Inspiring Teacher: Jessica Jensen, head of Emergency Management
Published May 2019
Jessica Jensen’s career focuses on how we prepare and respond to emergencies, disasters and catastrophes. She has been a tenure-track faculty member at NDSU since 2011.
Jensen has developed or taught more than 12 courses, ranging from Vulnerability and Functional Needs in Emergency Management to Voluntary Agency Disaster Services to Response Theory.
Her passion for her field makes for dynamic, insightful and compelling classes.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE YOUR PROFESSION?
I knew I wanted to be involved in the world of emergencies, vulnerabilities and hazard events since I was 14.
I worked in a restaurant and had a regular customer who did work related to these topics on behalf of a major multinational corporation. He always sat in my section, and I learned about his work. I was immediately hooked. Back then, I assumed I would work in practice. I never would have dreamed then that I would be in higher education, engaged in teaching and research related to these topics.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR TEACHING STYLE?
Hazards, vulnerabilities and hazard events are impacting people, organizations and communities in increasing, significant and devastating ways. I’ve considered it my mission to help people understand why we see these trends and how we can lessen the impacts. I find it super cool that this understanding is only holistic when grounded in integration and synthesis of the research about these topics from dozens of academic disciplines.
I think it’s intellectually sexy that these more holistic pictures upend everything people think they know about hazards, vulnerabilities and hazard events, and also reveal new paths to pursue to reduce suffering.
My teaching style flows from these realities. I give students the opportunity to learn in an active learning environment where we work together to apply what we are learning while developing skills critical to success in almost any professional setting, such as interpersonal and group communication skills, teamwork, facilitation and written and oral communication.
HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’VE SUCCEEDED WITH A STUDENT OR CLASS?
I am a complete nerd. What I mean by that is, I love to study and learn about lots of things, including how we assess learning as educators. I carefully design my courses to assess learning and use related evidence to make changes.
But, that’s not the only way I know if I’ve succeeded. The very best measure is seeing the students I work with go on to get the jobs they want and do amazing work related to what we teach here. Their work is making a real difference in the organizations and communities they serve, and it is so fulfilling to be part of their journeys.
WHO IS A TEACHER WHO INSPIRED YOU AS A STUDENT AND WHY?
I had a political philosophy professor when I was seeking my undergraduate degree who was super inspiring. He loved his subject so much that his eyes would light up and he would get very animated, speak passionately and sometimes even throw erasers or chalk for emphasis. I learned so much from him about the power of passion in a classroom. I like to think that I bring some of that same passion to my classrooms, only without throwing stuff, of course.
Jensen earned her bachelor’s degree at California State University-Northridge, and her master’s degree and doctorate in emergency management from NDSU.