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New 'FIRE chief' aims to empower students through research

With more than six years of research and teaching experience at the university level, Dr. Emina Herović is no stranger to higher education, but she recently found a new way to explore her long-held interests. Earlier this year, she took the reins of START’s First-Year Innovation and Research Experience (FIRE) stream in Risk Communication and Resilience (RCR), a highly competitive University of Maryland program designed to provide first-year students with inquiry-based experiences and broad personal and academic mentorship.

As an assistant clinical professor, Herović works with Dr. Brooke Liu to lead the students in developing science-based answers for how effective communication can help individuals and communities best prepare for, respond to, and recover from crises and thereby develop resilience.    

Herović’s passion for teaching and research led her to the RCR-FIRE program at START. Her goal is to empower young people to conduct research and be actively involved in research careers.

“The opportunity for freshmen to be part of a professional research team and work in a professional research setting is certainly rare,” Herović said. “Through active involvement and inclusion, I seek to develop strong young researchers who will build on their experiences in the FIRE program by pursuing degrees and jobs in related fields.”

Students in the RCR-FIRE program are actively involved in the research that the RCR team conducts, which means that they work on research projects in real-time along with RCR researchers. Last year, START’s FIRE program served more than 70 students, who generated dozens of posters, papers and reports based on cutting edge research that can inform policy and best practice for communication practitioners. 

“Students, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds, may have little to no exposure to the research process,” said Herović. “I want them to gain experience conducting research and to think, ‘this is interesting, and I can do this.’”

Herović’s advice to students pursuing a career in research is to pick topics for which they are interested and passionate.

“Research can be a long process, and it’s important that students find a topic they enjoy. I believe the best research comes from researchers who are passionate about their work,” she said.

Herović said that her most rewarding professional experiences occur when she feels she has made a personal connection with her students.

“I find it so rewarding when I have the opportunity to celebrate their achievements with them – when they land that dream job or are accepted into a top tier graduate program – or when I can help them navigate difficulties, whether financial, personal or professional,” she said. “Those are the moments that mean the most to me as an educator. Those are the experiences that I will always remember.”