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Campus Corner: Taylor Alexander of PI winner at virtual FEMA conference

ALMA — At the time, Taylor Alexander of Presque Isle, Alexander Kingsley of Grand Ledge, and Quinton Moeggenborg of Elwell, created their project for the Emergency Management Higher Education Symposium, they did not know how much it would fit in with the theme of future events. Tragically, it did.

The three Alma College students won the Overall People’s Choice award for their project, “Equitable Disaster Relief Can be Hindered by Appearance,” at the 22nd annual symposium, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, June 1-4.

The students’ project — a poster illustrating how first responders in emergencies can be subject to racial and gender biases — was completed long before protests erupted throughout the United States following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a white police officer, on May 25. Kingsley said the project ended up fitting an unfortunate theme of prejudice that can affect everyone, regardless of profession.

“It’s terrible that biases occur in first responders, but they do, and we need to be aware of it so we can recognize it, and learn, grow and improve as a society. Growing up, I dealt with a lot of prejudice,” said Kingsley, a Latino American and sophomore at Alma College. “Unfortunately, that’s how it was. But it doesn’t always have to be.”

The symposium, normally held at the National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg, Maryland, was online this year due to the pandemic. Alexander said although it was disappointing to not be able to travel and take part in the event in person, it was still special to win the award.

“This was my first year presenting and I was incredibly nervous. I didn’t think I was prepared for the questions (judges) would ask. It turns out I was wrong for doubting my own abilities,” Alexander said. “Winning the award made me feel like I do know what I’m doing, my hard work is paying off and that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.”

Dale Sanders, an associate professor and director of healthcare administration at Alma College, said said he was proud of all of his students who took part, especially considering the dire circumstances.

“I thought with all the challenges, first with COVID-19 and then with the social unrest, they really stepped up. Things are changing in this field very quickly and our students are right there prepared to answer questions that seasoned professionals are having a hard time with,” Sanders said. “They exemplify the values of Alma College and it’s an honor to work with them.”

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