Letter of Introduction

I would like to introduce my INDS degree in Resilient Technologies in Disaster Management.  Using technology in disaster response has been an interest of mine for quite a while because of my family's long line of commitment to serving and protecting their communities and our country in different capacities, including the military, law enforcement, and emergency health. Their service inspired me to begin my journey as a first responder on a Search and Rescue Team, where I was involved in multiple lifesaving missions. I have also gained skills in emergency communications for the state of New York and my local community of Yaphank, Long Island. Although I enjoyed my time as a first responder and providing emergency communications, I  wanted to develop a different pathway using information technology and my love for community service. 

In order to pursue this goal, I became a volunteer at a non-profit organization called the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC). ITDRC is a volunteer organization that provides no-cost Information, Communications, and Technology solutions to connect survivors and responders in crises. For example, in September 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica, St. Croix, and Puerto Rico. In its wake, it left first responders, communities, and disaster management facilities devastated and disconnected from the world. I deployed with ITDRC in January 2018 to Puerto Rico, where I spent two weeks reconnecting hospitals, police stations, and emergency management facilities to online networks. It was truly an awesome experience seeing how I could contribute directly to the huge role that technology can play in communities during times of crisis. 

As I have witnessed through my time as a first responder and volunteering with ITDRC,  disaster management is increasingly becoming dependent on networks for information-gathering, coordination, and physical system control. These are critical systems that enable emergency management agencies to implement comprehensive approaches to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and law enforcement issues. A disaster, whether a man-made or natural event, can cause system-wide malfunctions as a result of multiple failures within a system or network. As a result, disaster management professionals push for more “disaster tolerance”: the ability for infrastructure, IT systems, communications infrastructure, organizations and business processes that depend on these systems to maintain functionality throughout the occurrence of a disaster. Systems that do not have disaster tolerance tend to fail during and after disasters such as hurricanes. 

My individualized degree in Resilient Technologies in Disaster Management focuses on many disciplines including political science and history, which will help me understand U.S. national security threats together with the policies and strategies currently in use to protect our nation from security breaches. Knowledge gained from Information Systems and Computer Science will help me understand how to design, secure, and manage IT systems. These disciplines along with INDS will help me apply a multidisciplinary approach to better respond to technical issues before, during, and after disasters. This combination of courses has created opportunities for internships at companies such as Disney World2 and Parsons Cyber. My hope is that my completed degree will make me competitive for disaster response jobs at the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency,3  which offers positions in Cyber Security and Incident Management.

Finally, I would like to thank my faculty advisor Steven McAlpine and the staff of the INDS program for their support in helping me to develop my degree proposal. I am especially grateful to Joe Hillis, Director of Operations at the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center, for allowing me the opportunity to volunteer with ITDRC. I would also like to thank my degree mentors, Dr. Forno and Aastha Jain for their ongoing support.