Monday, February 29, 2016

The Applied Learning Environment: Using Simulation Cells for Graduate Studies in Emergency Management and Homeland Security

The following article was written by the assistant director of the Center for Health Innovations at Adelphi University, Meghan McPherson, and published in the 9th Annual Journal of Homeland Security. Read as she explains how the introduction of interactive simulations into the graduate level courses of the Emergency Management department has pushed the program and its students forward.

The Applied Learning Environment: Using Simulation Cells for Graduate Studies in Emergency Management and Homeland Security

Meghan McPherson, MPP, CEM
Assistant Director
Center for Health
Innovation and Adjunct Faculty
Graduate Programs in Emergency Management
Adelphi University

Interest in online graduate programs in emergency management and homeland security has grown exponentially over the last five years. Geography often limits the ability of students to attend in-person classes, and the online format allows for increased access to coursework. In this field of study, students are often employed in positions that utilize shift scheduling which limits their ability to attend in-person courses. For these and other reasons, online learning can broaden the reach and increase the appeal to students who might otherwise be unable to attend emergency management programs.

However, formidable challenges remain in teaching these online courses such as identifying the best techniques for engaging students and enhancing online content. Current tools to foster group learning, such as message boards, are employed. However, these approaches should be augmented with additional activities and interactive exercises to foster active learning.

In consideration of these opportunities and limitations, in the fall of 2013 Adelphi University (AU) began the conversion of the Emergency Management graduate certificate and Masters of Science programs to a fully online format. Discussions among the faculty and administration focused on how to offer a high level of interactive curriculum for the evolving subject matter. It was imperative that the faculty find ways to deliver curriculum in a manner that was both engaging and forward thinking. In the graduate-level Introduction to Emergency Management class, in-class techniques were migrated and modified for use in the online environment, while still introducing critical terminology and concepts. Examples of new activities include asking students to complete “red cell” assignments, as well as to obtain basic NIMS compliance. Other assignments asked the student to assume the role of a policy maker in a disaster, discussing the policy mechanisms and approaches they would use to solve the issues facing their constituents.

One such technique added to the curriculum is interactive simulation cells that can be used to engage the students and accelerate learning. This pilot cell was based on the Adelphi University campus and included situations that dealt with suspicious packages, bomb threats, evacuation of large populations, working with first responders, and handling social and traditional media. Students were given the above injects voiced by one of the public safety officers on their screen and then were asked multiple questions as to what they would do if they were the emergency manager on scene and the basis for those decisions. They heard simulated cell phone calls from concerned students and were confronted with the media entering campus when tweets alerted the public to the situation. Once this simulation is completed, faculty review the answers entered by students through multiple formats, including excel. Students are given feedback and can be actively taught through their own decision making process in the simulation cell.

This sim-cell encompassed many of the terminology and concepts required in the field and were assigned after the material was presented in the online classroom format. The simulation cell was built in a backward design approach.  Designers adhered to learning goals chosen for the assignment, with the faculty member also providing all of the injects, situational awareness information, timing, and progression of events. AU provided an educational media producer, media lab producer, and instructional designers to develop the final result. Media staff used Adobe Captivate as the interface for the sim-cell, adding in HD video, auditory cues, and sound effects as needed.

The use of this type of sim-cell has proved invaluable as part of the toolbox for online emergency management learning at Adelphi. Students must understand the basic concepts of the discipline, but also must be able to apply them in the field when facing decision points. It is essential they understand that emergency situations are dynamic and nebulous, requiring emergency management personnel to make quick decisions in the “fog of an emergency.”

Once the “bones” of the simulation cell have been completed, faculty are able to modify as needed moving forward. Currently, a simulation cell is in development involving an active shooter on campus. This type of simulation allows faculty the flexibility to design an online simulation that reflects current threats. This is the first time that this type of technology was used at Adelphi University and was highlighted at the High Impact Teaching in a Digital Age Conference held at Adelphi for faculty in Spring 2015.

As the profession of emergency management and homeland security moves forward and becomes more of a substantial academic discipline, it is crucial that we use the latest tools to teach our students about the ever-changing environment in a way that they can apply in the real world where they must make quick decisions in high stress situations. Working in a simulated environment in graduate school is vital for building their own knowledge and decision making infrastructure.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Changing Youth Gun Culture in One Generation on Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Seven-Time Emmy Award Winner William Electric Black to Deliver the Keynote Address at Adelphi University

Ian Ellis James, a.k.a. William Electric Black
According to the American Public Health Association, guns are a leading cause of premature death in the United States. This affects people of all ages and races in the U.S., but has a disproportionate impact on young adults, males and racial/ethnic minorities. Over 90,000 people a year are affected by injury and death combined. How can we address this? On Tuesday, February 23, 2016, the Adelphi University Center for Health Innovation will host a Rapid Response Event: Changing Youth Gun Culture in One Generation, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the Angello Alumni House, 154 Cambridge Avenue, Garden City, NY.

The event will feature Ian Ellis James, a.k.a. William Electric Black, as the keynote speaker. Other distinguished speakers include Robert Troiano of the Town of North Hempstead and Village of Hempstead Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr., among others. The keynote will be followed by a panel discussion of different approaches to addressing this issue with our youth.
Ian Ellis James is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning writer and former writer for Sesame Street. James has been writing in the family entertainment television industry for more than 15 years with credits from Sesame Workshop, Nickelodeon, Scholastic Productions, Warner Cable, Winchester TV & Film in London, and more. He recently published a children's book series to combat gun violence. The first book, A GUN IS NOT FUN, is an illustrated book geared toward Pre-K programs through second grade to discuss gun culture among young people and save lives in cities across America.

