In between putting out fires near his San Diego station, this Fire Chief recently earned his Masters of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Crown Online.
What does a Fire Chief do?
I am ultimately responsible for all of the activities and performance for the fire department including fire prevention, fire suppression, and emergency medical services.
In addition to my local role, I am also an officer of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the professional association for chief fire officers around the world. I have served on the IAFC Board of Directors since 2007 and I am currently the 1st Vice President. I am scheduled to become President and Chairman of the Board of the 13,000 member organization in August, 2013.
How did your Masters in Organizational Leadership help you in your professional career?
A Masters degree is becoming the norm for Fire Chiefs in the United States. As I progressed in my career, I knew that continuing my education was essential. However, the demanding and unpredictable work schedule of the fire service made it extremely difficult to participate in traditional, classroom-based education. So the distance-learning model enabled me to complete a degree that would have otherwise been nearly impossible. In addition, the typical fire service-related degree program is more about putting fires out than it is about leading organizations. As a fire chief, I can’t remember the last time I squirted water at a fire. Instead, my daily job is as the CEO of a medium-sized business with all of the challenges that go with that responsibility. I needed an educational program that would prepare me to lead. Finally, while there are lots of management/leadership programs out there, I was seeking one that would blend my career with my faith. The biblical perspective at the core of the Organizational Leadership program helped me to develop the ability to lead in such a way that I don’t find my leadership role and my faith in conflict.
My Crown education has helped me to lead my fire department through the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression with NO layoffs, NO fire station closures, NO reducation in emergency services in our community at a time when many other fire departments around us were being decimated by the failing economy. It gave me the skills and knowledge to maintain positive relationships with all three of the labor organizations representing fire department employees. It has given me the critical thinking skills and communications skills to be effective in an environment where many other fire service leaders are struggling.
My Crown education has also allowed me to give back to my profession by teaching in an online undergraduate degree program. I could not teach without the Masters degree and the fact that I am an experienced online student makes me a much more effective online faculty member. I have been in the seat where my students are sitting and I know what works and doesn’t work from their perspective.
Outside of my local department, my Crown education has also enabled me to become a successful leader in my profession at the national and international level. I achieved Chief Fire Officer designation awarded by the Center for Public Safety Excellence – I am one of fewer than 700 chief officers worldwide to achieve the recognition. I have also risen in leadership positions within the International Association of Fire Chiefs and will serve as the organization’s President from August 2013 to August 2014. The global, big-picture perspective provided by my Crown education has enable me to be an effective leader not just at home, but around the world.
Before enrolling, did you have any hesitations or reservations about online education?
I knew that the online approach was a good way to deal with the schedule-unpredictability of my occupation, but I was concerned about two things as I embarked on the Masters program at Crown. The first concern was workload. I knew how hard I worked while completeing my BS online and I was concerned that a Masters-level program might push the academic workload beyond what I could manage while doing my very demanding job. I overcame this concern by going in with the attitude that I WOULD make it work. Not that I would ‘try’, but that I would do it. And by being very disciplined and conscientious, I was able to get it done.
I also found the Crown faculty to be very helpful. For example, during the Fall of 2007, I was sitting at home, working on a major paper for a Crown class, when the Firestorm of 2007 here in Southern California began. Over the next few days, nearly 2,000 homes were destroyed in our area and our entire community was evacuated. I initially thought that I would need to drop out of classes that semester to focus on work, but I found that by maintaining good communication with the professors, we were able to work out a plan that allowed me to continue my education during the most professionally challenging time in my career. If I could keep up during a disaster like that, anyone should be able to make this work.
My second concern was the credibility of the education. For many folks, the idea of online education brings up visions of diploma mills where the degree you receive is determined by the size of the check you write – not by the academic rigor of the program or the quality of your work. The fact that Crown is a regionally accredited college means that my degree is fully recognized at every turn and is viewed with the same perspective as an classroom-based degree in any reputable educational institution.
What was the most positive feature of your online experience?
The most positive feature of the online experience was my ability to receive real, valid, credible, and immediately applicable education in a way that allowed me to effectively balance work, education, and family – not to mention a professional schedule that is extraordinarily demanding and unpredictable.
What advice would you give to a prospective student who is considering Crown Online?
Go for it! Crown has built an academic program that is perfect for the professional, working, Christian adult learner. You will receive real, credible, immediately applicable education from quality faculty; delivered using up-to-date technology; with the added benefit of a solid basis in the Christian faith. Believe me, I did a lot of research before and I continue to follow the education industry as I mentor the young men and women in my fire department and I don’t know of another college that is able to better blend all of these factors.