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PUC Adds New Emergency Services Program

Lainey S. Cronk, June 22, 2007
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This fall, Pacific Union College is launching a brand-new program that incorporates students’ desire to serve their communities with a demand for trained emergency personnel. The nationwide growing awareness of the need for more people to be trained in mitigating emergencies and large-scale disasters has been felt at PUC in a very tangible, local way.

“Our local emergency services agencies, such as fire department and ambulance companies, are made up of a number of students,” explains James Robertson, a firefighter, EMT, and CPR instructor and physics professor who will head up the new program. The volunteer fire department, he adds, is over 50 percent students. “So there is an interest in the part of our current students to have emergency services as part of a program.”

The new Emergency Services Program, which now offers an associate of science degree, is part of a larger picture at the college. “PUC has a reputation and a long history of providing medical training, whether it’s in the nursing department or with pre-medical students, and we do a good job of that,” Robertson says. “So it’s a natural extension of that training.”

The program focuses on domestic emergency services, preparing students to work with ambulance and firefighting agencies. It is also a viable option for individuals who are interested in emergency medicine but want some training before going into a nursing or pre-medical program. Though the program currently focuses on the medical side of emergency services, it also applies to students interested in going into firefighting.

Individuals can currently earn their EMT certificate or paramedics license through classes approved by the state Emergency Medical Services office. The PUC emergency services program, however, offers not only such vocational certificates, but also a liberal arts education that will allow its graduates to have upward mobility within the field, with the potential to move into leadership roles such as lead paramedics, instructors, or managers of ambulance companies, to name a few.  The college degree would give graduates upward mobility in their careers.

“We’re trying to provide an accelerated track,” Robertson explains, “so there is a balance between academics and experience. We’re not discounting the need for experience. But we want to set up our students for success through an AS or even BS degree in the field.”

The program is also in the process of developing a four-year degree with emphasis on emergency management, preparing students for management level jobs within emergency services offices, whether local or federal.

During his four years in Angwin, Robertson has been surrounded by students expressing interest in this area of study. “We created this degree because students begged us to,” says Nancy Lecourt, academic dean. “They even came up with their own proposed curriculum.”

So administration worked with Robertson to bring the program together, influenced by the college’s long-standing emphasis on useful instruction. “PUC has a strong heritage of educating both ‘mind and hand,’” explains Lecourt. “A degree in emergency medical services is a natural for PUC.”