Women's History Month: Women in USFA

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A Logical Progression

Career paths are rarely direct but the twists and turns can still take you where you were meant to be. The following women of the United States Fire Administration (USFA) can follow the trail and see a clear link between early choices and the work they do today.

Jennifer Roberson

Jennifer Roberson is a Program Analyst assigned to the Office of the U.S. Fire Administrator at FEMA HQ. In college she majored in criminal justice with a focus on terrorism and a special interest in post blast investigation. Right out of school she joined the Glen Echo (Maryland) Fire Department. With a paying job at Starbucks, she moved into the firehouse while riding the engine and attending classes at the Montgomery County Fire Academy. In her early jobs with the Federal government, she was involved with exercise development and planning. While her fire department experience gave her an edge, she also learned of a variety of practices and types of department operations that differed greatly from her experience in Montgomery County. She continued as an active member of the fire department for almost ten years until the time and travel demands of her current position made it too difficult for her to also fulfill her obligations to the department. Today, Ms. Roberson represents USFA on a number of FEMA committees in addition to working on a wide range of issues such as fire service intelligence, wildland fire, and exercise evaluation.

Juliann Frantz

Following a family tradition, Juliann Frantz joined the Rocky Ridge (Maryland) Volunteer Fire Department as a junior firefighter at age 14. At 16 she achieved full firefighter status and now, 20 years later, she is still a member in good standing with the department. While a student, she got her first job at the National Emergency Training Center (NETC) with the Emergency Management Institute. In 1997 she joined the USFA where she is now a Training Specialist and the technical lead for the National Fire Academy’s learning management system. Her fire department experience is a help in the review and posting of online curriculum. A full time job and family responsibilities, including two young children, leave little free time for the department but Ms. Frantz still runs calls when she gets a chance.

Colleen Heilig

While a college student, Colleen Heilig belonged to the Collins (New York) Volunteer Fire Company where she was a paramedic/firefighter. Later, while serving as Assistant Director for Emergency Medical Services for Erie County , NY she made her first direct contact with the USFA when she enrolled in the Open Learning Fire Service Program with Empire State College and earned a degree in Fire and Emergency Services. Ms. Heilig worked in FEMA Region II with mitigation programs for more than a decade before joining the USFA in the 1990s. Today she is the Training Specialist in charge of the Planning and Information Management curriculum for the National Fire Academy. Her past experience with a volunteer fire company influences her approach to instruction and provides a reality touchstone for curriculum decisions.

Mary Bare

As a single mother in a new town, Mary Bare joined the Westminster (Maryland) Volunteer Fire Department in the early 1980s. It was an opportunity to get to know her neighbors and to contribute to the community. One of her firefighter instructors was also a staff member at USFA and he introduced her to job opportunities at the National Emergency Training Center. In an early job with the Admissions Office, she used her fire department background to establish rapport with the student applicants and help them bridge the gap between the federal bureaucracy and their individual training needs. Today Mary is an Administrative Specialist in the Management, Operations and Support Services Division working on organizational policies and procedures.

Each of these women is influenced in her current daily work by the experience she’s had with her fire department. Each has the advantage of being able to see things from the perspective of one of USFA’s primary customers, the first responder, because she has been there. That common bond makes for quality programs and service.