WKU students build resumes, make connections at Special Olympics USA Games

WKU students build resumes, make connections at USA Special Olympics

For 22 students from Western Kentucky University, a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, wasn’t a summer vacation, but another example of the applied learning experiences that WKU offers through the White Squirrel Weather and Emergency Disaster Management Program.

Students of Meteorology, Emergency and Disaster Management Science, Homeland Security Science, and Recreation and Sports Management provided weather services and support for the 2022 United States Olympic Games June 5-12 at several venues in Orlando.

Graduate student John Bowen from Louisville described this experience as “the biggest resume builder of my academic career.”

Bowen, a second-year master’s student in the Homeland Security Science program with an emphasis in EMDS, served as Deputy University meteorologist Josh Durkey in the Weather Office of the Games USA’s major operations center.

“Our job was basically to monitor the weather, pay attention to lightning, heat stress, and different variables that they were looking at in order to protect the athletes. Everything we looked at had a direct impact on the rest of the games,” Bowen said.

About 10 WKU students, faculty, and staff were among a group of 40 people from across the country who worked together at the Main Operations Center each day during the June 5-12 event in Orlando. Others in the WKU group conducted field observations at event venues or provided additional services such as sports communications, crisis communications, transportation and safety services.

Almo’s Casey Archey is a first-year graduate student in homeland security who has worked as a sports communications coordinator. “I think this will really allow us to make some additional contacts and work on some different events in the future. This has enhanced my resume and given me experience that will set me apart from other candidates for future job offers.”

Help Archey manage contact with the Operations Center when events end, when events start, if events are delayed, and if anyone needs medical services

“This is the second operational center that I work for,” he said. “I worked as a weather coordinator during a hurricane and worked in the operations center downtown. My ultimate goal is emergency management and to be an emergency manager. Working in the operations center in a leadership role has been a huge help.”

Star Robertson, a second-year graduate student in homeland security sciences with an EMDS concentration, said experiences in the WKU program have changed her career plans.

“When I first got into the program, I definitely wanted to do counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and things like that,” said Robertson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in homeland security with a minor in emergency management and a bachelor’s in geographic information science from Eastern Kentucky University. “But as my experience grows, I think I want to move more into event management or perhaps the FEMA aspect of disaster management.”

Josh Doyle from Glasgow, a second year graduate student in Sports and Entertainment Management, had the opportunity to work with the ESPN production crew on track and field events. “It was definitely a great experience,” he said. “The practical experience I received through this opportunity will be beneficial throughout my career.”

This is the goal of meteorology, white squirrel weather, emergency and disaster management science, and homeland security science.

“We had new students who went to Florida. How many new students have worked in the Met Office and Special Olympics Emergency Operations in this country? Employers always ask ‘What makes you unique?’ What makes you different from the rest? “We are the answer to that question,” Dr. Dorky said.

Contact: Josh Durkee, (270) 745-8777 or joshua.durkee@wku.edu


Western Kentucky University She takes pride in positioning her students, faculty, and staff for long-term success. As a focused student, Applied Research University, WKU helps students expand learning in the classroom by integrating education with real-world applications in the communities we serve. Our campus is located on top of a hill in Bowling Green, Kentuckyrecently named by Reader’s Digest as one of the most beautiful cities in America, is an hour’s drive from Nashville, Tennessee.

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