News @ the Beach

Couple Prepares New Generation Of Emergency Professionals

Cal State Long Beach faculty members Steve Jensen and Shirley Feldmann-Jensen fully realize they can’t prevent disasters from occurring. What they can do, however, is help train what they refer to as the “new generation” of emergency preparedness professionals.

Steve Jensen, on the nozzle at the front, during a crash training at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

“I’d been told that in the first third of your career, you learn what you are doing, the second third you are out there practicing and the last third you want to be giving back, so that’s what we’re doing now,” said Jensen, who was a firefighter and emergency manager for 30 years before moving into academia. “We’ve transitioned out of field work and now we are training people to deal with the problems we are likely to encounter in the future. We need to do this more effectively.”

The couple head up the Master of Science in Emergency Services Administration (EMER) program at CSULB. Under the College of Health and Human Services, the graduate program is run through the College of Continuing and Professional Education and is interdisciplinary by design, meaning it’s developed by faculty experts from departments across campus.

Conducted entirely online, the EMER program is able to draw individuals from all over the world, most being professionals already in the field and looking to improve their skills.

“Our students come from a wide range of places, but most are from California,” said Feldmann-Jensen, who has spent her career as a public health professional. “It enables people who are leaders in emergency management in other jurisdictions to advance their education and become even better leaders. Most are mid-career professionals already in the field and they want to move up to that next step.”

Another plus of the online course is that it allows students the schedule flexibility many need to juggle careers and/or family while pursuing their degree.

“We can take a student farther in an online environment than in a classroom,” added Feldmann-Jensen. “Nobody can hide online. Everybody has to respond and that forces them to participate. It’s the way the students interact that really makes a difference and creates better learning.”

This fall, 10 faculty members are set to teach the 60 students who have been admitted to the program, a number way up from last year’s enrollment. Jensen’s goal is to eventually have 1,000 students, with half of those being international.

“This material is needed out there and it’s really needed internationally,” he said. “If we can get half our growth internationally, that would be fantastic, but we want slow and measured growth. The things we teach are so important to where our world is moving that we need to get a deeper understanding of disasters out there.”

The EMER program has two major purposes—to provide an understanding of the management of emergency services with an emphasis on the roles and job expectations of public safety professionals and emergency managers; and to prepare students for leadership roles in emergencies and disasters by stressing independent research, exposure to experts, practical experiences, communications and writing skills.

Jensen has worked in refugee camps in Southeast Asia for the United Nations, and later moved to New Zealand to develop programs that guide emergency management and disaster work. Feldmann-Jensen has worked on many public health projects over the years, including at the Ministry of Health in New Zealand. Both feel the crossover in their expertise is beneficial to not only one another, but to students as well.

“Things he may understand from earthquakes and the responses to earthquakes have a lot of information that affect other things that I’m interested in,” said Feldmann-Jensen, “especially at the policy level. And I bring a lot of things from the public health side that may have a lot of influence on where the new field of emergency management goes.”

Now focusing on the academic side of their careers more than ever, each is excited about the opportunity to pass along their knowledge to the new generation.

“We’re getting younger people who are interested in this as a profession and are trying to understand the nuts and bolts of how all this works,” said Jensen. “Our job is to develop a new generation of leaders who understand how to make good policy and, when something does happen, they are able to jump in and get things done.”

The program requires the satisfactory completion of 33 units of approved graduate courses, including a couple entitled “Risk, Crisis, and Inter-Agency Communications” and “Emergency Management Leadership Across the Megacommunity.” Those courses in particular touch on the importance of working and coordinating with outside organizations, which may be the single most important factor to assure success.

“As a university we should see ourselves as assets that need to be ready to help the other agencies if something happens,” said Jensen. “It doesn’t matter what our profession is, there are ways we can get out there and help the city. We should be able to do that as fast as we can. That means having an extra level of preparedness and seeing ourselves as a responder.

“As a university, we’re committed to community service,” he added, “so we need to think about how we can make the most of the assets we have on campus, particularly the rich intellectual capital that can help the wider community make sense out of the complex circumstances that can conspire to create a disaster.”

Learn more about the EMER program on its website.

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Cal State Long Beach Student Receives Prestigious CSU Trustees Award

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) student Lita Melissa Cahuana of Whittier will receive the California State University (CSU) Foundation Board of Governor’s Scholarship. She will be honored at the Sept. 9 CSU Board of Trustees meeting.

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“I truly believe even just a small amount of peer guidance can go a long way,” she said after being notified of the award.

One student from each of the 23 CSU campuses annually receive one of these CSU Trustees’ Awards, which are among the highest student distinctions within the CSU with each recipient demonstrating superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service and financial need. Each Trustees Award is accompanied by a scholarship of $6,000 to $12,000.

