This September, I had the privilege of attending the National Emergency Managers Association Annual Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona. This was the first conference that I have ever attended, and it was an enlightening experience. Events such as the NEMA Annual Forum 2017 serve as valuable networking experience, especially for students like me.
I gained several benefits from this adventure. I was able to expand my professional network and make lasting impressions on potential employers from across the country. I traded contact information with upwards of 15 state directors, and many more private companies. While I was speaking with one of the vendors, we spoke about my membership in the FSU student chapter of IAEM. He referred me to an individual from my home state that has been known to work with the Florida chapter of IAEM in previous years. As it turns out, the man he referred me to was my mentor from a volunteer summer internship, and also my parent’s neighbor. It really drove home just how small the emergency management community really is, and how important each and every interaction I have with people in this community is.
Sitting through the many committee meetings proved very informative, and gave me insight into the inner workings of how national issues in emergency management are dealt with on a state level. As a former FEMA Corps member, I have had the honor of sitting in on multiple federal level meetings on similar issues. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to compare, by way of my own experiences, the way that issues are dealt with on the federal level versus the state level.
The interactive workshops were my favorite part of the conference, especially when we were discussing the integration of technology in the future and what implications these technologies will have on emergency management. It made me realize that there are a multitude of ways to incorporate creativity into emergency management positions.
Breakfast and lunch proved to be the most effective times to network with others. Breaking bread with someone creates a somewhat inclusive atmosphere, and it became much easier to talk with whomever I ended up sitting with. Through the relationships that I began to create, I have several companies asking me for my resume for potential job offers.
This experience was more than I could ever have hoped for. I was able to expand my professional network and learn more about the field of emergency management, as well as current issues they are facing today. I learned about the process of how statewide objectives are created in relation to emergency management issues. This trip will definitely go down in the books as the most beneficial college trip that I have been on.
Abi Kosmas completed the undergrad Emergency Management and Homeland Security certificate at FSU. She currently is in Washington DC, interning with the Smithsonian.