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MVNU plans Emergency Management & Homeland Security major starting in 2021

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — Both traditional and adult students wishing to follow their call to help others have a new opportunity through Mount Vernon Nazarene University. The Emergency Management & Homeland Security programs will prepare students for 21st Century emergency management while earning a degree, industry certifications and experience — all through a Christian lens.

Thad Hicks, Ph.D., CEM, and Eric Stetler, Vice President for Graduate and Professional Studies and Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies, have developed the new degree programs at MVNU. They provide an overview of theoretical and practical concepts involving crime mitigation, human behavior, infrastructure and disaster planning. It will explore disaster preparedness policies while taking a holistic approach to public safety, analyzing risk assessment, civilian and staff management, as well as cultural factors, and help students develop strong communication, leadership and emergency management skills.

“To have a trained individual who’s approaching these emergencies and crises, especially with a Christian worldview,” said Hicks.  “I think it makes us better and more equipped to respond to whatever we encounter, whether it be man-made or naturally occurring. The student coming out of MVNU is going to have been presented with the skill set to be successful.”

The program was designed for students new to the field as well as public safety professionals who are looking to upgrade their competencies and skills. Both traditional and adult students will be prepared to make decisions, problem solve, plan, implement, and coordinate resources necessary for preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery from possible disasters.  

Emergency management has evolved over the years since the United States developed the Federal Civil Defense Administration in the 1950s. No longer is it all about protecting citizens from an attack from an outside country, it’s also about protecting people during both man-made and naturally occurring disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes and even viruses like that seen in 2020.

“It’s unfortunate that it takes these sorts of national crises to highlight the work of emergency management, but I am convinced if the emergency management function was not present, this could have been a lot worse,” said Hicks. “It’s amazing to think that if the emergency management piece wasn’t there, this thing would go off the rails even more than it already has.”

Hicks brings to this program experience in both emergency management and criminal justice fields. He has worked as a police officer in Mansfield, Marysville and Circleville, and was director of emergency disaster services for The Salvation Army. Hicks also developed and directed the emergency management and disaster management program at Ohio Christian University for more than 10 years.

It’s a thirst for knowledge that’s helped lead Hicks down several paths before finally discovering his true calling. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Ashland University after spending several years as a police officer. He went on to work as a trainer and consultant for Conflict Analysis and Intervention Group. It was that work that made him realize the impact he could have on people using his skills developed as a police officer, Salvation Army volunteer and the training he received after Sept. 11, 2001.

“I had the beginnings of a skillset I could use to help people around the globe,” he said. “I will try to bring to Mount Vernon that 25 years’ worth of experience, honed down.”

The program will help students get good jobs, whether it be in government, the private sector and even non-profits. Hicks said many companies are now using emergency management ideas and missionaries can help others in need with those same skills.

“In my opinion, there’s not a better vehicle for Christian mission out there than emergency management/crisis management,” Hicks said. “I’ve done a lot of work in the Middle East and North Africa, where if I said, ‘I’m coming here to carry the message of Jesus,’ they’d turn me around and put me on a plane. I’ve been invited into many of these countries because I’m bringing in a skill that they’re lacking or trying to perfect.”

Coming to MVNU and creating this new program is special to Hicks, who grew up a Nazarene and whose wife, Sarah (Jacobs) Hicks, is a 2011 graduate of MVNU.

“The opportunity to come to Mount Vernon and work and train here, I’m very excited about it. We don’t want this to be just a Christian version of emergency management. We want an emergency management program that happens to be viewed through Christian lenses,” he said. “I honestly believe my identity as a Christian makes me better at this. For me as a Christian, this is a calling and a commandment of Jesus.”

For more information on the traditional program which will begin Fall 2021, visit mvnu.edu/emergencymanagement to learn more about the online Bachelor of Art in Emergency Management & Homeland Security, with classes starting in March 2021, visit mvnu.edu/gps/undergraduateprograms/bachelor-emergency-management-homeland-security.

Mount Vernon Nazarene University is a private, four-year, intentionally Christian teaching university for traditional age students, graduate students, and working adults. With a 327-acre main campus in Mount Vernon, Ohio, MVNU emphasizes academic excellence, spiritual growth, and service to community and church. MVNU offers an affordable education both in-seat and online to more than 2,100 students from 42 states and 9 foreign countries.

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