College of Social Science and Public Policy students recently got a rare opportunity to talk to a recent alumni about opportunities and successes in her new career. Bridget Joyner graduated in Fall 2016, and immediately went to work for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Bridget discovered her passion for emergency and disaster management while taking courses in the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Program, and worked hard to gain valuable internships and experience before graduating.
Prior to graduation, Bridget was active in the FSU student chapter of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), and interned in the State Watch Office in the Florida Division of Emergency Management. She leveraged her internship experience into a full-time position with the Division of Emergency Management which she held until her graduation. Upon her graduation, Bridget accepted a position with FEMA, working on recovery programs and integration of unmanned aircraft systems into Air Operations.
When Hurricane Irma threatened the Caribbean, Bridget’s experience and education were a huge benefit, and she was deployed by FEMA to Puerto Rico as the Air Operations Branch Director. While there, she was responsible for the safe and effective operation of all aircraft providing response and relief activity on the island, as well as providing support to FEMA operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
When Hurricane Maria became a threat to Puerto Rico, Bridget’s deployment was extended and she became the Deputy Air Operations Director for the largest Air Operations section in U.S. history – ten months after graduation. She coordinated Federal, State, and local resources for six weeks after Maria, including over 120 aircraft. Working 12 hour days with almost no time off, Bridget quickly accumulated the operational experience it can take years to develop.
When her deployment term ended, Bridget came back to Tallahassee for a well-deserved week off. She dedicated an entire day to COSSPP and EMHS students, coming in to speak to the EMHS internship class as well as our Foundations of Emergency Management course. Not only did she describe her real-world experience, she answered questions ranging from details on living conditions in Puerto Rico to how to gain employment in the Federal government.
Her discussion helped students better understand Federal disaster response, as well as the realities of dealing with a catastrophic event such as Maria. While these types of talks are always valuable; having one delivered by a young recent graduate made the impact even more important for students. Bridget is a fine example of COSSPP grads, and she represented her alma mater well in the field.
Bridget will return to Puerto Rico in January for another six-week deployment, this time managing Individual Assistance programs for Maria survivors.
David Merrick is the director of the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Program
The feature picture is from the FEMA website. The picture, which was taken in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sep. 9, 2017 shows Defense Coordinating Officer COL Shannon Miller (left) with Brigadier General Dustin Shultz (3rd from left) and others from the 1st Mission Support Command talking with Bridget Joyner, Air Operations Branch Director for Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands, about coordinating flights out of Puerto Rico to help aid survivors after Hurricane Irma impacted the area. Photo by Kenneth Wilsey.