For many years, Saint Leo University has proudly offered a number of academic degree programs through which students can learn the skills and traits needed to become important community servants in various professional positions.

This spring, Saint Leo is excited to launch a brand new online degree program – a Bachelor of Arts in Emergency Management. This undergraduate program helps prepare students for exciting careers in a wide range of emergency management roles.

We recently caught up with Dr. Phillip Neely, chair of Saint Leo's undergraduate criminal justice degree programs, to learn more about this BA in Emergency Management and how it can help students make a difference in society.

Q: How would you define the term emergency management?

A: During a crisis situation, emergency management is the skill of proper communication and reacting instantaneously to assault the crisis in order to face and solve the problems at hand. Communication and preparedness are both essential to obtain the best outcome.

Q: Why did Saint Leo University decide to launch this bachelor's degree program?

A: Statistics show that emergencies and disasters are increasing in both number and severity in both the U.S. and worldwide. As such, organizations and communities are constantly seeking knowledgeable and well-trained staff to handle various threats and risks, as well as what to do during a critical incident.

We've found that there is a need for this type of curriculum. Our faculty have attended several conferences and other law enforcement events and recognized the need through these interactions. I should also mention that when working in fire science roles today, you now need a college degree in many cases. In the past, only a high school diploma was required.

Another reason is that many individuals want to be part of the resolution process but don't want to go into law enforcement, so this gives those students another avenue toward that type of career path.

Plus, this bachelor's degree program will serve as a feeder for our existing Master of Science in Emergency and Disaster Management program, along with the Fire Science Administration specialization within this particular graduate curriculum.

Q: What are the two tracks for students in this program?

A: Students can choose to either take the general track or can choose a concentration in fire science. Each track consists of nine core courses (27 credit hours) and four elective courses (12 credit hours).

The general track offers a broad overview of the emergency management field and prepares students for practitioner-oriented roles in a variety of settings. The fire science track allows students to specialize in fire-related career opportunities through several courses that are specific to this concentration.

Q: What types of students is this degree program geared toward?

A: We are initially looking at adult learners who want to advance in their careers or even change careers. These individuals are likely already working in fields like law enforcement, fire safety, public works and utility systems, and other related areas.

They may have some occupational training, have a military background, and perhaps have an associate degree, but they need a bachelor's degree for promotion consideration within their organization.

We're certainly hoping that the appeal of this degree program will expand to traditional-age college students as well in the near future.

Q: How is this program delivered and what is the availability of the faculty?

A: This program is delivered entirely online. The professors always make themselves available by phone or email, and students can expect to hear back from their instructors in short order. All of Saint Leo's programs are student-centered, and this program is no exception.

Q: Who are the faculty teaching in this program?

A: All of the faculty who teach in this emergency management degree program have experience in emergency management. This includes instructors who have worked for FEMA, the FBI, and various law enforcement agencies. They are experts on how to deal with a wide array of emergencies and the strategies required to both prevent and proactively resolve such situations.

Many of the faculty teaching in this online degree program are already teaching in Saint Leo's undergraduate and graduate criminal justice programs and the master's in emergency and disaster management program. Plus, we are actively seeking additional faculty to supplement the expert practitioners who are already on staff.

Q: What are some of the topics covered in the coursework?

A: The main focus of this curriculum revolves around managing coordinated responses to emergencies that may include flooding, hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, industrial accidents, and terrorist attacks.

Specific topics include:

  • Principles and practices of emergency management
  • Emergency planning
  • Hazard identification
  • Interagency management
  • Leadership skills and ethics
  • Technology in emergency management
  • Social impacts of disasters
  • Terrorism and emergency management
  • Crisis communication

In terms of the fire science track, topics covered include:

  • Fire prevention
  • Organizational management
  • Community risk reduction through fire and emergency services
  • The role of fire and emergency services administrators

There are also field placement opportunities for students to get hands-on experience working in this field. The bottom line is that we want our graduates to be "Lion ready" to be able to handle anything.

Q: What are some specific career opportunities one would qualify to attain with this emergency management bachelor's degree?

A: By earning this emergency management degree, you may qualify for positions that include:

  • Firefighter
  • Emergency management director
  • FEMA administrator
  • Red Cross staff member
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agent

Q: How can prospective students learn more about this BA in Emergency Management online degree program?

A: Feel free to give myself, Dr. Neely, a call directly at 352-588-8363. You can also email me at with any questions.

In addition, visit the program page for more information.