Estate Gift from Alumna Strengthens Fire Science Program
Tylke, a West Allis native, was the first female firefighter graduate from Madison Area Technical College. She was a veteran firefighter and paramedic for the city of Beloit and had experience as a flight paramedic. She passed away July 26, 2008 at the age of 42.
The Candice E. Tylke Scholarship is a $1,500 annual award for students in the Fire and Emergency Response Management (FERM) program at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. First priority is given to female applicants. The two-year program, which incorporates online and classroom instruction, provides fire and emergency personnel with leadership and administrative skills necessary to advance their careers and lead public health and safety organizations. Participants must have completed an associate degree in fire protection, fire science, paramedic technician or emergency management.
UW Oshkosh is the only university in Wisconsin to offer this bachelor's degree program. The first six FERM graduates received their degrees in the December 2008 commencement ceremony.
Cindy Brun, FERM program coordinator, said the ages and levels of experience vary greatly among program participants. There are 19 year-olds who have yet to find their first job, as well as students with several decades of work experience. Brun hopes that the scholarship will attract more female students to the program. Currently only one woman is enrolled among the program's 20 students.
The low representation of females is typical, according to A National Report Card of Women in Firefighting, published in April 2008, which states: "Among the 350,000 paid firefighters in the nation today, the 2000 Census reports that women number slightly more than 11,000, or 3.7 percent."
The report suggests measures to increase that percentage such as "making women firefighters increasingly visible as role models," "actively suggesting the career to girls and young women" and encouraging young women's "participation in pre-career activities such as … cadet programs."
Tylke's estate gift will help in this capacity by supporting the creation and operation of GO! (Gals Only) Fire Science Camp. UW Oshkosh has offered co-ed summer camps since 2004 for young people, ages 15-20, who are interested in fire science. The camps are held on the UW Oshkosh campus with off-campus field experiences, and provide an opportunity to explore careers in fire and emergency response services.
Outreach Program Manager Jenni Bugni-Walsh, who coordinates the camps with Brun, said, "Starting a female-only program has been a dream of the planning committee since we began the first co-ed camp in 2004. One of our major program goals is to expose more young women to nontraditional fire science-related careers."
Bugni-Walsh has enlisted female firefighters and paramedics from around the state to lead the camp and speak about the challenges of being a female in a predominantly male profession. Bugni-Walsh has researched similar camps on the East and West Coasts, but has not discovered other female-only camps of this nature in the Midwest. Tylke's gift will help minimize participant costs and assist with outreach and promotional costs involved in the program.