A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

In training the next generation of scholars and practitioners, START offers its students a chance to publish their work on this blog.

The freshman who wasted no time

The freshman who wasted no time

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sam Koralnik, FIRE Student

“How was I fortunate enough to end up here?” is a question I often ask myself as I enter START’s facilities and walk down the aisle of offices that leads to my workspace. How did I, a second semester freshman, end up rubbing shoulders with some of the brightest people in the area doing real government-funded research on terrorism and responses to terrorism?

The answer is simple: I signed up for FIRE, the First year Innovation and Research Experience program, at freshman orientation last summer and it was the best decision I made during my short time as a UMD student. FIRE gave me the option of choosing which research track I wanted to go into, and without a second thought, I chose the Risk Communication and Resilience stream, which gave me the opportunity to work at START.

After meeting with Brooke Liu,  Associate Professor of Communication and Director of the Risk Communication and Resilience Program at START, I was sure I had made a great decision. Her research on how strategic communication can help peoples’ disaster preparation and response seemed fascinating. I was especially intrigued by the time she spent in Israel, because I spent the previous year studying at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv. I was drawn to Dr. Liu because her research can actually save lives.

My FIRE stream is researching how to prepare healthcare systems and other organizations with more robust communication plans to use during natural disasters and terror attacks. We have conducted numerous literature reviews, and deconstructed these texts into code-based formats.

While my team has not yet published any work on disaster communication plans, we have been given the opportunity to submit our own papers that identify gaps in the current research we have conducted and offer solutions to fill them in future efforts. These papers will then be submitted to competitive conferences and other outlets that are relevant to our discipline. While this process sounds tedious, it is actually quite the opposite. I am interested and engaged in the work every day, and the eight hours a week I spend at START fly by.

START is a fantastic program, but what really makes it great are the people who work here. Mike Egnoto is START’s FIRE Research Educator and I personally give him most of the credit for making my time at START such a fun experience. Mike makes FIRE a place I want to be. He cares about us as individuals, and his passion really shines through in lectures. He also does not seem to mind the constant interruptions and barrage of questions us over-zealous students ask each day.

Working at START has been one of the defining experiences of my freshman year and I am lucky to be able to continue working here during the fall. There are so many great things offered at START, from roundtables with graduate students and significant terrorism analyst briefings, to kickball and hiking bonding exercises. This experience is one that will have a definite impact on my future in government and politics. I may have signed up for FIRE on an impulse, but my experience at START will stay with me for years to come.