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The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Association (WSFCA) will sign an agreement May 17 for a new, non-credit certificate program for fire chiefs and officers in Wisconsin.

The Chief Officer Program is a collaborative initiative designed to provide officers with a broad perspective on various facets of fire and emergency services administration. The signing will take place at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 17 on the UW Oshkosh campus in Reeve Memorial Union, room 201.

“We have about 860 fire departments in Wisconsin, and the majority of those are volunteer or paid on-call departments.” Glenn Linzmeier, WSFCA president and fire chief of the Blooming Grove Fire Department said. “Many of these municipalities don’t have funding for what’s currently available for continued education —we wanted to expand affordable education options.”

The two-year program will be offered through UW Oshkosh, which also offers a bachelor’s degree in fire and emergency response studies.

Karen Heikel, assistant vice chancellor at UW Oshkosh, said the goal of the program is to add another level of training and education for executive officers in Wisconsin.

“By offering the Chief Officer Program, we work to reach our mission of increasing access to educational programs by diversifying the types of programs we offer,” Heikel said. “We worked with current chiefs to learn what types of instruction is needed and what level of need there is for a program like this.”

While there are national models for training like the Chief Officer Program, this opportunity hasn’t physically been available to fire officers in Wisconsin.

“Many of the smaller departments in Wisconsin cannot send their officers or chiefs to the National Fire Academy,” Linzmeier said. “We approached UW Oshkosh to collaborate on similar training right here in Wisconsin.”

The National Fire Academy is one of two schools operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and it is in Emmitsburg, Md.

The Chief Officer Program will consist of six modules, which focus on different aspects of leadership and management within the fire service. Each module is delivered over the course of a semester. Areas of study include professional communication and writing, leadership in the public sphere, public administration, budget planning and strategic planning.

Students will meet face-to-face one weekend each semester. Classroom instruction for that weekend will be at Volk Field Air Force base in Camp Douglas, Wis. In addition to classroom instruction, there will also be online components and readings to augment student learning.

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