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At the Forefront of Crisis Leadership

"Our field is undergoing immense change, but one thing remains constant: our unending commitment to the people we serve. We’re facing greater risks and a changing society, which means our role is evolving. As we move into the future, we’re going to need to leverage all the lessons we’ve learned... lessons of connectivity, creativity, and most of all, adaptability."

FEMA Administrator

Deanne Criswell

Today’s executive leaders face a level of complexity, interconnectivity, uncertainty, and volatility far beyond anything seen before. Leading in this environment requires integrative thinking, advanced problem solving, predictive analysis, and coordinated communication spanning all levels of the government, the private sector, policymakers, practitioners, and communities.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Emergency Management Institute’s (EMI) Vanguard Executive Crisis Leaders Fellowship is a two-week, senior-level leadership program focused on disruptive changes in emergency management and crisis leadership. Through a series of focused discussions with top experts and peers, participants will engage in seminars, site visits with crisis leadership experts, and roundtable sessions to discuss and debate the challenges we share as crisis leaders and move the needle towards improving personal and collective preparedness.

Who Should Apply

The Vanguard Executive Crisis Leaders Fellowship is designed for senior executives and proven crisis leaders with 15+ years of crisis leadership or emergency management experience from government, academia, non-governmental, philanthropic, and private sectors. Ideal candidates are executive level leaders responsible for operational and strategic decision-making in crisis OR individuals with experience leading organizations through novel crisis events.

Selectees include, but are not limited to:

  • Emergency management and homeland security directors or advisors leading in local, state, multijurisdictional, or large metropolitan areas
  • Emergency management leaders from allied disciplines in the public sector, such as public utilities, public transportation, and military roles
  • Private Sector leaders with experience in crisis leadership
  • PhD academics, professors, or researchers
  • Elected Officials
  • Members of the Governor's Cabinet or chief/director of an agency
  • Federal administrators at the Appointed or Senior Executive Service (SES)
  • Directors of voluntary, community-based, non-profit, or philanthropic organizations
  • Individuals with experience leading through novel crisis events

Program Objectives

Through a series of roundtable seminars, site visits, and expert-level exchanges, participants will:

  • Examine risk and disruptive changes in emergency management, and the leadership challenges and values conflicts that result
  • Explore and share theoretical frameworks for leading and managing crises
  • Brainstorm innovative strategies to strengthen emergency and crisis management
  • Build a purposeful network with trusted executive-level crisis leaders in government, academia, private, and non-governmental sectors
  • Share crisis leadership stories and lessons learned, helping to build and grow thought leadership within the profession.

Program Schedule

Each cohort begins with a 2-hour virtual welcome session.

Week One will be held at a rotating, offsite location to allow each cohort a unique opportunity to meet with experts across the country and discuss disruptive threats and unique challenges of the major cities and localities visited.

Week Two is hosted in Washington, D.C. and includes visits with the White House National Security Council, Congressional staff and elected officials, and FEMA leadership, among others.

2024 Vanguard Fellowship Dates
Cohort Virtual Intro Week One Virtual Session Week Two
Cohort 6 Jan 31, 2:00-4:00 pm Feb 12-16, 2024 Chicago, IL TBD Apr 1-5, 2024 Washington, DC
Cohort 7 Apr 17, 2:00-4:00 pm Apr 29-May 3, 2024 New York, NY TBD Jun 10-14, 2024 Washington, DC
Cohort 8 Jul 9, 2:00-4:00 pm Jul 15-19, 2024 Denver, CO TBD Aug 12-16, 2024 Washington, DC

Vanguard Selection Process

The Emergency Management Institute (EMI) will accept applications for the Vanguard Executive Crisis Leaders Fellowship on a rolling basis. Those applicants that wish to apply for the CY 2024 cohorts should submit their application by December 15, 2023. Applications received after this time will be considered for the CY25 cohorts.

A formal selection board will convene to review the application packages with an announcement of the results made to applicants by early January.

Applications will be evaluated based on the depth and breadth of direct experience leading through crisis, or in an executive level emergency management position.

