Five Alarm Program
Online program prepares new generation of fire service leaders.
The first cohort of the Bachelor of Science in Fire Administration (FIAD) degree at Bowling Green State University graduated May 10, 2014. Seven people completed the program, which was created in response to the increasingly complex role of chief fire officers.
The 100 percent online degree program, one of only a few in the country with an administrative focus, emphasizes communication skills, employment and administrative law, emergency management, public health, strategic planning, fiscal responsibility, applied research, and data analysis.
Rick Sluder ’14, Chief of Fire for the city of Wauseon, chose BGSU because of its reputation with State Fire School and its overall national status as a great institution of higher learning.
“BGSU is talked about in many fire service organizations that I am involved with, and it is the institution respected in our area by professionals from all walks of life,” Sluder said. “BGSU is also a place where you can put a face with a name, and the institution itself is recognized as a leader in the fire service field.
“I realized that the problems the fire industry has to deal with are becoming more complicated. It is necessary for a good fire chief to be a good firefighter, but the fire service needs fire chiefs who are great leaders capable of critical thinking and decision-making. This requires a program of study well beyond what can be offered on the training ground.”
Sluder was able to transfer credits from previous college and professional experience. His class load was an average of 9-12 credit hours per semester and he was able to take classes during the summer semesters, too.
“The 100 percent online format was a major factor in my decision to attend BGSU,” Sluder said. “It allowed me to continue with my career while completing a bachelor’s degree at the same time. The format was such that I could choose what time of day or even days of the week that I could work on assignments and schedule testing. Most of the classes were set up so that I was often able to work ahead in case I experienced any of the life issues that often pop up and require immediate attention. In addition, these classes required complete concentration and study on my part to research and obtain the necessary information. I found the online format more challenging than traditional classes, but I also found it much more beneficial to the learning process.”
Andrew James Pepin ’14, who graduated with honors with the Air National Guard, agreed. “It is highly evident that the fire service is constantly becoming more dynamic,” Pepin said. “This requires leaders with a strong, well-rounded foundation. The fire administration program at BGSU addresses a variety of areas to strengthen skills for current and future leaders of the fire service.”
Pepin also found the online format advantageous in that he could keep his work schedule while taking high caliber courses at what he described as “a great Ohio public university.”
“The cohort environment was very helpful,” Pepin said. “To have a stable group of motivated fire professionals made the learning experience feel more intimate and meaningful. All classmates gave great feedback and contributed significant ideas to one another.”
The cohort allows students to interact with professionals from all over the country who are in similar positions. “Being able to communicate ideas and collaborate on projects with other fire service members is what developed the FIAD into a professional program instead of just a course of study,” Sluder said. “The communication within my cohort allowed me to have an easy way to seek direction from and provide suggestions to other people in the fire service field. The cohort model also allowed me to work through the program with others that were building their pyramid of resources and knowledge at the same pace.”
Sluder and Pepin found the faculty and staff in the fire administration program very dedicated and accessible. They noted that Ann Light, the director and adviser for fire administration, was very active in supporting them throughout the program and provided a single point of contact at BGSU.
Light said that advising and working with the students has been a wonderful experience. “These people are extremely motivated and dedicated to education and the fire service,” she said. “This group in particular was with me from the start and put tremendous trust in BGSU to deliver a quality program that is relevant and valuable. I am incredibly proud of and inspired by each of them.”
Sluder would recommend the program to anybody who has the desire to work at the executive level of fire service management. “There is so much more to the fire service than what training can resolve,” he said. “This program helps you to realize the ‘why’ of the fire service and what needs to be done to make changes. So much of the fire service happens outside of the fire station atmosphere that you cannot effectively manage today’s emergency services without a core of administrative level education.”
Sluder said his time in the program was extremely rewarding both professionally and personally.
“I developed contacts from across the United States while researching and learning of the great responsibilities of fire and emergency services administration,” he said. “The people of the FIAD program understand the fire service and the instructors are not trapped in the world of academia; they have lived this and are passing along invaluable experience to a new generation of fire service leaders. This was a remarkable opportunity to gather information and ideas from nationally recognized educators, authors, and administrators in the American fire service.”