Rick Sluder poses for a picture.
BGSU alumnus Rick Sluder '14 is now the deputy fire marshal for the Ohio State Fire Marshal. (Ohio Division of the State Fire Marshal)

BGSU graduate helps shape state fire service as Ohio Deputy Fire Marshal

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Rick Sluder ’14 says the BGSU Online Fire Administration degree helped advance his career as a fire chief

By Nick Piotrowicz

By the time Rick Sluder ’14 began the 100% online Fire Administration (FIAD) program at Bowling Green State University, he already had been in the fire service for more than 20 years. 

Yet, as Sluder completed the program, he found himself more and more prepared to meet the complete range of challenges that face fire department administrators.

Now holding a state-level position as the deputy fire marshal of the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office, Sluder said the program — whether learning about data analysis, finance, human resources or cooperation with other government entities — helped make him more well-rounded as an administrator.

“I’ve told this to many people, but going mid-career to finish my Fire Administration degree, which is geared right toward administrating a fire department, helped me so much because it was relevant,” Sluder said. “The professors and instructors helped me tremendously in the stage of my career and stage of my life that I was in.”

Designed to provide a complete platform of knowledge for chief officers, the BGSU FIAD program aims to mold leaders interested in shaping the next era of fire service. 

Dr. Dominic Wells, the director of the BGSU Fire Administration program, said the coursework, which is a minimum of 30 hours and does not have a residency requirement, can help firefighters advance to the next step of their careers to provide a critical public service.

“Decision-making in the fire service has become more data-driven, and the Fire Administration program teaches students the skills needed to analyze and interpret data necessary for making decisions as chief officers,” Wells said. “Our program is great for firefighters looking to advance their careers because it focuses on the skills necessary for leadership roles in departments, such as public personnel management and local government budgeting.”

Previously the fire chief at Wauseon (Ohio) Fire Department, Sluder also instructed courses at the Ohio Fire Academy before starting at BGSU. 

Even though Sluder had a packed schedule prior to enrolling, the BGSU Online delivery allowed him to complete coursework on his own time without sacrificing anything professionally. 

“That was the spectacular part about it: I was able to keep my career going while doing the program,” Sluder said. “I was able to fit classes into my schedule because I kept things moving at the chief’s office and completed my courses at the same time.”

By going through the FIAD program, Sluder said he was then able to make informed decisions about programming that helped his and other departments take steps to improve or add critical functions. 

“I knew where I wanted to be as far as the administrative level, so the FIAD program helped me put together programs that a lot of municipalities didn’t have in place,” Sluder said. “Whether it was the human resources aspect, budgeting, funding or the ability to cooperate outside of the jurisdiction, it gave me a better understanding of how to make everything more efficient.”

When the opportunity arose to move to a state-level position that oversees an imperative government entity, Sluder said he felt ready for the call. 

With the help of a BGSU degree, Sluder’s career continued ascending after graduation.

“As I finished my bachelor’s degree and continued instructing, my fire chief career continued developing,” he said. “Some opportunities came about at the state level, and I was familiar with how it operated. I was sure I had the knowledge, skills and education to take that on.”

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Media Contact | Michael Bratton | mbratto@bgsu.edu | 419-372-6349

Updated: 05/23/2024 12:24PM