OTC Annual Report
Working His Education
Ryan Nicholls has learned a lot about emergency management both inside the classrooms at Ozarks Technical Community College and outside in the real world.
Nothing taught him more about his job as Greene County director of emergency management than last May when a tornado devastated Joplin.
"Joplin was a career moment. All the principals of emergency management that we understood were needed on a scale we never imagined and were never tested on before Joplin," said Nicholls, who attended OTC and eventually earned his master's degree in emergency management.
Nicholls said that the emergency management skills he learned at OTC and in his other academic studies were put to the test with the Joplin tornado.
"Analytical thinking, prioritizing, evaluating, problem solving, these are all academic skills learned at OTC," he said.
Nicholls came to OTC to finish his GED, and in doing so, he earned a scholarship that paid for several semesters of school. He was recognized with OTC's Distinguished Alumni award at last May's commencement.
"OTC helped me get started. It excited me academically and led me to know that I wanted a master's degree," said Nicholls, who is married and the father of five children.
"I can honestly say that the majority of college instructors who standout in my mind were from OTC. They applied the subject to us in a way that made it easier for us to study. There was a motivation to study and we enjoyed doing it."
Nicholls returned to OTC recently to be the first instructor for the College's six-week online crisis and disaster management program for current and potential emergency management personnel across the country, from both the public and private sector.
The program was born out of discussions between Nicholls' staff and OTC. Both found it difficult to find well-trained personnel to fill key crisis and disaster management positions.
"The course lays out the basic principles of emergency management coordination. It's also for those who might be required to meet certain training requirements or for those who are thinking about getting into this line of work. It's a great program," Nicholls said.
Nicholls said OTC gave him the academic spark he needed to send him on his way to becoming Greene County's top emergency official. He fondly remembers his time at OTC from 1993-94.
While his original training was in nursing, it was his attraction to helping others in natural disasters that drew him to his current career. Nicholls spent six weeks in southern Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina hit.
His career choice was a good one that he credits in part to his time at OTC.
"I got confidence at OTC. I knew getting a master's was achievable and that I could go as far as I wanted to go. Now, I put those skills to use every day," Nicholls said.