Day in the Life of HSEM Students

Jacob "JT" Thayer

My name is Jacob “JT” Thayer and I was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. I got started in the Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) program while working as a Firefighter/EMT II at the University Fire Department in 2010. I chose this degree program because of its broad range of education and because I love the emergency response/management field.

Currently, I both work and go to school full-time. This program makes balancing work and school achievable. A lot of the classes offered are available both in class and online. Working full time makes it hard to also have a full class schedule. Having some of the classes available online solved that problem.

A typical day for me, when it comes to class work, involves roughly 3-5 hours of lecture and online class work. Repeating this schedule three days a week, I’m able to complete all the work that’s due and sometimes work ahead. On test weeks the hours spent studying is about 5-7 hours/week on top of normal classwork.

The HSEM classes I have completed taught me more than what I would have ever expected. Many of the classes involve problem solving and critical thinking where there is not always a right or wrong answer, but rather, “What would you do?” The program makes you think outside the box and use class experience to solve problems with situations like terrorist attacks, natural disasters and other modern-day threats.

The key to success in this program (as well in any other college program) is finding balance with school, work and family. It can be very easy to become surrounded in schoolwork; it’s important to have time off from school for work and family time. I do this by limiting the amount of time I spend on school to what I need to get the work done, but I’m not spending all day, every day with school. It’s important to have downtime.

The material I’ve learned in this program has carried over to every job I’ve had since starting the program. Lessons in leadership, training development, planning and other topics can be used in almost every professional field.


Ryan Paskvan

My name is Ryan Paskvan and I am working on my Bachelor of Emergency Management. I first started college thinking I wanted to be a Civil Engineer, but soon realized that was not for me. I took an EMT class and found out that this is what I wanted to do. I completed the associate program in Fire Science and then started working on my lower-level bachelor classes for a year. After one year, I went to Paramedic school and completed that associate program. Now I am in my senior year and still having fun in the path I chose.

What is a normal day for me? I wake up and feed my dog and then get a cup of coffee and read the morning paper. After that, I pack my book bag and head to my morning class. When I return home from my first class I walk my dog and get some food to eat. While I’m eating lunch I get on my computer and find out what is happening in the world. Before I know it, I have to get my stuff ready for my afternoon class and head back to campus. When I get back home, I eat as fast as I can and put my gym clothes on. I will spend about 1.5-3 hours at the gym depending on the day. On the way home from I have to clean two offices - I own a janitorial business. When I get home from work, I take care of my dog again, eat, and then start working on schoolwork for the next day.

I have school four days a week: Monday – Thursday. I work three days a week: Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. I have a lot of good friends at the gym and the people I take classes with are mostly of the same mindset, so they are fun to work with. I spend Sunday trying to get my schoolwork caught up or getting ready for Monday’s classes.

I eventually want to work in the Emergency Services field. Earning my bachelors now will help me succeed later on in my career. I have applied to many fire departments and I’ve been offered positions. While I’ve been tempted to take the positions, I don’t think I would be able to finish my bachelors, which is very important to me.

If you’re thinking about pursing a Bachelor of Emergency Management from UAF, do it. The people are nice and the classes are fun.

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