To ensure a diversity of participation, the program takes a hybrid approach to filling each cohort, accepting self-nominations, alumni recommendations, and direct recruitment of proven crisis leaders. Applicants are encouraged to review all selection and application requirements before submitting their application package.

How to Apply

  1. Verify Qualification

  2. Email Application & Supporting Documents

    To apply for the Vanguard Fellowship, please e-mail the following to

    • Your resume

    • A 300-word or less response to the following:

      What do you hope to get out of the fellowship, what do you hope to contribute, and what 2 books do you recommend to up-and-coming crisis leaders?

    • Cohort Preference

      Within your email:

      Indicate the specific cohort for which you are applying. You may apply for 1, 2 or all 3. Please list in preferred rank order and only select cohorts for which you are available in their entirety

      If your application is supported by a Vanguard alumni, please share their name in the e-mail

    Submit the completed package to by December 15, 2023.

    Submit Application & Supporting Documents

  3. Application Complete

    After the application deadline, FEMA EMI will convene a panel to adjudicate applications. Selectees will be notified by early January.

Tuition and Travel Reimbursement

There is no cost of tuition for the Vanguard Executive Crisis Leaders Fellowship.

Individuals participating in the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) Vanguard program may be eligible for up to 50% travel reimbursement (airfare, hotel, meal per diem) with the home organization covering the remaining 50%.

Those groups typically eligible for partial reimbursement include state, local or tribal government representatives; recognized volunteer organization representatives; or active emergency management organization representatives.

We cannot reimburse federal government, private sector, representatives of a foreign organization, or contract employees. For information on organizations falling outside of the categories listed above, please e-mail

Eligible for stipend reimbursement

  • State, local or tribal government representatives.
  • Recognized volunteer organization representatives.
  • Active emergency management organization representatives.
  • Representatives from state or local fire organizations

Not eligible for reimbursement

  • Federal government. (Federal students are subject to federal travel regulations and travel under orders prepared by their office.)
  • Private industry employees.
  • Employees who are contracted to federal, state, or local government entities (such as rural-metro departments).
  • Representatives of a foreign organization.

Fellowship Alumni

The Vanguard Alumni network represents some of the most influential and experienced minds in emergency management and crisis leadership today. Our alumni network exists to serve one purpose: to ensure that our Nation’s crisis leaders can access the information and relationships needed to innovate, prepare, and respond.

Jeff Byard Vice President of Operations Team Rubicon
Marcus Coleman Director of DHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships  FEMA
Lori Ehrlich Regional Administrator FEMA Region 1
Judson Freed Director of EM and Homeland Security Ramsay County, MN
Carolyn Harshman President  International Association of Emergency Managers 
Mark Harvey Harvard Fellow / Former Senior Director for Resilience Policy, National Security Council SVP, New York Federal Reserve
Brian Hastings Director Alabama Emergency Management Agency
Justin Knighten Director of Office of External Affairs  FEMA
Dr. Atiya Martin CEO and Founder All Aces Consulting
Dawn O'Connell Assistant Secretary Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response
Carol Parks General Manager of the Emergency Management Department  Los Angeles, CA
Will Polk Deputy General Counsel  North Carolina Dept of Public Safety
Patrick Roberts Senior Political Scientist RAND 
LTG A.C. Roper Deputy Commander, NORTHCOM Department of Defense
Monica Sanders Managing Director, Georgetown's Environmental Justice Program Georgetown University 
Patrick Sheehan Director Tennessee Emergency Management Agency
Eric Stern Professor and Chairman of the Faculty SUNY Albany, College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security & Cybersecurity
Jeff Toney Director of Emergency Management San Diego, CA
Dana Tulis Director of Emergency Management U.S. Coast Guard