His theatre projects, under his stage name William Electric Black, have been seen across the country. For the past seven years, he has been writing, directing, and producing plays at La MaMa ETC in New York City where he presently runs the Poetry Electric Series. James’ first play aiming to combat inner city gun violence, Welcome Home Sonny T, opened in December 2013 at Theater for the New City. His second play in the series, When Black Boys Die, recently closed, and his next play, The Death of a Black Man (A Walk By,) opens in June 2016. James has received several Best Play Awards, been published by Benchmark Education, The Dramatic Publishing Co., Smith & Krauss, and received a Bronze Apple for directing.  

This event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. All attendees will receive a free copy of A GUN IS NOT FUN, a new book for children by Ian Ellis James.
Please RSVP by Monday, February 22 to Audrey Onderdonk at

About Adelphi University Center for Health Innovation

Adelphi University’s Center for Health Innovation (CHI) is the primary resource in our region for innovative, multidisciplinary, evidence-based responses to improving health, healthcare systems, and public health. CHI creates and fosters community-focused, interdisciplinary academic programming, applied research, community partnerships, and leadership—all with the goal of meeting current and emergent health needs of Long Island and our region.

About Adelphi: A modern university with deep roots

Adelphi University is a nationally ranked, doctoral research university offering exceptional liberal arts and sciences programs and professional training with particular strength in its Core Four—AU Arts and Humanities, AU STEM and Social Sciences, AU Professions, and AU Health and Wellness.

Founded in Brooklyn in 1896, Adelphi was one of the first coeducational institutions of higher education in New York State and is Long Island’s oldest private coeducational university. Today Adelphi serves nearly 7,500 students from 38 states and 46 countries at its beautiful main campus in Garden City, New York—just 23 miles from New York City’s cultural and internship opportunities—and at dynamic learning hubs around the state (New York City, the Hudson Valley and across Long Island) and online.

More than 100,000 Adelphi graduates have gained the skills, knowledge and exposure to thrive as professionals and active citizens in an interconnected and fast-paced global society, making their mark on the University and the world beyond.

Our history, location and commitment to student success and academic excellence define the Adelphi Advantage.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Dr. K. C. Rondello Responds to Zika Outbreak Concerns

On February 1, 2016, The World Health Organization announced the Zika virus outbreak as a global health emergency.  From its rapid spread across large parts of South America, to its suspected links to birth defects, there are many reasons people fear the danger of the Zika virus.
FiOS1 News recently spoke with K.C. Rondello, Ph.D., Academic Director of the Department of Emergency Management, to discuss the dangers of a Zika outbreak after the first reported U.S. case of the disease was reported in Texas. 
“It basically means that any country could have concerns for transmission of Zika,” says Dr. Rondello about the discovery that the disease could be transmitted sexually.” There is a concern that this is going to exponentially increase, in terms of number of cases and potentially severity of cases.”
See the full story on FiOS1 News.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Parent Tips to prevent and intervene in school bullying

By Jessie Klein, Adelphi Associate Professor in sociology/criminal justice
Director, CHI supported creating compassionate communities

Parents and other caregivers are understandably concerned about the prevalence of bullying in their children’s schools. Being bullied is painful for the target of this behavior but also stressful for the whole family.

Giving children a loving and safe home is essential for creating a sense of safety and security for children. No matter what else is going on at school, children will appreciate being accepted and supported for who they are.

If your child complains of being teased or otherwise hurt, make sure to listen carefully and prioritize your child’s concerns. Other children might be engaging in hurtful behavior because they are in pain themselves; help your child understand that the hurtful behavior likely has little to do with your child.

Encourage your child to talk freely about the experiences. Empower your child to make suggestions about what could be done to make the situation better. Make a list of ideas. (Brainstorm freely: Talk to the other child’s parents; talk directly to the aggressor; ask a teacher to intervene…). Then cross out anything one or both of you do not want to do—and see what choices remain. If reasonable, let your child make the final decision regarding next steps. 

Be empathetic with your child and after your child feels heard and supported, try to make guesses about what is going on for the child or children that are acting out at school.

Help your child develop compassion for his or her self and also a resolve to not let the hurtful behavior “come in”.

Do not encourage fighting back. Children need to resolve their own conflicts peacefully and if they are unable, they need to seek adult guidance—from you and from the school. This is good preparation for our responsibilities as citizens. If we can’t help as a member of our community, we call on the specific authorities that can be more effective.

Make sure the school (teachers, guidance counselors, Principal) is aware of the hurtful behaviors taking place. Remind the school regularly that you expect them to maintain a safe environment for the students there. Work with school faculty closely to support your child.

Often bullying occurs because other children are uncomfortable about how another student expresses their gender identity or sexuality. Make sure the school enforces the New York State Dignity for All Students Act that protects students from harassment around actual or perceived gender identity and expression. Schools are required to actively create a safe environment for students regarding these issues. Remind your child of these rights and work with the school to uphold their responsibilities.

Finally, help your child have important relationships with children and adults you trust outside of school. Children need to know that the school is only one small place and not their whole world. Having a good friend and/or mentor outside the school helps your child feel supported and cared about even if the school environment is stressful. Caring relationships with self and others are one of the greatest buffers against others’ hurtful words and actions.

If the school is unable to resolve the issue for you and your child, consider seeking support from the Superintendent. Changing schools, as a last resort, is also an option if it is possible to do so.

Remember, it is most important to give your child extra love and support and remind your child often how much you and the rest of your family and friends care.

Jessie Klein PHD, MSW, M.Ed.
Author: The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America's Schools (NYU Press 2012),

"Be Kind whenever possible. It is always possible." ~Dalai Lama