$469,000 Homeland Security grant to Jackson State will help target minorities for careers in emergency management, disaster preparedness

(JACKSON, Miss.) — Jackson State University has been awarded a $469,000 interdisciplinary grant from the Department of Homeland Security to prepare underrepresented undergraduate minority students to successfully enter graduate programs or careers in emergency management and/or disaster preparedness, with a STEM emphasis.

The Homeland initiative is called the Community Resilience Engaging Advanced Training and Education (C.R.E.A.T.E.). It involves fields that include computer science and meteorology and atmospheric science. There are also non-STEM fields – psychology and media/communication.

In general, C.R.E.A.T.E. is designed to inform and transform the larger academic community about issues that are relevant to emergency management and/or disaster preparedness.

Dr. Jessica L. Murphy

Dr. Jessica L. Murphy is the principal investigator (PI) for the Homeland grant. She’s a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Industrial Systems and Technology-Emergency Management Tech Program.

Murphy said, “This project at Jackson State University will provide an excellent opportunity to expand the pipeline of talented underrepresented minority students who pursue undergraduate degrees and careers in emergency management/STEM-related fields through interdisciplinary research teams and departments.”

Furthermore, Murphy said, “JSU is uniquely situated to leverage this opportunity because of its standing as one of the leading producers of African Americans receiving baccalaureate and graduate degrees. As social and behavioral science becomes a more important factor in translating STEM-related concepts, JSU has the faculty and programs in place to serve as the foundation for an infrastructure designed to increase interest in the emergency management; behavioral and social sciences; and computer science.”

Murphy said she expects an increase in the number of minorities in the emergency management profession. “The next generation of professionals will then, by their progress, increase capacity of the emergency management level of proficiency with all of whom will help meet the future demand for professionals in their respective fields of study.”

Murphy’s team members:

  • Dr. Dawn Bishop McLin is a co-PI and professor in the Department of Psychology. McLin will conduct research and will provide students with training that will help them enhance the community’s ability to respond, recover and prosper from serious disruption, especially among underserved communities.
  • Dr. April Tanner is a co-PI and computer science faculty member. Her mission is to educate students by combining the fundamentals of computing with the opportunity for more advanced work in computer science; information systems; and computational science.
  • Dr. Diane Groat, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, will help develop courses and curricula pertinent to the Homeland Security Enterprise operation along with research-focused internship opportunities and other programs to advance the capabilities of the institution in the Homeland Security research
  • Don Spann is a faculty member in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies. He will assist in Project C.R.E.A.T.E.’s mission by working with students to incorporate contemporary technologies (e.g. mobile devices and social media platforms) in disseminating disaster information. As well, he will provide effective communication training to ensure messages are properly and accurately delivered to the public.

Bishop McLin said, “Encouraging students of color to pursue these career paths early in education and then fostering environments where they can grow and thrive is essential. COVID-19, the recent ice storm and the water crisis have shown us that these types of programs are needed now more than ever. JSU will serve as the landscape where the seeds are planted, nurtured and cultivated in order to harvest the next generation of emergency management and disaster preparedness professionals who are prepared to strengthen all communities, but especially the vulnerable.”

Overall, the C.R.E.A.T.E. project expects to bring together a diverse group of disciplines that account for computer science; technology; weather forecasting and warning; and disaster preparedness and mitigation. Other elements will consist of effective communication; and behavioral and social sciences to assess the mental and emotional impacts before, during and after a disaster.

Yet, the greatest outcomes of this project, said Murphy, will be a “more educated and prepared communities and a new generation of young minority students inspired to pursue careers in emergency management fields.”

Murphy said, “Encouraging students of color to pursue these career paths early in education and then fostering environments where they can grow and thrive is essential. Hopefully, we can remove the bias and make a concerted investment in attracting people of color, into emergency management/disaster preparedness where we all can benefit.”