University Hosts FEMA Conference

FEMA Conference

PHOTO | Madison Starks

Arkansas Tech last week hosted the FEMA Region IV Higher Education Collaborative Summit, a conference aiming to “connect academia and emergency management through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

FEMA Region IV contains 68 Tribal Nations and five states, so attendees of the conference traveled from Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas and Arkansas.

According to Dr. Bethany Swindell, assistant professor of emergency management at Tech, “We [higher education professionals] have phone calls where we network together and discuss topics, trying to advance emergency management in higher education for our next generation of emergency managers. But it has been a couple of years since we have had an actual, physical summit, mostly because of COVID.”

The conference consisted of open discussion forums, with panelists answering questions previously submitted by attendees, along with questions from the audience. Higher education professionals shared their experiences and ideas, and compared notes with representatives from other states. Panelists included professors from universities across the nation, FEMA representatives, and other emergency management professionals.

According to Swindell, “The focus of this conference is diversity, equity, inclusion and access. We want to make sure we are planning for all populations. We are involving all the stakeholders, no matter what backgrounds they come from.”

Attendees of the summit received refreshments and frequent breaks during the day to connect and network with fellow higher education professionals. Several undergraduate and graduate emergency management students were in attendance, many looking for viable networking and professional growth opportunities.

“I am excited for the opportunity to learn more about the subject [emergency management] from multiple different points of view and further my networking capabilities,” John Hiland, an emergency management major from Greenbrier, said.

This year’s Higher Education Collaborative Summit housed 50 in-person attendees and over 200 online attendees. Only one other FEMA region has hosted this type of summit, placing Tech in a leading position for the conversation between emergency management professionals.

The conference was held Sep. 14-15.