Changing Course: Seniors write emergency plans for companies

  Monday, April 20, 2020 8:00 AM
  News, Science and Technology, Academics

Pittsburg, KS

Changing Course ESM

Just as the spring edition of the PittState Magazine arrived in mailboxes across the nation, touting as the cover story the theme “By Doing, Learn,” for which the university is known, the COVID-19 pandemic brought all in-person classes to a halt. 

Those who teach and those who learn had to be flexible, innovative, and change course quickly. 

In this series, we’re sharing what education looks like from the perspective of our faculty, students, and alumni during a time of social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and remote coursework.

Ann Petersen's course, Environmental & Safety Program Development, typically begins with students writing emergency action plans that should cover all types of emergencies that may come up within a company — emergencies like fires and severe weather. 

“Since our students will eventually be safety and/or environmental managers within companies, this is a very important piece of their jobs.  They will be writing and eventually training employees to these types of programs,” said Petersen, an associate professor in the Environmental & Safety Management degree program in the School of Construction 

As students left campus and coursework began transitioning online amidst the global pandemic, COVID-19, it made sense for Petersen to feature COVID-19 as one of those emergencies 

“It touches every workplace in our nation and abroad,” Petersen said. 

Ann Peterson

She contacted alumni now working in the safety field, as well as the companies that hire her students as interns, to see how they were dealing with a real emergency in the workplace. That includes two construction companies, a beverage manufacturing company, and a pet food manufacturer.  She recorded interviews with the safety professionals so that students could hear how they had handled the ever-changing situations. 

Then, she assigned students to create policies and procedures for a mock company focused on the virus and employee safetysimilar to what they would have to do in a real-world experience. 

“Since this virus has ramped up so aggressively and quickly, most companies have had to adapt not only their programs but their procedures and policies for employee safety,” she said. “This will help students understand that they will need to the same in their upcoming careers, even though something like this was unexpected. 

For Drey Estes, a senior from Yates Center who has been hired as safety director for FCG, Inc., in Wichita, Kansas, the assignment gave him a realistic insight into what his future career will entail. 

By having the opportunity to complete the COVID-19 policy and procedure assignment, I was able to experience what it is like to work a policy when local, state, and federal guidelines and recommendations are constantly changing,” he said. “By finishing this assignment, I will be able to alter the information to fit the company I will be employed with after graduation.” 

Ted Paoni, a senior from Girard, Kansas, believes the project illustrates why PSU’s ESM program is “top-notch,” he said, and why he feels prepared to begin his career as a safety specialist for Texas Instruments in Dallas after graduation in May. 

Not only does creating a policy like this prepare ESM students for addressing future pandemics, but it allows us to critically analyze an evolving situation and develop solutions that will keep employees safe,” he said. 

Students say they were relieved to find that the transition from face-to-face classes to classes held strictly online has been easier than expected. 

My teachers have done a fantastic job of making sure all the materials we need are at our fingertips,” Estes said 

Paoni agreed. 

The transition to online coursework has been rather painless so far, mainly due to the hard work by our professors in maintaining the quality of our education,” he said. “They are always finding ways to make our coursework applicable to what we will experience in the field, and the transition to online has not diminished that. 

Also in this series:

How an auto tech professor has moved his lab online by creating his own YouTube channel featuring, among other things, his '57 Dodge truck. Read 

How nursing students are completing clinicals virtually. Read. 

How students in Environmental & Safety Management are using this real-world pandemic to write emergency plans for companies. Read. 

How an art teacher has used the pandemic as a theme for an online art exhibit open to students and the community. Read. 

How two professors of chemistry, along with their college student son, are teaching and learning from a hotel room after their home was badly damaged by a fire. Read. 

How two graduates of the Music Education program are teaching hundreds of students from their tiny downtown loft apartment using innovative strategies. Read. 

How the PSU Wind Ensemble has collaborated to practice and produce music virtually. Read.