In the Service of Others: Why One Student Chose Emergency Management Leadership

Stefan Kljajic, student in Adler's Emergency Management Leadership programEven though Stefan Kljajic, a first-year graduate student pursing an online M.A. in Emergency Management Leadership through Adler University, was prepared for his interview, he asked if he could call back in an hour or so. Kljajic had witnessed a car accident on the freeway and pulled over to help.

Kljajic’s steadfast demeanor and readiness to help the accident victims are just what you can expect from an emergency management student. He is dedicated and passionate about serving and helping others. Situations like this are just what he prepares for in his emergency management program.

We spoke with Kljajic, who earned a bachelor’s in Industrial Organizational Psychology, about pursuing a master’s in emergency services, and why his professors are the best part of the program. Our interview has been edited for clarity and space.

Why Did You Choose the Online Emergency Management Leadership Program at Adler University?

I originally came in wanting to do the master’s in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, which I later changed to the master’s in Emergency Management Leadership. The emergency services field is what I was originally interested in when I began my undergraduate career.

Was There an Event That Prompted You to Focus on Emergency Management?

I have close friends in the emergency management field. One of my best friends is a police officer, and I loved hearing his stories and perspective from time in the field. Going into the Adler program, I really went back to the roots of my interests.

What Does Being a Socially Responsible Practitioner Mean to You?

In any field, you need to be a socially responsible practitioner. Any time you deal with people, you’re affecting someone’s life. Working in emergency services, you’re at the heart of a major crisis or disaster in a person or family’s life. You are the first person they look to. You have to keep others at the forefront of your mind. You are helping them during an incredibly vulnerable time, so you have to take extra care.

This industry is all about personal care and attention. Your top priority is to help others get back to normal after a life-altering crisis.

Which Classes Have You Taken?

I’ve taken six classes so far:

  • Disaster Response, Recovery and Continuity
  • Supporting Functional Needs Populations in Disasters
  • Leading in Times of Crisis
  • Psychology of Terrorism
  • Research Methods for Leaders in Emergency Management

My favorite so far would be Disaster Response, Recovery and Continuity because it provides a basic understanding of what emergency management is, plus it has taught me practical ways to best plan for emergency situations.

Psychology of Terrorism was another course I really enjoyed. Terrorism is a difficult subject, but as our world continues to grow, it’s an important topic to understand thoroughly.

How Do You Balance Your Academic Responsibilities, Work Life, and Personal Life?

Every week is packed. I usually develop a weekly schedule. I try to finish everything before the weekend to have some time for myself. But really, every hour is accounted for.

Sometimes I don’t have time for myself, and I’ll be working Monday through Sunday. But you have to be willing to sacrifice certain things to achieve your dreams.

What Have You Liked Best About the Program so Far?

I’ve really liked how interactive the professors are. The professors provide so many helpful tools and resources to help me be successful. For example, Professor (and Program Director) Michael Schulz often posts job opportunities related to the emergency management field, as well as certification courses available for students in emergency management.

You can constantly contact him, and when you’re an online student exclusively, that’s a big deal. He provides you with follow-up questions, advice, and help. Not many schools do that. His enthusiasm helps keep me motivated.

How Do You Feel About The Sense Of Community in Your Program?

Everyone is pretty close in the Emergency Management program. I actually have about four friends on Facebook that I met through my online forums. It’s hard to imagine making friends online, as opposed to a traditional ground campus experience, but those I have met are very supportive.

What Will You Be Doing in Your Internship with the City of Des Plaines Emergency Management Agency?

It’s a great opportunity to apply what I’ve been learning in the field. The Des Plaines Emergency Management Agency works directly under the Des Plaines Police Department.

We create emergency plans that are shared among the community and other emergency services. Creating these emergency process plans helps our department, and other emergency services departments respond as one team, one unit. It really helps reduce risk and loss of life in a crisis.

How Did You Learn About the Internship?

The Emergency Management Leadership program motivated me to research about getting a job within the emergency services. They gave me the confidence to pursue the internship.

What Do You Hope to Do After Graduating?

I’d like to work for EMA (Emergency Medical Associates) or any police department or emergency management agency, where I can apply the skills that I’ve learned. I picked this program because I want to be of service to the people, my community, and my country.

Hopefully, in the next five years, I will be working for an emergency management agency, whether it be local, state, or government. I’d really just like a chance to make a difference.

What Surprised You Most About Online Learning?

You really have to motivate yourself. There are numerous resources available for all students, but you have to motivate yourself to do it.

The greatest surprise about my online experience with Adler was how responsive and dedicated the teachers are. I’ve had a professor who responded to a late-night question within 30 minutes. The professors will do everything they can to help you succeed, as long as you’re willing to put in the hard work.

What Do You Like to Do for Fun?

When I’m not at work, or doing schoolwork, I like to be outdoors. Whether going fishing, kayaking in the spring or summer, or snowboarding in the winter. I’m pretty active in general. I also enjoy watching sports, specifically all the Chicago teams. I’m really up for anything and everything.

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