Northwest Missouri State University began offering a new major this semester that appears to be a winner with both current and prospective students.
The comprehensive crisis response program, available as a minor for the last four years, has now expanded into a full undergraduate degree offering.
Using a mix of new and existing courses related to several different disciplines, the CCR degree prepares individuals for all aspects of properly handling catastrophic events.
Some of the subject areas involved include geography, psychology, government and history.
The first tier of study concerns emergency management preparedness, in essence being ready when the disaster hits. It also includes a disaster response relief component.
Secondly, students learn about humanitarian relief, including how to deal with the psychological effects on victims.
The third step is homeland security and defense, in which students develop an understanding of government practices and delve further into psychology and history.
In just four years, 90 students have minored in CCR. Since the program gained status as a major in August, 20 more students have signed on.
Mark Corson, professor and chair of the university's geography department, is one of the instructors in the program. He pointed out the distinction between what the major teaches and what many would expect from such a program.
"We are not turning out police or firefighters," Corson said. "We are turning out management-type individuals with a broadly-based skill set."
Corson said that because of the inter-disciplinary nature of the degree, it has many applications in today's world.
For instance, he said many insurance agencies have expressed interest in the program. Corson said that agencies are beginning to recognize the value of having agents trained not only to sell but to deal with disasters.
"This is really hands-on," Corson said. "We have field exercises and a lot of training. It is beyond education."
In the past, students have traveled to Florida for a four-day field exercise, but the trip is on hold currently.
An exercise is in the works for next year involving local emergency management officials, law officers and students at the Mozingo Outdoor Education and Recreation Area.
Such operations, Corson said, help students ready themselves by practicing the skills they will need in the event of a real calamity.
Last year, the program purchased a CCR trailer similar to the kind of facility that would be used in the field by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Designed to handle many types of disasters, the trailer doubles as a mobile command center and is equipped with a professional radio suite.
Corson and other instructors are seeing increased interest in emergency management as an academic discipline.
"We are really excited about the growth," Corson said. "We went from zero students four years ago to 90."