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photo of Nicole QuinnNicole Quinn

2007 MPA grad leads Delaware toward emergency readiness

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Nicole Quinn discovered her passion for helping people deal with life-and-death crises.

Quinn is the deputy section chief of the Public Health Preparedness Section of the state of Delaware's Division of Public Health. The Public Health Preparedness Section takes the lead and collaborates with partners and the community to develop, implement, and maintain a comprehensive program to prepare for, mitigate against, respond to and recover from public health threats and emergencies.

In addition to her MPA, Nicole holds an MA in Security Studies from the Naval Post-Graduate School. Her professional background is largely in training and evaluation in the private sector. "[This] training has helped me to express complex problems in a clear way and has helped me with public speaking, while evaluation has helped me to think analytically," Quinn says.

Quinn applies this to her public-sector work at the state level. "After I graduated," she says, "I became the training and evaluation administrator at the Public Health Preparedness Section. I focused on developing training courses and conducting emergency-preparedness exercises. I would also evaluate our current plans and procedures to ensure effectiveness."

One would think putting lots of effort into the public health aspects of emergency or disaster preparedness might be a tedious task without much chance for intrinsic reward. Quinn insists this is not so. "When I finally get to see a project come together and you can see the results is what makes it all worthwhile," she says. " This can come by helping a single citizen or by seeing a project like a conference come to life."

Quinn had to make her way through the MPA program at Delaware with an interest area that hadn't been supported from a programmatic standpoint. She was determined, though, and made the most of her opportunities, including her work as a legislative liaison with the Delaware Department of Education.

"Working for DOE," Quinn says, "allowed me to understand the unique position that state governments are under when it comes to policy development. Now that I work in the Executive Branch of government, it is helpful to understand how the policy development–process works and the complexities of the process."

Of course, her graduate program experience at UD and with IPA as a research assistant still pays dividends. "Understanding that there is a network of professionals that can help you achieve your goals is really important.  The relationships I built at IPA are lifelong, both personally and professionally."

What's on the near horizon for Quinn? Well, motherhood, for one thing. "I have been married for five years and am expecting my first child in February. I have to honestly say that I am very happy right now and am focusing on the moment." 

Perhaps she's learned to value the present because of what she has learned about preparing for events that, for most, become life-altering.