inadequately prepared
- inadequately qualified instructors, particularly the adjunct faculty working for for-profit institutions
- lack of standards, certification, criteria for completing advance degrees; and the related concern that not-well-qualified people will be hired for EM operational positions that will require knowledge and skills many graduates do not have
- FEMA is not doing enough to help to show commitment and direction for the Higher Ed program. For example , three key jobs at the EMI are not filled with permanent hires – – Superintendent of EMI, Fire Administrator (political appointee), and Director of the Higher Ed program ( formerly filled by Dr. Wayne Blanchard).
Given the large number of academic institutions offering courses in emergency management — more than 200 — I think the field can be seen as a new frontier. What is unusual, for the emergency management community, is the advent of so many new academic organizations. The relatively new organizations (mostly for-profit, mostly digital operations, and not traditional academic institutions as we know them, seem to be at the heart of most of the major issues. As was true in our own western frontier in the 1800s, some of the new folks in town are somewhat brash, profit-seeking, lawless, and lacking social constraints.
I would be glad to hear from others, whether you do or do not share my concern about the “malaise.” Somehow this condition has come to the forefront this past year.
Please be sure to read the comments to this post; I think they are very worthwhile.