Students and Faculty Represent USF COPH at FEMA Symposium


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) held its 17th Annual Emergency Management Higher Education Symposium in June at the National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg, MD. The topic of the symposium was “Moving Us Forward: Blending Higher Education and Experiential Knowledge in Emergency Management.”

USF College of Public Health faculty, Dr. Robert Tabler, Ms. Elizabeth Dunn and Mr. Patrick Gardner, presented on “Next Generation of Disaster Management Experts: A Public Health Approach to Higher Education.”

Eight undergraduate students from the COPH’s community-engaged homeland security and emergency management program and an MPH candidate were accepted as interns for the event. They served as reporters, assisting the higher education program assistant throughout the duration of the symposium.

“The University of South Florida had the largest representation of students in attendance. It was remarkable to hear faculty and practitioners from around the country speak so highly of our students,” Gardner said. “They were impressed with their demeanor, conversations held during breakout session, and their level of professionalism. I hope we can continue to encourage students to attend for years to come.”


From left, top row: Patrick Gardner (instructor), Ms. Elizabeth Dunn (instructor), Michael Jantaworn, Kendall Cappadora, Kayla Saurborn-Brooks, John Dale, Dr. Robert Tabler (instructor). From left, bottom row: Melissa Knight, Katherine Wilson-McCoy, Amelia Gold, Gabriela DeLeon, and Nancy Yoeung.

The primary objective of the symposium was to address the recognized successes and failures in higher education for emergency management programs around the world and learn from emergency response efforts that have occurred over the past year. Faculty, practitioners working in emergency management, and graduate and undergraduate students attended the weeklong event. Topics discussed included disaster medicine, humanitarian relief and homeland security education.

The symposium provided attendees from emergency management programs in the U.S., Canada and Turkey with knowledge of what is viewed as important in an emergency management program, where to find critical resources, opportunities for research in the field, and what practitioners look for in hiring an ideal candidate.

“It was a wonderful learning experience as well as networking opportunity with various people within the field,” student volunteer Katherine Wilson-McCoy said, “I was approached by a woman research scientist from Georgia Tech regarding scholarship opportunities for minority college youth who are interested in emergency management. An internship coordinator from Tallahassee approached many of us about possibly interning with an emergency manager in the upcoming semester. Overall, it was a great opportunity to network and learn.”


From left, Michael Jantaworn, Melissa Knight, Kayla Saurborn-Brooks, Katherine Wilson-McCoy, and Kendall Cappadora show their Bull Spirit after the Opening plenary session and the recognition of student volunteers.

“This experience and hearing these sessions reminded me that it’s my networking and interpersonal skills that will push me to succeed in the field,” student volunteer, Kayla Saurborn-Brooks, said.


From left, COPH undergraduate students Melissa Knight and Kendall Cappadoro, and MPH candidate Nancy Yoeung volunteer with the FEMA Higher Education program team in hosting a successful symposium.

Undergraduate student Michael Jantaworn found this event as an opportunity to see the inner workings of what emergency management entails.

“I could see what it promises presently and in the future,” Jantaworn said. “They touched on educational issues such as gender and minority representation; the call for visibility and recognition of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transvestites (LGBT) dynamics in emergency management was the first time in academia where I saw this mentioned; usually this population is often dismissed. The conference gave me the ability to gauge if a career in emergency management was for me and offered me a chance to look toward the future in pursuing a career in the field.”


Students spent the last couple days exploring Washington, D.C. to mark an end to the group’s adventure.

“Beyond textbooks and lectures, today’s public health students need an opportunity to network, to see the needs in the community first-hand and explore options for their future,” said Elizabeth Dunn, adjust faculty instructor. “These young public health students are our future. Educational tours of our nation’s capital, attending a national conference, gaining advice from those working in the field, and providing a chance to discuss today’s social issues with peers, are extremely important to keep our students inspired to continue to serve our communities and be innovative in their approach toward positive change.”


The students, many of whom were visiting the nation’s capital for the first time, visited historic sites including the White House, American Red Cross Headquarters, Washington Monument, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, World War II Memorial, the reflection pond and Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall, Capitol Hill and the Library of Congress.

Many were visiting our nation’s capitol for the first time; touring familiar sites from popular movie scenes, and being able to identify prominent governmental and non-governmental organizations in the area certainly illustrated the large amount of work that is being done in Washington. Students got to witness street closures as they cleared a path for unmarked cars to zip by on their way to enter the White House –homeland security measures in action. A young protester on hunger strike until Citizen’s United in overturned, an advocate looking toward the proliferation of nuclear weapons; signs highlighting demands for changes in policy.

Some of the students got to visit to the U.S. Capitol which provided an educational tour giving insight into the work that is done by members of the U.S. Senate and the 435 that serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Mention of the laws that passed on Capitol Hill; the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery in 1865, the Child Labor Act of 1916, the Public Health Service Act of 1944, the Marshall Plan Relief for Europe following World War II, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Refugee Act of 1980. All reminders that many of our laws that have come into effect throughout the centuries have been driven by protecting vulnerable populations, improving foreign-policy, providing humanitarian relief, and making positive impacts toward healthy communities.


Carolyn Morales, Catherine Hidalgo-Jara, Melissa Knight, Kendall Cappadora on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

On the second day of the Washington experience, two USF students active in the Disaster and Humanitarian Relief (DAHR) Student Collaborative joined us at the Capitol. Ms. Morales and Ms. Hidalgo-Jara both received scholarships to attend the United Nations Association (UNA-USA) 2015 Annual Meeting from June 7-9. During this meeting UN advocates took the time to examine various issues, from global health to climate change, discussions of grassroots movements and meetings with Congressional staff on Capitol Hill.


FSU student Julia Brunner, Carolyn Morales, USF alumni Milad Abraham, and Catherine Hidalgo-Jara attends the UNA-USA 2015 Annual Meeting in Washington.

“This was not only an educational experience for everyone, but it highlighted leadership qualities among our students, generated continuous dialogue on a range of public health topics, and provided memories that will last a lifetime,” Dunn said.

Link to USF COPH Article


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