Resuming in-person sessions during the last few months of instruction after spending most of their time in Covid 19-prompted virtual learning, 31 participants graduated from the Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s Executive Leaders Program cohort 2002 on Nov. 11.
Distinguished by the unveiling of the inaugural Ellen Gordon ELP Award and the naming of U.S. Coast Guard Executive Officer Corey Braddock as its chosen award winner on Nov. 10, cohort leaders praised its largely virtual experience as invaluable due to the CHDS faculty led by program director Sara Kay along with the expertise offered through the program.
According to Braddock, the cohort “embraced” the Covid-19 approach to virtual learning through the expanded use of Zoom and access to top-notch guest speakers and subject matter experts. Braddock also noted the cohort’s “multi-disciplinary leadership across state and local and federal” agencies.
City of New Orleans Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness deputy director Michael Antoine said he was initially concerned that virtual sessions would be a barrier to the CHDS learning experience, but said those fears were quickly dispelled due to the lectures and break-out sessions among participants.
Antoine, who has earned multiple degrees in public safety, homeland security and emergency management from Tulane University, holds numerous certifications from FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute, and is enrolled at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Public Leadership Program, said the CHDS Executive Leaders Program is “by far the most beneficial” educational experience in his 20-year public service career.
He said his favorite session of the program was one on public safety and first responder mental health, noting that emergency management personnel are “always stuck on high” and expressions of emotion are “frowned upon,” and it was helpful to hear how important it is to deal with one’s mental health.
Antoine also noted the “geographically and professionally diverse” nature of his ELP cohort, and said it was “always good to see how my counterparts handle crises.”
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Will Martinez said the CHDS ELP experience was a great opportunity for participants, who he described as “A-type personalities” driven by their work, to “drop their masks” and enjoy some time away from the stress of their jobs while developing lasting relationships and absorbing a first-class educational experience.
“As an executive, we just want to have someone to vent to who understands,” Martinez said. “We can’t do that in our jobs.”
He also pointed to mental health instruction as a highlight of his ELP instruction.
“We’re always saying we’re fine, but we’re not,” Martinez said. “I know I need to not only check myself but also my subordinates.”
According to Kay, the program hosted four cohorts over the last six months of 2021, including cohort 2002, and the newest cohort 2102 which started in November. Three of the four cohorts returned to in-person sessions at the Monterey Hyatt in August.
Among the top new ELP guest speakers and sessions included the following:
- “Risk Management for Homeland Security Leaders”: with Gray Rhino and You Are What You Risk author Michele Wucker;
- “Emergency Management: A New Era or a New Error?”: with ELP graduate and longtime influential leader in Emergency Management Ellis Stanley;
- “Artificial Intelligence: What Homeland Security Leaders Need to Know”: with Ambient.AI CEO Shikhar Shrestha;
- “Cyber Security”: with recent CHDS Masters Graduate Elvis Chan