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Wheaton College Graduate School launches new M.A. in Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership

September 12, 2017

Christian churches and faith-based organizations play a critical role in responding to natural disasters, humanitarian crises, and other global emergencies. Yet many congregations and faith-based organizations lack leaders who are trained to respond to emergencies. 

Wheaton College Graduate School is responding to this need by launching a Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership Master's Degree program. The new M.A., which will begin in June 2018, will be the first graduate program in the world to emphasize both humanitarian and disaster leadership grounded in evangelical faith.

“We’re surrounded by crises like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, wildfires in the west, terrorist events, and mass shootings,” says psychologist Dr. Jamie Aten, founder and executive director of Wheaton’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute, the first faith-based academic disaster research center in the United States. “Now is the time to develop Christian leaders who can lead with faith and humility, and who are grounded in evidence-based practices as they serve the Church and the most vulnerable around the world.”

“The need is much greater than the help available,” he adds. “We’re hoping to change that with the HDL program.”

Dr. Scott Moreau, Interim Dean of the Wheaton College Graduate School, says the new program fits directly into the Graduate School’s vision to see God transforming the world through practitioners rooted in Christ and equipped for global leadership. “Anticipating and meeting the needs of people coping with disasters and their aftermath across the globe offers clear witness of Christ’s love for all people,” he says.

The 40-hour degree will offer courses such as Preparedness, Mitigation, and Continuity Management; Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Leadership; Refugee and Forced Migration Issues; and Disaster, Crisis, & Trauma Intervention.

Students can choose a full-time, traditional residential option, or can also complete their courses via a part-type hybrid option, which combines online courses with on-campus intensives.

“We’ve built this program for anyone from the brand-new graduate coming straight out of undergrad to seasoned professionals who already have a wealth of experience in the field,” Aten says. “Providing flexible training options will meet the needs of both groups.”

Students will have the opportunity to learn from world-class leaders and professors in the field, including Dr. Aten, whose research has informed disaster and humanitarian resources adopted and utilized by organizations including World Relief, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Homeland Security and the Chicago Department of Public Health. Today, HDI announced the appointment of Dr. Kent Annan, former CEO of Haiti Partners, as a Senior Fellow.

The degree’s connection to the Humanitarian Disaster Institute will also offer students access to an extensive global network and practical opportunities to implement what they learn in the classroom. Opportunities include involvement with HDI projects, field experience with HDI’s global partners, and field crisis simulations. HDI’s connections will also help students with future career placement and advancement.

Dr. Margaret Diddams, Provost of Wheaton College, says, the program is designed to serve the needs of students from a variety of backgrounds.

“This program is interdisciplinary, so prospective students from any academic discipline should consider applying,” she says. “In fact, because of the cohort-based design of the program, we expect that students with diverse backgrounds will not only learn from our outstanding faculty but will also grow into stronger professionals as they interact with each other’s knowledge and experiences.”

“This program is for anyone who sees needs and is trying to figure out how to help, whether it’s in their own backyard or on the other side of the world,” says Aten. “The HDL program will equip people with the knowledge, skills, and relationships they need to practically live out the gospel to help a hurting world.” 

More information, including information about applying to the M.A. program in Humanitarian Disaster Leadership program, is available at wheaton.edu/HDL.