Daniel Dickerson graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a bachelor’s degree in fire, arson, and explosion investigation. Daniel is a Senior Fire Investigator for Casalinova Investigators, Inc. and a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator for the Hendron, Ky. Fire Department. Daniel is a NAFI-Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator, Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator, and Certified Fire Investigation Instructor; and is one of only 339 fire investigators in the country to hold all three certifications. He is also an IAAI-Certified Fire Investigator. He completed his bachelor’s degree online and recently shared his thoughts about his EKU Online experience and his professional successes.
How has earning this degree changed or aided your career?
My education has put me in a position to receive a lot of job offers in my field. In fact, my current employer was familiar with EKU graduates. He has always been impressed by the quality of education EKU graduates have received, which gave me an advantage in the hiring process.
Earning my degree also helped me earn points toward qualifying for the NAFI and IAAI certification exams. I felt very prepared to sit for these exams thanks to what I learned in the program.
Finally, certifications and degrees by themselves are well and good, however, having both shows a dedication to the field employers recognize and value.
What motivated you to get this degree?
I wanted to take advantage of my Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. I knew I didn’t want to work as a firefighter forever and fire investigation was always a long-term career goal. While taking a basic arson awareness class at Kentucky’s State Fire School taught by a great friend and mentor, Mark Boaz, and discovered I had a passion for fire investigation.
Who were some individuals that helped you while you were at EKU and continue to help give you support with your current career path?
First is my wife, Nikki. She completed her master’s degree as an online student. She helped me create a system on how to navigate the weekly challenges from online studies. Nikki also continues to support and help me every day. My professors, Tom Thurman, James Pharr, and Corey Hanks. These gentlemen were always helpful while I attended EKU and continue to give support with any questions that I have about fire and explosives continuing education. Finally, Emily Nelms, who is a 2015 EKU graduate from the same fire program, gave me advice every semester on which textbooks to buy and keep for future reference and which textbooks to rent.
What was your favorite part or the highlight of your time as an EKU Online student?
The hands-on experience I received during the two on-campus summer residencies were my favorite part of the program. The burn lab and controlled live burns provided an experience that you just don’t get every day. I also prefer applied learning over more traditional “book learning” and the program provided that through the residencies. It also gave me the opportunity to meet classmates that were from all over the United States and other countries.
How did the EKU Online faculty aid in your success?
They were able to answer any questions I had and were always very supportive. Faculty like Drs. Gorbett and Hicks set very clear expectations and helped us meet those expectations. I also want to make sure to mention my advisor, Christy Templeton. She was instrumental to my success. Christy served as our liaison to campus, kept us informed of important deadlines, and helped me stay on track by building out my degree plan. She was on top of everything and if we needed anything she was there for us.
What did you find surprising about the program?
That I had the opportunity to learn from industry-recognized experts. It isn’t every day that you have the experience of learning from instructors who literally wrote the books. It speaks to the quality of education I received. I knew I was receiving a top-notch education that I couldn’t get anywhere else. Getting to meet them and hear their stories from working in the field was truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to become an EKU Online student?
Completing my degree from EKU online was well worth the time and I would highly encourage anyone else to do so. Having this degree prepares you to confidently say, “I meet all the standards required in the field.” Also, I have several friends working successfully in a variety of fields from health care to law enforcement and TV journalism who are also EKU grads. Being alumni of EKU has brought us even closer. Attending EKU truly is like being part of a family.
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