“The compelling life stories of these extraordinary student scholars are a testament to the transformative power of public higher education,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. “Through the generous support of our donors, many of whom are first-time contributors to the Trustees’ Award program, we are able to help these scholars create a bright and successful future.”

Cahuana with and her family migrated from Peru to the United States in the pursuit of the American Dream. The struggles her family experienced due to their low socio-economic status instilled a passion in her to pursue higher education in the hopes of being able to provide a better future.

She is a first-generation CSULB senior majoring in chemical engineering with minors in environmental engineering and chemistry. Serving as vice president for Society of Women Engineers, Cahuana has conducted the annual outreach program, Women Engineers at The Beach, which encourages young girls from various backgrounds to strive for careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. As a CSULB President’s Scholar and Hispanic Serving Institution STEM Peer Mentor, she has led campus tours, volunteered for the Long Beach Homeless Drop-In Center and tutored students in subjects ranging from calculus to organic chemistry.

Having worked as a process engineering intern for Tesoro Corporation, Cahuana plans to pursue a career in the same field with a focus in energy research and obtain an MBA.

In 2011, the CSU Foundation board committed to enhancing the value of the CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement. Board Chair Ronald R. Barhorst generously stepped forward to inaugurate the effort with sponsorship of a $6,000 CSU Foundation Board of Governors’ Scholar. The scholar exemplifies significant achievement both academically and in service to community.

Through donor support, this scholarship program gives students who have faced educational barriers a chance to pursue a college degree, and use their life experience and classroom knowledge to affect social change in the world.  The Trustees’ Award program began nearly three decades ago with scholarships endowed by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. More than 250 scholarships have been awarded since the William Randolph Hearst Foundation initiated its endowment in 1984 to help high achieving students who have overcome adversity. Past honorees have gone on to attend prestigious graduate programs and even to serve on the CSU Board of Trustees. CSU Trustees’ Scholars are nominated by their respective campus presidents and are selected for designated awards by a committee formed by the CSU Foundation.

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Cal State Long Beach Professor Receives $250,000 Grant to Study Brushfires

Cal State Long Beach Geography Professor Chair Paul Laris’ experience with burning brush recently the Northwest African country Mali earned him a $250,000 grant running through February 2016 from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant supports Laris’ research into “Coupling Burning Practices, Vegetation Cover Change and Fire Regimes to Determine Fire-Emission Dynamics.”

Brushfire

“I’m pleased to receive this grant because one of the things the NSF is interested in are fire emissions as they relate to climate change and global warming,” Laris said. “My first interest was in the human side of the burning practices that cover the Mali savannah every year. Now, I am trying to understand natural systems and the impact on those systems by humans.”

The goal of Laris’ study is the emission levels of smoke and gas emissions from the southern Mali fires.

“The big issue is the savannah,” he said. “The African savannah is so large that even small errors about the levels of emissions can balloon into really large numbers. In southern Mali about 50 percent of the savannah landscape burns every year and current estimates of emissions may be off by as much as 40 percent.”

Laris studies Mali because he has more than 10 years’ experience there. He has established contacts with experts there in fire and forestry research. His current team includes a geographer from Ivory Coast, a geographer fire ecologist from Mali, CSULB department of geography’s GIS expert Suzanne Wechsler and graduate students from Iran and South Korea.

Survey techniques range from face-to-face interviews with the farmers to satellite image analysis. “Our basic research has two components,” he explained. “One is when we go out in the field and set test fires. We hold a long tube right in the flames to pull out emissions and get readings for carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide. We are measuring emissions right on the spot which I don’t think anyone else is doing.”

“There are early, middle and late periods in the Mali fire season,” he explained. “The early fires begin in November, the middle fires are in January and the late fires arrive in February. We set around two dozen test fires and collect the data. Each fire period burns a different vegetation and we hoping to determine exactly what burns when. Plus, we hope to bring to campus in January some of our Mali colleagues to conduct a workshop where they can present their data and its analysis.”

Laris’ research analyzes how fires spread and how they can be managed.

“Our data can show how the fire affects a particular area at particular times of year,” he said. “We discuss what is good about the fires and what is bad about their management. We are hoping for new ideas about experimental firefighting techniques. But the most relevant part of our research, as far as it relates outside of Mali, is trying to understand the amount of emissions. Africa is the continent that burns the most. It is the biggest contributor. It is interesting to compare outcomes between California and Mali.”

An early finding of Laris’ research was mildly shocking to his Mali colleagues.

