By Jamie Shoaf, ‘11

4,700 miles away from Richmond, Virginia, rests the beautiful island of Maui, Hawaii. While most vacationers to Maui prepare for sunny days at the beach and snorkeling adventures, Michael Chatman, C‘12, has a very different set of preparations in mind.

While working at the Pacific Disaster Center, Chatman could not find a better fit than the School of Continuing Studies Master of Disaster Science program, which allows him to advance his professional career from an island oasis. Despite spending his free time enjoying some of the world’s best snorkeling and surfing, Chatman knows better than most that this island holds its fair share of surprises.

As a modeling analyst, Chatman uses advanced hazard models to prepare for and respond to global disasters, from tsunamis to volcanic gas plumes. Chatman’s position requires maximum flexibility—he can be called to assist in relief efforts at a moment’s notice from the Pacific Disaster Headquarters in Maui.

“The Master of Disaster Science degree in the School of Continuing Studies was the perfect fit for what I needed in my continued professional development in the study of disasters, and I find the program to be quite exceptional and unparalleled,” he praises.

Last year, when an earthquake struck Haiti and devastated both the land and its people, Haiti could only haltingly recover from so massive a catastrophe. Chatman called upon both his professional experience and educational development to shine in response and recovery efforts. His efforts saved the lives of many and affected the lives of many more, earning him the University of Richmond’s Disaster Service Medal.

With no two days of work the same, learning in the classroom prepares him for new challenges and cataclysms that Mother Nature might unleash. Achieving harmony between work and education, he finds “that my work and the degree complement each other nicely, and my work benefits my class work, and vice versa.”

Collaborating with other disaster relief professionals in an online classroom, he gains experience from around the globe from a diverse and experienced student body representing virtually every emergency-related discipline. In addition to building a professional network, the program enables students like Chatman to study at their own pace, on their own time.

Today, Chatman ventures out for a drive around the island with his wife in their Volkswagen van, taking in the serene, tropical views of Hawaii around winding island routes. Tomorrow, he could be called into headquarters to support people in the Philippines, offering relief to Filipinos responding to another devastating typhoon. Regardless, Chatman will be armed with exceptional knowledge and experience from the University that could help make all of the difference.