Nontraditional Leadership Training for Public Managers: New Educational Programs Expose Working Professionals to the Critical Challenges of Our Time: Emergency Preparedness, Crisis Response, Disaster Management, and Counterterrorism

By Burrell, Darrell Norman | The Public Manager, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

Nontraditional Leadership Training for Public Managers: New Educational Programs Expose Working Professionals to the Critical Challenges of Our Time: Emergency Preparedness, Crisis Response, Disaster Management, and Counterterrorism


Burrell, Darrell Norman, The Public Manager


Natural and human-made disasters challenge public management leadership, exposing the need for preparation beyond traditional academic courses to solve real-time problems in public health and safety. Public managers challenged by such crises are seeing the value of education in complex topics not typically offered by universities, such as emergency preparedness, crisis response, disaster management, and counterterrorism. Several innovative, respected, and regionally accredited institutions have filled this need by providing new, nontraditional options that train executives in these fields.

In late August 2005, the devastating winds and storm surge of Hurricane Katrina severely damaged the Gulf Coast, and on April 16, 2007, a Virginia Tech student went on a shooting rampage on the Blacksburg campus. Both of these tragic events brought worldwide attention to the leadership challenges public managers face related to crisis management and citizen safety. Diseases and other outbreaks-the avian flu, severe acute respiratory syndrome, salmonella, and food poisoning; natural disasters-earthquakes, monsoons, hurricanes, wildfires, and mudslides; and human violence--gang warfare, shootings, and the lasting legacy of the Oklahoma, World Trade Center, and Pentagon terrorist attacks have exposed gaps in our collective knowledge. In the public sector, they are most noticeable between traditional academic preparation and the realities of policy preparation, decision making, and problem solving in the areas of public health and safety at all levels of government.

These threats have created a need for all public managers to expand their knowledge and develop new skills. Leaders with enormous job and family responsibilities are finding that the traditional degree and certificate programs often do not respond to the problems they face.

New Academic Programs

Today's public management crises do not always fit into the knowledge framework historically provided in traditional doctorate and master's programs in public pol icy, public administration, criminal justice, and political affairs. New academic programs that engender diversity of thought in problem solving and decision making in emerging areas are critical, especially as public management and public safety policy studies become more interdisciplinary, ethnically diverse, and global on the federal, state, city, and local levels of government.

As Jennifer Reeger discusses, several innovative and regionally accredited universities have responded to the demands and leadership challenges by offering some nontraditional options that allow practitioners to work full time, fulfill family obligations, and gain critical knowledge from a certificate, master's degree, or doctorate program focused on cutting-edge aspects of crisis management and homeland security. The degree names vary, but, as noted by Sharla Bardin, they expose professional students to critical policy issues in emergency response, disaster management, public health preparedness, and counterterrorism.

Metropolitan State University in Florida

Metropolitan State University in Florida has an online certificate in police supervision designed for police officers in supervisory positions and those who aspire to senior leadership in law enforcement. The program consists of four courses of fourteen credits that can be used toward the completion of a degree. This program--aimed at state and local law enforcement professionals--includes the more complex and technology-driven aspects of law enforcement public management. (Access www.metrostate.edu/slc/policesupervision.html.)

Michigan State University

In light of recent U.S. food poisoning outbreaks involving produce, the government and produce industry are scrambling to respond to concerns and develop expertise and new guidelines on preventing contamination throughout the food chain, from before greens are planted until they reach the dinner table, as described by Linda Johnson. …

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