From Savannah to Safe and Secure


From Savannah to Safe and Secure

Outthink problems. 9/11 changed the way we think about a lot of things. Including emergency management and the need to be proactive and prepared problem solvers.

Terri Clay knew that. And she knew that the next great domestic defenders would need to learn how to keep up with an unpredictable world. That’s why this retired Army Sergeant First Class became a professor in Savannah State’s homeland security and emergency management (HSEM) program.

It’s the first of its kind in Georgia. One of only a handful throughout the country. And the very first in the nation at a historically black college or university (HBCU). This is where Clay wanted to lend her experience. After all, her master’s concentration is in emergency management. And, with the Center for Domestic Preparedness, she trained first responders to handle incidents involving weapons of mass destruction. At Savannah State, Clay uses her real-life knowledge to teach students how to react to threats and scenarios we can’t account for.

Terri Clay

SSU’s interdisciplinary HSEM program is considered one of the most innovative in the country. It teaches students to be creative problem solvers, critical thinkers, and collaborators in day-to-day efforts to reduce risk and vulnerability—and in the face of emergency. By combining homeland security and emergency management, the program pushes students to examine all aspects of a problem to both prevent and prepare. That’s the secret to improving outcomes in a disaster—whether natural or human-made.

Savannah, Georgia’s second-biggest city, is home to one of the fastest-growing U.S. ports. This presents a working lab for homeland security and emergency management students. People, cargo, and ships are constants in the port city. So are the issues—from terrorism to weather—that can impact them.

“The thing I love about homeland security and emergency management is that it’s never static,” says Clay. “We have to keep the coursework alive and relevant. Which means pushing students into experiences. We push them beyond what they think they can do.”

That’s why the HSEM program requires students to intern. They work for the Georgia Ports Authority, with local emergency management and law enforcement, and at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, the American Red Cross, and the National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events. And after graduation, students join forces with places like Gulfstream Aerospace, the Chatham Emergency Management Agency, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, and Booz Allen Hamilton, a major provider of intelligence and defense consulting services to the U.S. government.

“This is the degree of the future. Savannah State has pioneered this program. And we plan on staying one step ahead.” Seriously Impressive.

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