2019 Annenberg Public Safety Fellowship testimonials

Following the Harvard Kennedy School’s Leadership in Crises: Preparation and Performance program, HSAC’s Public Safety Fellows offered their reflections:

Los Angeles Fire Department, City of Los Angeles

The Leadership in Crises Program was invaluable and provided me with a framework to approach large-scale emergencies while effectively interacting with multiple organizations from many jurisdictions. I found the discussions amongst our diverse group of students to be the most valuable. The case studies exposed us to real-world incidents where we discussed working in high-stress environments, managing and motivating teams, and determining a crisis-situation from routine emergencies.

While I am still processing some of the concepts learned at the Harvard Kennedy School, I am consistently exploring ways to develop and enhance strategies for growth for the Los Angeles Fire Department. I would encourage this class to anyone considering a leadership position in their organization.

Kairi Brown,
Fire Captain II
Los Angeles Fire Department

Los Angeles Police Department, City of Los Angeles

The Harvard Kennedy School, Leadership in Crises, course was outstanding. I’ll break down the experience with a comment on the program academically, logistically, and its overall value. 

Academically, the caliber of professors and facilitators were top-notch. It is not often in a training session that I get to have professors with Harvard credentials. If it wasn’t a Harvard professor, it was a subject-matter expert in the applicable field that facilitated the discussion and imparted the takeaways.  

Logistically, it was extremely well-run with great care for the students’ comfort, convenience, sustenance, and time. They have this program dialed in. Everything always started on time, in accordance with the syllabus, and finished at expected times. The food was excellent; the hotel, shuttle, proximity to campus, and organization of events were all exceptional.

As far as what I learned and took away from the program, I found it extremely helpful in my role as a police executive. One of the great things about the program was the diverse student body that substantively added to the program. The class discussions, the on-a-break discussions, and the after-class discussions all contributed to the overall experience and learning environment. Such diversity challenged us and got us truly thinking outside our career “boxes.” I made friends and established relationships with students that will absolutely improve my responses to crises and gave me a perspective that will carry forward with me. Overall? Highly recommend the course!

Daniel Randolph
Captain III
Los Angeles Police Department

Emergency Management Department, City of Los Angeles

The opportunity to spend a week at Harvard with an outstanding group of peers was a pivotal moment in my career and my life. Our cohort was international, and during the week-long Leadership in Crisis: Preparation and Performance course, I found myself absorbing the many cultural and philosophical differences among us, which manifest themselves as we manage a crisis. Many times during one's career, we are taught one way to think and one way to act. Our brains record those lessons, and, during a crisis, we revert to what we know and recognize. This week-long course opened my mind to new ways to approach a crisis, disaster, or emergency. Perhaps the most important lesson I learned from our professors was to look for the point when an incident becomes unique and is headed towards a crisis. 

I am hoping to apply many of the lessons learned to my current position within the City of Los Angeles (LA), not only in how we approach preparedness, but also in how we respond to it. By presenting our new Ready Your LA Neighborhood (RYLAN) program to residents of LA in the same framework that Crisis Leadership was presented to me, I hope to help neighborhoods understand that we are preparing for the unique situations that will result from a catastrophic earthquake. 

Using the lessons learned from this program, I will be able to offer the valuable tool of recognizing the uniqueness of our situation and the importance of mentally preparing for situations such as wildfires, earthquakes, and tsunamis, without the help of local responders. 

Crisanta Gonzalez
Emergency Management Coordinator I
Los Angeles Emergency Management Department

Los Angeles County Fire Department, Los Angeles County

As a first responder for over thirty years, nineteen years as an incident commander, the Leadership in Crises course re-enforced my thoughts on the importance of establishing and maintaining collaborative relationships with all first responder partners and local political officials. These relationships help benefit all stakeholders and help reduce the impacts of a novel incident.

During the week, I enjoyed all of the assigned case studies, especially the Deepwater Horizon case. It provided a bird’s eye view to the complexity of a large-scale, multi-jurisdictional incident that included various competing interests within an incident of great magnitude. Without a doubt, I will recommend the Leadership in Crises executive course to all my colleagues.

Anderson Mackey
Assistant Chief
Los Angeles County Fire Department

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

My recent attendance of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Leadership in Crises executive course was a great opportunity to work with colleagues from around the country. The many agencies that represent the Los Angeles area have worked hard to come to function as one, cohesive managing agency, but we can still learn from our incidents as well as those faced by other agencies.

The program looked at the management roles during an incident and the psychological effects of being in that position. It focused on how the human mind will attempt to force decisions and act within an existing contingency plan when faced with a new crisis in which a contingency plan does not exist. This tendency causes those in the leadership roles to make potentially ineffective decisions while managing an incident.

Using example-based scenarios throughout the week, I learned how government agencies failed to invest in prevention strategies only to double and triple the cost of mitigation once an incident occurred. One such scenario was the San Diego firestorm, where several government agencies refused to enforce brush clearance regulations, hire additional stage resources, or move resources once the wildfires began. A small investment in prevention before the fire season could have lessened the crippling effects the firestorm had on the community. 

While the case studies add great value, the diversity of participants offered various perspectives and experiences in the classroom discussions. The course covered a wide range of teachings for first responders, government, and private sector emergency managers. The diversity of participants allowed the class to engage in deep conversations producing ideas for all of us to take back home.

Robbie Royster
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department


As a part of my formal education and training, I have had the opportunity to attend prestigious universities at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and University of Southern California (USC) both of which had very innovative learning curriculums. My experience at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), however, surpassed all other educational experiences I have had. A major contributing factor to my positive experience was how the instructors forced students to tackle the difficult yet lingering questions in crisis management. One example was the in-class discussion on the use of the Incident Command System for novel/unique incidents that transition into catastrophic incidents.

Personally, I feel the instructors incorporated several strategies to create a positive learning environment. These included:

  1. They made learning relevant making the entire learning process much more engaging.

  2. They developed a code of conduct that ensured that the learning environment was a positive one and all comments were welcomed.

  3. They developed a curriculum that helped foster intrinsic motivation.

  4. They employed faculty that were subject-matter experts, who understood counter arguments and always responded with positivity.

I would like to thank HSAC for the opportunity and HKS for one of the most positive learning experiences of my life.

Sinan Khan
Supervising Emergency Management Coordinator
Office of Emergency Management