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Eliot Jennings


Faculty profile: Eliot Jennings

When Eliot Jennings was making the decision to move to Grand Junction, he made sure to check how many federal disasters had taken place in the area. It was a natural inclination for Jennings, assistant professor of public administration. He’s spent years of his life as a practitioner and student of emergency management.

Jennings initially planned to study nuclear engineering after serving in the U.S. Navy’s nuclear power program. While in the service, he spent time at a New York facility with four power plants used to train Navy personnel before they go to the fleet.

“I taught there and it’s also where I started to get an interest in emergency management,” Jennings said. “Part of my duties were to get involved with the local community and work with them planning if there were to be some type of radiological incident.”

After leaving the military, he obtained a degree in emergency management from the University of North Texas (UNT) and spent 10 years working in the field in Galveston, Texas. Then he returned to school and obtained a Master’s of Public Administration and a doctorate in public administration with an emphasis in emergency management.

Jennings joined Colorado Mesa University in 2013 and has spent his time here helping the public administration program evolve. Next fall, CMU plans to offer a public administration specialization within the political science degree.

“[It’s] really geared towards those students in political science who think they may want to end up working for government,” Jennings said. “They’ll get to take some courses in public finance, public personnel management, public administration and leadership in the public sector. Courses that will set them up to better serve government.”

He enjoys teaching public administration courses like public finance, which sheds light on the challenges of serving a large population in a fair manner. “It gives students an entirely different perspective,” said Jennings. “I think it’s a great course even if somebody’s not going into public administration, just to understand how their local government works.”

The public administration program will soon offer emergency management courses as well. Many of these will dovetail with nearly every other program of study offered by the university.

“To me, emergency management is a combination of hard sciences and soft sciences. There’s the physical sciences that have a role in the natural creation of hazards. From an engineering perspective, how do we build safer houses? How do we design utility systems that are less vulnerable to the effects of wind, water, snow? Then there’s the social sciences aspect of dealing with the people who are impacted.”

Jennings is enthusiastic about the changes coming to CMU’s public administration program. “I’m excited about the emergency management courses that are being developed. I’m excited about the public administration specialization being developed in political science. I think that helps better serve those students who … have what we refer to as the public service motive, which is essentially the desire to serve their community and fellow citizens.”

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