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Disaster Management FAQs

How did this program start?

The Disaster Management program began at Hesston College in the fall of 2005 as a cooperative venture between Hesston and Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS). With the increase in disasters, and the resulting victimization and economic losses, MDS and other faith-based agencies are recognizing the need for trained leadership in managing disaster response and recovery. Why Hesston College? Hesston College’s mission statement states that we “integrate thought, life, and faith for service to others in the church and the world.” Also, MDS began in Hesston more than 60 years ago when two Sunday School classes met to discuss how they could best serve others.
     Kevin King, executive director of MDS, shared with college officials that he envisioned students coming out of the program who could articulate the MDS mission and knew the organization well, who had passion for helping socially vulnerable people, who could communicate well, who knew something about disaster response, who could help others to broaden their acceptance of people who are different from themselves, who knew the Anabaptist heritage, who could help to resolve conflicts, and who could step into leadership roles. The courses in the Disaster Management program reflect Kevin’s vision.

What makes Hesston College special?

There is no better place for students to spend their first two college years than at Hesston College. At the only two-year institution owned by Mennonite Church USA, students find exciting academic choices, individualized guidance, a Christian heritage, a caring community, and many leadership opportunities. Our nearly 500 students represent more than 25 religious affiliations, 25 states, and 11 countries. The student to faculty ratio is 12 to 1 and the average class size is 15.

What is Mennonite Disaster Service?

Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) is a faith-based agency that responds to disasters by providing volunteer labor for cleanup, repair, and reconstruction of homes. MDS believes that volunteering is a means of touching lives and helping disaster survivors regain faith and wholeness. MDS places special emphasis on helping low-income families, single parents, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

What different options are available for the Disaster Management students at Hesston?

Most students who enter the Disaster Management Program at Hesston will receive the associate of arts (A.A.) degree, and will transfer to a four-year school. We also offer a two-year associate of applied arts and sciences (A.A.A.S.) degree.

What scholarships are available?

Up to $3,000 per year will be made available for eligible students enrolled in the Disaster Management program.

What courses are required for an A.A. degree?

This course of study will meet most general education transfer requirements of undergraduate programs. It will also meet basic requirements in baccalaureate disaster management programs across the country.
     General education requirements are: College Writing I, Biblical Literature, College Orientation/Success, Speech Communication, two social science courses (choice), two natural science courses (choice), Fitness Concepts, Introduction to Computers (if needed), two history or humanities courses (choice), Hesston College distinctive course (choice), and mathematics course (choice).
     Disaster management and related course requirements include: Introduction to Disaster Response; MDS Culture I, II, III, and IV;  Conflict Resolution, First Aid, one sociology course from the following list-Introduction to Social Welfare, Social Diversity, The Helping Relationship; Disaster Management Leadership Development; Exploring Business, Personal Finance or Financial Accounting; 8-week Summer Field Experience after the first year; and 8-week Summer Internship after the second year.

What kinds of things will students learn about and do in the MDS Culture classes?

In MDS Culture I, students will learn about the history of MDS, the workings of the organization, the roles of volunteers and staff, planning a project, identifying clients, relating to disaster survivors, working with long-term recovery committees, the phases of response and recovery, and relating to other disaster response agencies. As part of MDS Culture II, the class will learn construction basics. MDS Culture III involves reviewing case studies in disaster response and recovery. As part of MDS Culture IV, students will attend the MDS All-Unit Meeting and complete a project.
     The students also participate in local service projects during the school year, such as cleaning up branches after a windstorm or fixing up a house of a low-income person.

What will the students do in summer field assignments?

In the eight-week Summer Field Experience (after students’ first year of study), students learn about the many phases of an MDS project site on an active MDS site. After their second year at Hesston, students serve 8-week Summer Internships with MDS or another disaster recovery organization.

What majors at a four-year college would build on the Hesston College Disaster Management program?

One option is to pursue a Disaster Management Degree from a four-year college or university. This is a relatively new field, but the number of schools offering the major is growing. University of North Texas, Arkansas Tech, and the University of Akron (Ohio) are a few universities that have excellent undergraduate programs. Other majors that complement the DM program are social work, sociology, political science, public administration, geography, psychology, international relations, business, and mass communications.

What jobs are available in the disaster management field?

The disaster management field is growing rapidly, and many jobs are available now, with new jobs being developed. Local emergency managers, social workers, psychologists, EMTs, mass care workers, case managers, damage assessors, building and repair contractors, professors, volunteer trainers, counselors, and researchers are needed.
     Agencies like FEMA, Red Cross, and Salvation Army need workers, as do faith-based agencies like MDS, Church World Service, Lutheran Disaster Response, and United Methodist Committee on Relief. Many businesses are hiring disaster planners. Insurance companies need people with disaster management experience. College professors with disaster management backgrounds are needed to fill positions in this growing field.

How can students serve with MDS after they get degrees?

A term of service as a long-term volunteer (two to six months) right after college is an option. The opportunity to serve as a project director or long-term volunteer may come along at some point in students’ lives. Some jobs or careers might allow for a period of time to do some short- or long-term volunteer work. Some students may end up as regional directors, unit coordinators, or as church contact people. Our hope is that everyone will become long-term supporters of the work of MDS.

What if students transfer to a college after Hesston and pursue a degree not related to disaster management? Is there still benefit in going through the program at Hesston?

Most of the classes taken at Hesston will transfer to a four-year school, either directly or as electives. Students will have a good foundation of classes that will serve them well regardless of the professions they choose. Courses in the fields of communication, sociology, and religion, as well as others, will stay with the students throughout their lives. This program is an excellent way to serve others while getting a quality education at the same time. Students’ experiences during these two years will prepare them for a lifetime of service to others in the name of Christ.