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APUS Alumni Stories: Protecting Campus Safety and Security

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By Melanie Conner, APUS Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison and Mark Young, AMU Graduate

Mark Young campus safety
AMU graduate Mark Young

Mark Young first developed an interest in emergency management after volunteering with the Salvation Army and Red Cross during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. As Mark attended Jackson State University (JSU) that same year, one of his professors, Dr. P.C. Yuan, saw that Mark had a talent for planning and administration management. Dr. Yuan suggested that Mark pursue a job in emergency management.

After receiving his master’s degree in hazardous materials management from JSU, Mark went on to enroll at American Military University (AMU) and completed a master’s in emergency and disaster management in 2012. In the fall of 2014, Mark returned to Jackson State University to begin his doctorate in public administration and plans to graduate in December 2020.

Since completing his degree at AMU, Mark has stayed busy. In August 2013, he became Hinds County Director of Emergency Management, which included the Capitol City of Jackson, Mississippi. Mark implemented a notification system called the Code Red Notification System, which allows constituents to receive emergency alerts through text, email and calls.

He was an instructor of emergency management and sociology at Tougaloo College between 2012 and 2017. Later, Mark became an Emergency Management Specialist I/Trainer at the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Improving Campus Safety at SFA

In May 2019, Mark became the Director of Emergency Management at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) in Nacogdoches, Texas. He is the first African-American to hold this position (which he credits as one his greatest accomplishments to date) at a predominantly white institution in Texas.

In his current position as Director of Emergency Management, Mark oversees the planning, development, administration and evaluation of a campus-wide emergency management program. He ensures compliance with applicable federal, state, and local laws, rules, and regulations by certifying that the Emergency Operation Plan is updated annually. Necessary revisions are made quarterly.

Also, Mark develops, reviews, and implements policies, procedures, rules, and regulations for emergency management. These policies and procedures are formulated from the State of Texas Institutions of Higher Learning. Other duties involve:

  • Directing emergency management and crisis response efforts, including providing timely notification of threats and impeding and/or actual emergency incidents or disasters
  • Ensuring that university event management standards are utilized at SFA to ensure campus safety
  • Evaluating the outcomes of emergency management program initiatives
  • Identifying the effectiveness of program initiatives and/or recommendations for improvement of campus safety
  • Serving as a liaison with state agencies, local officials, representatives from volunteer groups and federal agencies, and other potential emergency response organizations

Developing Planning and Communication Skills

Mark says that his education from AMU has helped him tremendously, especially in understanding the cycles or phases of emergency management and coordination. He says, “My ability to plan for and communicate effectively and efficiently, I learned from taking classes at AMU.”

Mark adds, “I found that my classes in Hazard Mitigation and Resilient Communities and Emergency and Disaster Theory were particularly helpful.”

Mark enjoys helping Stephen F. Austin State University to become the safest institution of higher learning in Texas and abroad. In fact, YourLocalSecurity currently ranks Stephen F. Austin State University as the third safest college in Texas.

He notes that the biggest professional challenge he faces is changing the perception of what emergency management is to university officials at Stephen F. Austin State University. Mark explains, “Each individual who is in the decision-making structure has their belief of what emergency management is. On other occasions, they really don’t have a clue what the field is.

“In order to overcome this problem, they must be educated in the various phases of emergency management. They attend workshops, drills, exercises and other joint agencies cooperations.”

Mark has recommended National Incident Management System (NIMS) trainings and incident command system (ICS) trainings, which have been very informative to university officials.

Emergency Management Starts with Volunteering

For those who are interested in pursuing a career in emergency management, Mark suggests that volunteering as much as possible with organizations such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Mark also recommends pursuing certifications. He took online Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) classes in 2005 and attended classes held at the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. He also suggests networking at workshops and conferences, such as the International Association of Emergency Workers (IAEM) to make useful contacts in the field.

Mark suggests getting involved with your local city or county emergency management agency. He says, “This is where the rubber meets the road, especially for first responders.” His future plans include completing his Ph.D. and becoming an administrator for FEMA or the vice president of an institution of higher learning.

Melanie Conner is a Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison at the university. Having worked in higher education for almost 10 years, Melanie enjoys cultivating relationships with students and alumni. She has undergraduate degrees in education from Germanna Community College and in sociology from the University of Mary Washington.

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