East Georgia State College is the only college in the state of Georgia to offer a bachelor’s degree in Fire and Emergency Services Administration (FESA), and students are already seeing the benefits of the program. Since the bachelor’s program began in Spring of 2016, five people have graduated with the degree.
EGSC’s Fire and Emergency Services Administration program offers both an associate and bachelor’s degree track. The bachelor’s track is completely online and offers challenging coursework in fire and emergency services administration, leadership, budgeting, ethics and professional development to prepare students for a leadership role in the administration and management of an emergency services organization.
The students who have already made their way through the 60 credit hours and have a degree in hand have already seen the difference the FESA degree can make. Mike Holberton, a class of 2019 graduate, has worked for Columbia County Fire Rescue for 28 years. He is now the district captain who supervises three fire stations that consist of three engines and one rescue company, and he’s responsible for 30 people and 12 lieutenants who report to him. He says this degree has already made a difference where he lives.
“The work involved in earning this degree has already made an impact on Columbia County,” said Holberton. “The Community Risk Reduction class inspired me to create a child car seat program that went into effect in February. We have sent six members of our department through the training and have already completed approximately 30 inspections of car seats.”
Beverley Walker, the Director of the FESA program at EGSC, says that’s what this program is all about. It’s about students learning and making a difference in the lives of others.
“That is what’s important to me. It’s not the grades that people make, but what I’m more excited about is what they are doing with the degree and with the information to make their communities better,” said Walker.
In a list recently published by Bachelor’s Degree Center, EGSC’s program ranked number one in affordable Fire Science Degree Bachelor Programs for 2019. The list, published each year, helps prospective bachelor’s degree students find the best educational program most suited to their financial, educational and personal situation. Walker says having the affordable program, along with the flexible online courses, make it possible for a variety of people with different lifestyles to work toward this degree.
“Most of my students are non-traditional. They have families. They have jobs. They have mortgages. So, some students will take a full load of classes and some of them only want two classes a semester. That’s the best part about this program and it allows you to work at your own pace,” said Walker.
Having the classes fully online has even given Emanuel County’s EMS Director a chance to go back and get his bachelor’s degree. Courtney Terwilliger has been involved with EMS for 42 years. When he enrolled in the program, he thought he would know most of the information since he has been in the EMS industry for so long. He has also taught many EMS, fire, and emergency preparedness classes around the state. Terwilliger said he was shocked when he started the classes. He says there was so much he didn’t know even after making a career out of the EMS.
“I wish other people in my profession would do it,” said Terwilliger. “If I could share with them the eye-opening experience it has truly been, I would. It has brought to life things that, even after 40 years, I didn’t have a clue about.”
Terwilliger says he hopes to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in May of 2020, but he is already putting his courses to use. He has started changing the way he does emergency preparedness drills because of the challenging classes he has taken.
The bachelors program follows the design set forth by the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) curriculum created by the National Fire Academy. Both the Associate of Arts and Bachelor of Arts in Fire and Emergency Services Administration follow the career pathway that is part of the Professional Development ladder designed by FESHE. These degrees will create a career pathway for firefighters, emergency services personnel and others interested in public safety management. The Bachelor of Arts in FESA degree from EGSC is also accepted by the National Fire Academy for the Executive Fire Officer or Managing Officer programs, so students can go even further after completing their degree program.
To learn more about EGSC’s Fire and Emergency Services Administration programs, visit www.ega.edu/fesa.