“I don’t see the Mali burning as entirely negative,” he said. “It is only recently that a more positive view has been taken. Some burning is good and some is bad. Everyone worries about the changing global weather but I am not convinced that the fires in the West African savannah are effected that much, since fires are a largely a human driven phenomenon.”

Laris feels one reason the NSF recognized his research is the length and level of his experience, worked for 10 years with an integrated team of Africans and Americans. For instance, one study performed on Ivory Coast produced figures that are still used in calculations 20 years later. Also, his research has drawn support from several sources including the National Geographic Society.

“What was nice about the National Geographic grant was the seed money it provided to start my research,” he said. “They gave me a camera which I took out into the field. I got up close and personal with fire. I grew up near fire in Southern California and my mother’s house burned in a Santa Barbara fire. I feel I have a close relationship with fire.”

He said feedback has been positive, and that the people of southern Mali definitely want to understand fire better.

“They are growing different crops and they know they must farm differently. They recognize Mali is a place of serious droughts. They understand there is something called climate change. I think the people of Mali understand that what we’re trying to do is to see the bigger picture. They’re willing to help. But their main interest is how our research will help Mali,” said Laris.

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Emergency Preparedness Committee Created

Preparing the Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) campus for an emergency is Jon Rosene’s main job.

To help with that mission, a new emergency management advisory committee has been created. That committee, which currently includes 33 individuals from across campus, will meet on a quarterly basis and oversee the creation and implementation of a strategic five-year emergency preparedness plan.

Volunteers at the active shooter drill at CSULB on Aug. 13, 2013.

“We have a three-year set of goals for emergency preparedness for the campus that were set in 2013,” said Rosene, the Emergency Management and Preparedness Coordinator at CSULB. “One of those goals was to create this emergency management advisory committee that would create a five-year strategic plan for the university, specifically for emergency preparedness. We’ve gone through many phases of seeing how the committee is going to be represented in an effort to make sure every area of campus is covered.”

As for any head of an organization, safety should be a top priority, and for CSULB President Jane Close Conoley, it’s no different.

“Our very first priority is the safety of our students, staff and faculty,” said Conoley. “The campus has a comprehensive plan to deal with natural and person-made disasters and threats. Our police, student services, academic leadership and health professionals are closely aligned to coordinate services. Our primary focus is, of course, prevention. We practice regularly to be sure we are ready to react to any threat and review the safety of our built environment regularly.”

Under University Police, the committee will serve as an overall university function in an effort to get more people involved and keep them informed.

“This committee is a crucial part of our emergency preparedness planning for this campus,” said CSULB Police Chief Fernando Solorzano, who serves as committee chair. “This cannot be a one department effort. The more individuals from across campus we get involved, the better it will be for everyone if and when we ever have an incident of some kind.”

Rosene will be spearheading much of the effort, collaborating with different individuals and having side meetings to get everyone up to speed. Every building on campus has a unique set of circumstances, whether it contains chemicals, is a child center, has 10 floors, is an office or contains classrooms, so coordination among all parties is key.

“Everyone knows what their piece of the puzzle is, but they may not see the whole picture,” said Rosene. “The idea of this committee is to create a baseline for saying, ‘This is where we are and this is where we’d like to go.’ It’s an effort to get everyone on the same page, so to speak. It is a large venture to do this, but I think it’s the right step.”

He also noted the incredible wealth of faculty members who are experts in their field, a group he wants the committee to tap into.

“They have done incredible research in their fields, so why wouldn’t we want to take advantage of those researchers, those faculty and the experience they have to assist us in our operations?” he said. “In order for us to get better we really have to bridge the academic side so one of the goals of this committee is to utilize the experts we have here at the university.”

According to Rosene, a lot of areas of emergency management requirements are already defined by local, state and federal governments in regards to how institutions become prepared.

“In order to fulfill those various requirements, we need all the stakeholders involved,” he said. “For us, it ranges from our facilities management people to housing, to Information Technology Services, our police department, our student health center, the counseling and psychological services and human resources, budgeting and finance and public affairs. We want faculty and student representation and there are others whose voices need to be heard so they need to be part of the planning.”

One of the first goals is to complete a threat and hazard identification and risk assessment which will be done by identifying the threats and hazards which have historically been experienced and have the most likelihood of occurring at CSULB and surrounding areas. Once that venture is complete, then strategic plans, including the planning and training aspects, will be developed.

“We have to trust the people with their training and experience and the tools they have in an emergency or disaster,” said Rosene. “I strongly believe that the leaders in management and those who are responsible for responding to disasters on campus are fully prepared today, but I think this committee is going to allow us to have a more efficient effort, particularly in the recovery process.

“We need the policy support for something like this to get done and we have it,” he added. “The university is fortunate to have an administration that is for emergency preparedness and pushing this forward.”

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