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James “Matt” Leicester

Emergency Management Coordinator for Chesapeake Regional Health Care

How are HSEP classes preparing you to lead?

While my experiences as a full-time professional had given me a certain breadth of understanding about emergency management, the depth of knowledge I’ve gained from the program has given me tremendous confidence. As a student, I’ve really had the opportunity to dig into the field and become a much more proactive and critical thinker and contributor. I can see that growth in myself on the job. I’ve moved from being a tactician in continuity planning to being able to really critique and modify a plan and a process for the better.

What is the best part of the HSEP program?

The range and knowledge and expertise that our faculty have—from cyber to legal to intelligence—generates students who are better-rounded professionals. That’s something that you might not get from a program with a narrower focus. The classroom discussions are richer, and the variety of the connections that they bring to students is unsurpassed.

What professional and personal goals would you like to accomplish with your HSEP degree?

My professional goal is really to influence the field to be less reactive and more proactive. Many times, we are looking backward in this discipline by responding to grants and opportunities to better respond to the constraints of the last crisis. I really hope that I can be part of the change in this profession to be more forward-looking in the field and to really strive to improve the underlying structure of the system so that we can respond and recover better. Personally, I’ve focused on finishing strong and doing my professors proud!

If you were to recommend this program to a colleague, what would you say?

Be ready to work. It’s challenging but tremendously rewarding. VCU is a pioneer program.

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