Curtis Brown Founder Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in EM
MaryEllen Carrol Director of Emergency Management San Francisco
Nancy Casper Federal Coordinating Officer FEMA
Bill Driscoll State Representative, Former Interim President and CEO of NVOAD Massachusetts House of Representatives
Drenan Dudley Professional Staff U.S. Senate
Chris Geldart Deputy Mayor of Public Safety & Justice Washington, D.C.  
Erin Hoffman Director of NETHD  FEMA 
Jessica Jensen Department Head & Associate Professor University of North Dakota Dept. of Emergency Management 
Heather King Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Integration and Defense Support to Civil Authorities Department of Defense
Kelly  McKinney Assistant Vice President of Emergency Management and Enterprise Resilience NYU Langone Health 
Ted Okada Chief Technology Officer FEMA
John Pennington Deputy Director University of Alaska Center for Arctic Security & Resilience
Andrew Phelps Director  Oregon Office of EM
Tom Sivak Regional Administrator FEMA R5
Jon Spaner Partner McKinsey
Ellis Stanley Managing Partner Ellis Stanley Partners
Russ Strickland Secretary Maryland Department of Emergency Management
MJ Thomas Director of Security General Dynamics

Christine Altendorf Director of Military Programs US Army Corps of Engineers
Danielle Aymond Of Counsel  Baker Donelson
Kellie Bentz Affiliate Faculty Harvard University National Preparedness Leadership Institution
Erica Bornemann Director Vermont Emergency Management Agency
Nickea Bradley Director of Prevention and Mitigation Washington Area Metro Transit Authority
Cathy Clark President  International Association of Emergency Managers 
Yokarina Duarte Chief of Staff New York City Emergency Management 
Bob Fenton Regional Administrator FEMA Region 9
Angie Gibson Vice President of Emergency Preparedness and Response  Pacific Gas and Electric 
Pete Gomez Director Miami-Dade Emergency Management
Natalie Grant Director, Office of Human Services Emergency Preparedness and Response  Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response
Jeffrey Hansen Director, Community Protection  Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
Matt Kallmyer Director Atlanta-Fulton County Emergency Management Agency 
David Kaufman Vice President and Director for Safety and Security  CNA
Carolyn Levering Emergency Manager Las Vegas, NV
Sean Regan Deputy Commander Pacific Area  U.S. Coast Guard
Gracia Szczech Regional Administrator  FEMA Region 4
Alicia Tate-Nadeau Director Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Office of Homeland Security 

Shad Ahmed Director, Portland Bureau of Emergency Management Portland, OR
Michael Antoine Director, Homeland Security New Orleans, LA
Beth Armstrong CEO International Association of Emergency Managers 
Mike Byrne Specialist Executive Deloitte
Clara Decerbo Director of Emergency Management Providence, RI
Julie Kachgal Director, Global Crisis Management  Walt Disney Company
Jason McNamara Director CNA
Samantha Montano Assistant Professor of Emergency Management Massachusetts Maritime Academy
Faith Newton Director of Crisis Management Walmart
Willie Nunn Regional Administrator FEMA Region 10
Chris Rodriguez Director Washington, D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (DC HSEMA)
Dillon Taylor Chief of Staff & Senior Counsel Virginia
Elisa Urena Chief Financial Officer New York City Emergency Management
Helen Welch Director, Response and Recovery Readiness American Red Cross
Mike Willis Director Colorado  Office of Emergency Management
Tim Zientek Chairman, Inter-Tribal Emergency Management Coalition of Oklahoma Potawatomi Tribe, OK

Ross Ashley Senior Director, Disaster Management KPMG US
Brian Baker Vice President Hagerty
Katherine Boatwright Senior Director, Global Operations CWS Global
Dawn Brantley Director of Emergency Management Massachusetts
Natalie Enclade Executive Director Build Strong Coalition
David Fogerson Director of Emergency Management Nevada
AJ Gary Director of Emergency Management Arkansas
Curry Mayer Director of Emergency Management Seattle, WA
Moniek Pointer Manager, Emergency & Homeland Security Los Angeles, CA Metro
Amanda Savitt Emergency Management Analyst Argonee National Laboratory
AJ Schall Director of Emergency Management Delaware
Jeremy Slinker Director of Emergency Management Kentucky
Jeff Smitherman Director of Emergency Management Alabama
Erik Speranza Director, Emergency Management Division US House of Representatives
John Tani Special Agent in Charge, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy US Secret Service
April Wood President and CEO National VOAD

Further Information

For further inquiries please contact the Vanguard program:

Contact Vanguard Program

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