By Brian Benedetti, Director of Marketing & Communications
Pierce College is playing a role in helping to keep the people in small south Asian countries safer the next time they face a natural disaster such as 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Over the past two years, The Homeland Security Emergency Management program has graduated two stellar students from Indonesia, a country hit hard by the tsunami, and launched them in the field in their home countries.
The homeland security program is looking to attract more such students and has been working on a partnership with the International Education program.
“It just seemed like a natural fit for many of their students, particularly those coming from Southeast Asia,” said Linda Crerar, who until July was coordinator for the Homeland Security Emergency Management degree program, plus director of the Homeland Security Management Center of Excellence. Now her sole job is heading up the Center of Excellence.
The two students who graduated from the program, Yoga Putra and Sosi Kristiani, both worked in internships here, then returned to Indonesia to jobs.
Kristiani worked for the Indonesian government for a year, but has returned to the states this academic year to attend Yale University, Crerar said.
Putra, who finished at Pierce in June, is working as a project assistant at the International Organization for Migration in Bandung, West Java.
In an email to Crerar, he wrote: “Our project’s goal is to increase the public awareness regarding the Disaster Risk Reduction campaign as part of IOM’s international mission in responding the displacement/migration issues induced by natural/manmade disasters.
He wrote that in addition to handling public information tasks, “I am also learning how to manage a project related to emergency/disaster management. It is challenging, but not so difficult as I have learned a lot about mitigation, preparedness, emergency response, and recovery in Pierce College.”
Crerar hopes the homeland security program can help train more international students to work in emergency and disaster programs in their countries, particularly those coming from Southeast Asia.
“Those countries don’t have a culture of preparing themselves to respond and recover from disaster,” she said.
Japan has always been prepared, she said, but Pierce is serving students from other countries, such as Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and India, that could benefit from having more people trained in emergency management.
Both of the Indonesian students were fine scholars and highly valued interns, Crerar said.
“They both had good writing and communication skills,” Crerar said. “They were net savvy, web savvy. They could tweet, use Facebook, all the communications tools that we are using more and more in emergency management.”
Homeland Security Emergency Management at Pierce is an online degree program that offers either a two-year Associate of Arts degree or a 26-credit certificate. In addition to the online coursework, the program includes five-credits of work-based experience.
The associate degree program covers topics including communication and decision-making, hazard identification, risk assessment, natural disasters, terrorism, preparedness, mitigation, response, recovery, planning for diverse populations, ethical and legal issues, information management, policy and procedure development.
“The HSEM degree program is now the first fully online degree program to start offering the program at other colleges throughout the state,” Crerar said. Pierce has agreements with Lower Columbia College, Peninsula College, Skagit Valley College and agreements in the works with Renton Technical College, Bellevue College and Edmonds Community College.
“We plan on having this program offered statewide by spring of next year. The State Board sees this as a very innovative and effective way to deliver a specialized degree program to any student in our state,” Crerar said.
And of course, not just students from Washington.
The two Indonesian students lived in the state while completing the program and left an impact.
Both worked as interns for the Washington State Emergency Management Division. And they both helped the agency modernize its website. They also both worked to help plan for The Great Washington ShakeOut. Kristiani worked on the first ShakeOut held in 2012. Putra helped plan this year’s, set for Thursday, Oct. 17.
People statewide, including at Pierce College, will practice how to drop, cover and hold at 10:17 a.m. during the earthquake drill.
Putra attended Pierce through a State Department program that funds young people from around the world to come to the United States. He already had a degree in communications when he arrived and had been working as a public information officer.
Putra also worked as an intern for Crerar in the Homeland Security Management Center of Excellence. The center was established by the state Legislature in 2009 to be a liaison between community colleges and industry to help develop curriculum to provide a skilled security workforce to the business sector. The center also works to enhance the safety of campus communities.
In that job, Putra taught a personal preparedness program for students. He also did the graphics and program, plus handled the media for a statewide Summit the Center for Excellence held in June.