Erika’s first step to learning more about preparing and planning for emergencies came when she enrolled in a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training program, a training that educates volunteers about disaster preparedness while teaching them basic response skills. Quickly, her passion for making communities happy and healthy places drilled down into a focus on making them safe and prepared.
“While I always knew I wanted to be a positive force in communities, I never knew exactly how that would play itself out in my career,” she says. “Growing up in Florida and being aware of the need for hurricane preparedness, I already had a basic emergency management perspective operating inside me. I’d had a ‘go bag’ since college, for instance. So, really, discovering the field through the CERT program sparked something that was already there inside me and immediately made me want to pursue it further.”
After completing the CERT program, Erika began looking for degree programs that could further her education in emergency management. When it came to what she was looking for, she had a definite set of parameters, which included that the program be at a well-known university and that it have a proven faculty. In particular, as someone looking to use the knowledge she would acquire to switch careers, she looked for a program with a strong career services department as well as an excellent job placement record.
“From my research, the UChicago Threat and Response Management program offered everything I wanted,” she says. “And my hunch was completely confirmed when I arrived for classes that first weekend. It was great to connect with my classmates and feel part of a community passionate about the challenge of working to problem solve for the future. I knew I’d found my people.”
“It’s definitely set me on course for my dream job,” Erika adds. “That would involve working and collaborating at the local or state level to heighten awareness and prepare for potential threats and emergencies.”