Emergence cohort graduates after first CHDS in-person sessions in 555 days

Completing the first in-person in-residence sessions in Monterey, CA in more than a year and a half due to the Covid-19 pandemic, 27 participants graduated from the Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s Emergence program on July 16.

Starting on December 1, 2020, while Covid-19 restrictions were still in place, the Emergence 2002 cohort was able to conduct its first face-to-face classes during a week-long series of in-residence sessions at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Monterey. The week started with a welcome from CHDS Emergence program lead David O’Keeffe and CHDS co-instructor Sara Kay on Monday, July 12 and concluded with a reception and presentation of certificates on the Naval Postgraduate School’s Herrmann Hall quarterdeck on Friday, July 16.

Emergence cohort 2002 graduated 27 participants after conducting the first in-residence sessions in Monterey in more than a year and a half.

“Despite meeting each other for the first time in-person last week, the cohort members jumped right into discussion on several complex problems,” O’Keeffe said. “The relationships and collaboration that they had developed and exercised on Zoom and Slack over the past seven months served as a springboard for their weeklong in-person engagement. Monterey rules were utilized to their full benefit as cohort members shared perspectives and experiences both during the formal classroom sessions and during after hour dinner and fire pit conversations.”

O’Keeffe noted that the Emergence participants also provided “impressive” updates on the status of their change initiatives. The cohort pitched their change initiative ideas to their various agency leadership following the March in-residence session which was conducted via Zoom.  In many cases, cohort members have successfully begun implementing their initiative change projects over the past couple of months.

“Cohort 2002 showed an exemplary desire and commitment to return to their agencies and put into practice many of the strategies discussed throughout the week and the program,” O’Keeffe said. “We look forward to seeing the continued positive impact the cohort members have on their individual agencies and the homeland security enterprise.”

Among the Emergence 2002 change initiatives was Riverside County, CA Sheriff’s Investigator Jeff Hammond’s, which sought to address the “lack of a properly coordinated UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle or drone) program” in his department. His project calls for the creation of a full-time UAV team to oversee county-wide training, implementation, and innovation.

Hammond, who has already begun the process of implementing his change initiative, said the CHDS Emergence program opened his eyes to the reach of the homeland security enterprise and allowed him to interact with top emerging leaders.

“It was great to be surrounded by like-minded people,” Hammond said. “If I had a team of these people, we could change the world.”

Other Emergence change initiatives include:

New York City Police Officer Racquel Palmer’s project to insert Global Positioning Systems in police radios so that officers can be quickly located during emergency situations.

U.S. Fire Administration (FEMA) training specialist Tyler Shaw’s proposal to add to existing fire courses curriculum on the environmental impacts of fire and fire suppression.

USCIS refugee officer Jacob Abernathy’s initiative to develop a new interview workflow “Quick Reference Guide” and an App tool for consolidating internet connectivity-related resources to address poor internet access for refugee officers traveling in remote locations overseas.

Transportation Security Administration (DHS-TSA) manager Nadira Foo’ s proposal to utilize biometric technology to verify employee identification and prevent misuse of employee information.


U.S. Postal Inspection Service postal inspector and program manager Dag Abebe’s proposal to develop resources for law enforcement officers responding to active shooter mass-casualty incidents at U.S. Postal Service facilities.

Geared toward homeland security and public safety professionals in the first half of their careers, the Emergence program provides a unique opportunity to engage with top faculty and subject matter experts in an educational forum and innovation lab to explore and address “emerging” societal trends and threats to our nation.

All costs associated with participating in the program, including tuition, books, and travel, are covered by CHDS through its sponsor, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Preparedness Directorate, FEMA.

CHDS is currently accepting applications for Emergence program cohort 2201 with an application deadline of Dec. 1, 2021.