Pandemic gives student real-world emergency management experience
Grace Elmudesi arrived at the University of Minnesota in 2017 from Wisconsin, interested in a career in emergency management but undecided about her major.
“Emergency management stands out as a way for me to help the community during natural disasters, but the University didn’t have a major in that field, so I was exploring courses in a few different programs,” she says.
Elmudesi’s sophomore roommate told her to look into the Health Services Management (HSM) program.
“In the HSM program, they cover all those management components from a health care perspective,” says Elmudesi. “I get to learn about accounting and finance, HR, and program and project management, all with a public health focus.”.
In the summer of 2020, the pandemic presented an opportunity to get hands-on experience in emergency management by interning with an AmeriCorps Emergency Response Initiative. AmeriCorps partnered with Ramsey County, setting up shelters in area hotels for the most at-risk populations of unhoused people: young adults, the elderly, and those with adverse health conditions. At the end of the internship, Ramsey County hired Elmudesi in the same capacity for the fall semester.
“The program helped open my eyes to the different needs communities face in the midst of a disaster and allowed me to actively participate in addressing those needs,” she says.
She says that experience and the HSM major helped solidify her desire to go into the field of emergency management.
“Emergency management is a field that works toward making communities more prepared and resilient than they otherwise would be when confronted with a disaster. That's what this shelter program was accomplishing, and that's what I hope to do for other communities in the future,” says Elmudesi.
She chose the U of M because “it’s a Big 10 school that offered a lot of options to explore for someone who was undecided.” Once she found the HSM program, she was convinced that she’d made the right choice.
“All the courses emphasize a patient-centered approach to care, an emphasis on innovation, and building positive work cultures,” she says. “These are all things I value. The courses reinforced my interest in the management side of health care and public health.”
After graduating in May, Elmudesi accepted a 12-month internship with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in Cleveland.
“My role as an emergency management paraprofessional intern will give me experience working with multiple agencies to create and update emergency plans for a public utility,” she says. “I’m excited to work with professionals in the field and to be exposed to a variety of emergency planning opportunities.”