UWM hosts, helps create first FEMA Think Tank

FEMA tink tank participants

(L-R) UWM alumna Desiree Matel-Anderson; Stan Stojkovic, dean of Helen Bader School of Social Welfare; Stephanie Sikinger; FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino and Andrew Boese.

A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee alumna and criminal justice student worked with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help coordinate the nation’s first FEMA Think Tank.

“FEMA recognizes that the best solutions to the challenges we face are generated by the people and the communities who are closest to these challenges,” say officials with the agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “It is essential that these partners are invited to the table to actively participate in thought-provoking discussions.”

“This is a great example of how our Helen Bader School of Social Welfare students and recent graduates are making a difference.”

Stan Stojkovic
Dean of HBSSW at UWM.

Stephanie Sikinger (’11 MS Criminal Justice, ’09 BS Criminal Justice) and Andrew Boese (senior, criminal justice) were among the “huge drivers” who helped create the FEMA Think Tank. It consists of two parts: an online forum and monthly conference call discussions. UWM was the site for the first monthly FEMA Think Tank conference call, held Jan. 26.

Following internships with Milwaukee’s Office of Emergency Management/Homeland Security, Sikinger and Boese met voluntarily to brainstorm with their former supervisor, UWM alumna Desiree Matel-Anderson, a project manager/fiscal and compliance monitor at the Milwaukee office. These “free will” discussions, held at UWM’s Golda Meir Library, were a springboard for the Think Tank initiative.

“This is a great example of how our Helen Bader School of Social Welfare students and recent graduates are making a difference,” says Stan Stojkovic, dean of HBSSW at UWM.

FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino, who conducted the Jan. 26 Think Tank, met with Sikinger, Boese and Matel-Anderson (’06 BA Communication) this August, and the three joined him for lunch before the Milwaukee conference call last week.

“Being a part of the FEMA national Think Tank was truly a rewarding experience,” says Boese. “When we first began working on the project, I was unaware of the federal support it would receive.”

Boese adds that he is “extremely thankful” to have been involved and “grateful” to FEMA for hosting the first session at UWM, where groundwork for the project was done.

More than 600 participants from throughout the U.S. “dialed in” to the Jan. 26 FEMA Think Tank, while representatives from emergency planning organizations throughout Wisconsin attended in-person at UWM. Topics were “Incorporate Preparedness into School Curriculums,” “U.S. National Grid as the Response Language of Location” and “Community Mapping to Implement the Whole Community Concept.”

During each monthly call, Deputy Administrator Serino will discuss innovative ideas generated from FEMA’s Think Tank online forum. The individuals who submitted these ideas provide a brief presentation, and then calls are taken from the national audience for further discussion.

“We were pleased to hold the first national Think Tank call at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee,” Deputy Administrator Serino said at the Jan. 26 Think Tank. “These calls are a great opportunity to engage state, local, federal partners, the private sector, faith-based groups, disability and volunteer communities in Milwaukee, as well as national contributors by phone, in a discussion about the innovative ideas that have been presented through our online forum.”

FEMA invites all members of the public with innovative ideas and comments to visit their online forum located at www.fema.ideascale.com. The next Think Tank conference call will be held in mid-February in San Francisco.