Town & Gown: JSU’s first doctoral degree – 12 months of success
This article was written by Emil Loeken, a graduate assistant in the Jacksonville State University Office of Public Relations

In December 2010, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools cleared the way for Jacksonville State University to offer its first doctoral degree, the Doctor of Science in Emergency Management.

In fall 2011, the first students entered the program, which provides emergency management senior officials, practitioners, and educators the advanced skills and knowledge needed to address the significant challenges associated with 21st century hazards.

According to Dr. Jane Kushma, associate professor and director of doctoral program, the doctoral degree in Emergency Management provides the focused interdisciplinary and comprehensive analysis and applied research necessary for the complex work associated with emergency management.

Emergency management doctoral students carry out advanced study in three main areas: emergency management administration and policy; research methods and statistics; and a substantive area of specialization such as emergency preparedness or disaster recovery.

During the first year of the doctoral program, students begin to explore their research interests that will eventually lead them to a dissertation topic. “One highlight from the past year was the participation by two of the doctoral students, John Fenn and Scott Manning, in a session at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Higher Education Conference entitled ‘Generating Meaningful Research Questions: An Academic/Practitioner Collaboration,’” said Dr. Kushma.

The first week in August, students from the first year’s cohort as well as twelve new students gathered to share experiences and collaborate in a five-day Emergency Management Integrative Seminar at the Houston Cole Library.

The integrative seminars are offered during the first three years of the doctoral program. The seminars include an annual on-campus workshop in addition to online interactions throughout the academic year.

“The seminars are centered on developing the professional skills of doctoral students, and assisting students to deal with traditional challenges of doctoral level work,” Dr. Kushma said.

“Students report that the intensive engagement during the seminar helps to jumpstart getting to know each other as well as the faculty, and is a very positive way to kick off the academic year.”

According to Dr. Jeff Ryan, Emergency Management Department Head, the JSU Emergency Management Integrative Seminar assembles an excellent group of guest speakers.

“We had a number of dynamic activities for the students to participate in. It was a great week for both the students and our faculty,” Dr. Ryan said.

Doctoral student Leonard Peterson believes the seminar plays a very important role in the program.

According to Peterson, students have an excellent opportunity to listen to emergency management practitioners and learn from researchers’ experiences and knowledge in a variety of topics.

“The seminars give the students an opportunity to interact with each other in person, which fosters stronger bonds between the cohort members,” Peterson said. “In many ways, my cohort feels like my ‘other’ family! I suspect that I have developed friendships that will last for the rest of my life.”

JSU is proud to share that the first year of its doctorate in Emergency Management was a huge success.

If you are interested in the program or want more information, please visit
© 2012