From Public Health
to Super Bowls

Written by Alexis Castorina

By earning her doctorate with a specialization in Homeland Security, disaster response professional and NCU Ph.D. candidate Jannine Wilmoth hopes to help people in a larger capacity.

Jannine Wilmoth, (NCU Ph.D. Candidate)

Since 9/11, our country has been more sensitive to terrorism than ever before. Most recently, the April 14th bombing at the Boston Marathon reminds us just how vulnerable we are, unknowing of when and where an attack will occur.

Thus, it is no surprise that degrees and careers focusing on protecting our country would be on the rise. According to a 2013 edition of the best colleges by U.S. News and World Report, Homeland Security is among the nine fastest growing areas of study in 2013. Like Wilmoth, individuals working in the homeland security field spend their days strategizing, planning and collecting information in order to prevent and mitigate terrorism attempts on U.S. soil.

Wilmoth is enrolled in NCU’s Ph.D. in Business Administration with a concentration in Homeland Security - Leadership and Policy program. Through this 60-credit program, students study terrorism, strategy, intelligence, emergency management, and critical infrastructure security issues.

Wilmoth always knew she had a passion for helping others in a larger capacity.

“I always knew when I was in nursing school that I had that interest,” she says. “I just wasn’t sure where to put it or where I was going to go with it. So about three years after graduating from nursing school, I started my master’s in public health.”

After receiving her master’s degree in public health with a concentration in disaster management in 2006 from Benedictine University, she moved to Glendale, Ariz., to work as a Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) Coordinator for the Glendale Fire Department.

“It was more interesting to me to look at larger scale responses and anti-terrorism, and focus on different types of responses to catastrophes like chemical or radiological and take care of planning for these potential scenarios,” says Wilmoth.

She does just that in her current role. As MMRS Coordinator, she collaborates with local, state and federal agencies to provide disaster response capabilities. In addition, she serves as the department’s public health subject matter expert, providing guidance on areas such as pandemic influenza.

The MMRS program is a federally-funded mass casualty response program. In the event there is a catastrophic event in a local jurisdiction, the program ensures there are mass scale resources like medical modules, contamination capabilities and other emergency equipment available. Her background enables her to do a little bit of everything, including field work and assisting with planning and operations for seven Fiesta Bowls, two BCS National Championship Games, and the 2008 Super Bowl.

“Being aware of your environment and understanding your city’s infrastructure and things like the water supply and treatment plants is really what homeland security is all about. It’s not all about catching bad guys like on the TV show Homeland.”

— Jannine Wilmoth

“During the Super Bowl, I was our situation assessment person. As a watch officer, I monitored activity like radio traffic, radio dispatch and video surveillance, capturing all of the information in our emergency management software and sharing that information with state emergency management teams and other agencies that were gathering intelligence going on around the event.”

Wilmoth is now preparing for the 2015 Super Bowl. She indicated it typically takes about 18 months to coordinate emergency plans for large-scale events.

And while she loves her job with the Glendale Fire Department, her goal is to work at the federal level in decision making and policy development as it related to emergency management and homeland security, which is why she’s pursuing her doctoral studies.

“I looked at several schools’ homeland security programs. This is an investment for me, so I wanted to make sure I’m making a good investment in my Ph.D., and I didn’t feel like I would be getting that with the other schools. I feel like I’m making a good investment with NCU,” she says.

Wilmoth ultimately chose NCU because of the one-to-one learning model. This is her first online program, and she wanted a personalized experience and “didn’t want group projects or to have to rely on other people for her grades.”

While her faculty mentor is available to connect via video conferencing, phone calls, Skype and has regular office hours, the self-described adrenaline junkie says email has been the best form of communication to fit her schedule. She also takes advantage of and loves the NCU library and even uses it as a resource for her current job.

“There is a lot of self-learning, self-discipline and motivation that has to be done,” she says. “But that’s how I’m comfortable learning so it’s a perfect fit for me.”

For anyone interested in pursuing studies in homeland security, Wilmoth recommends learning a little bit about everything and the foundations of homeland security and suggests the independent study courses on FEMA’s website.

“Being aware of your environment and understanding your city’s infrastructure and things like the water supply and treatment plants is really what homeland security is all about,” she says. “It’s not all about catching bad guys like on the TV show Homeland.”

Wilmoth, a Benedictine University 40 under 40 alumni, is currently researching her dissertation topic. She has a few ideas and is leaning toward something that would combine public health and homeland security.

“I love my job and love what I do,” she says. “I’m so excited someone pays me to do what I love and to go to school and continue to study–that is even better.”