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Reflections on an Educational Experience of a Lifetime

A veteran looks back on the global connections he made in the masters in emergency and management program.

Written by Philip Baker
downtown chicago river

“I always wanted to help people, and I knew as a kid growing up that I’d join the military to do that,” Timothy Spellman says.

About Timothy Spellman

Immigration Officer, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

Spellman enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves and served as a commission officer in Afghanistan and Southern California. When he moved to Chicago to work as an immigration officer at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, he sought a way to put extra funds from the GI Bill to use. That's when he discovered the Master of Science in Threat and Response Management (MScTRM) program at the University of Chicago. 

I knew immediately that it was exactly what I wanted to study, but I really doubted I’d be able to get in," Spellman says. He was wrong. After being accepted and starting the program, he embarked on what he describes as the "educational experience of a lifetime."


Learning from the Experience of Others

“The classes change how you see the world,” Spellman says. The instructors were willing to go out of their way to answer his questions and accommodate his busy schedule that included raising two young children and a full-time job. But Spellman cites his cohort as the most rewarding aspect of the program. 

“My classmates made the program for me," he says. "I remember being amazed at all these people with totally different backgrounds and life experiences coming together. Spending time with them and listening to what they had to say became an entirely different learning opportunity. They’ll be my friends and an important part of my network in the future.”

A Bigger Toolkit

Spellman's desire to help people has guided his decisions, and the masters in emergency management degree has expanded the toolkit he can use to help. “The program gave me confidence and a really strong sense for how everything fits together in emergency management,” he says.

A group of people in a meeting room planning for a disaster drill.

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