Transforming Dreams into Reality: The Journey of Sarah Hipps through the FES Program

Monday, April 15, 2024
By: Kyle Niblett

In the heart of the bustling University of Florida campus lies the M.E. Rinker, Sr. School of Construction Management, where one of UF’s most well-hidden gems resides.

The UF Fire and Emergency Sciences program, part of the top ranked UF Online offerings, is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary this upcoming May. Among its illustrious alumni is Sarah Hipps, a passionate advocate for public safety who has carved a remarkable path from student to Emergency Preparedness Planner at the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department. In an exclusive interview, Hipps reflects on her transformative journey through the FES master’s curriculum at Rinker, highlighting the invaluable lessons learned and the pivotal moments that shaped her career.

Hipps’ journey began in 2016 when she embarked on a volunteer stint with the fire department. It was there that her fascination with public safety blossomed, setting her on a trajectory towards her dream job.

“I identified early on that my dream job would be to work in an Emergency Operations Center, where I could make a difference with large-scale disasters,” Hipps reminisced. “That is exactly where I am now and where I was meant to be.”

At the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, Hipps’ day-to-day responsibilities are as diverse as they are demanding. From monitoring online platforms to hosting public education events and maintaining emergency plans, her role epitomizes the essence of preparedness and resilience in the face of adversity. Reflecting on her time at Rinker, Hipps underscores the importance of the program in preparing her for the challenges of her profession.

“FES equipped me with resources to find information, improved my communication skills, and prepared me for the dynamic nature of emergency management,” she shared.

While Hipps excelled in her academic pursuits, her journey at Rinker was not without its challenges.

“My most challenging time was completing a literature review for the first time,” she recalled.

Yet, with perseverance and determination, she overcame these hurdles, emerging stronger and more resilient than ever before. Today, Hipps stands ready to tackle any obstacle that comes her way, armed with the knowledge and skills acquired during her time at Rinker.

When asked about her favorite class at Rinker, Hipps is quick to mention FES 6736 Homeland Security & Emergency Management. This class not only broadened her perspective but also provided her with insights into engaging with state and federal partners—a skill that would prove invaluable in her career.

“It was interesting to see the intersection of homeland security and emergency management,” she explained. “Especially in the modern world, everyone needs to always be ready.”

However, amidst the challenges and academic rigor, there were moments of joy and triumph. For Hipps, one such moment was the day she traveled to campus to present her thesis. It was a culmination of years of hard work and dedication, a testament to her unwavering commitment to her goals.

“Everything felt so real, but also like everything was meant to be. This was the moment I had been dreaming about.”

Looking back on her journey, Hipps encourages other prospective students to chase down the FES degree, but warns you only get out of it what you put into it.

In closing, she emphasizes the significance of the Rinker FES network, describing it as “very important” for fostering connections and sharing experiences.

“When you have a global network, you have a wide array of experiences at your disposal,” she concluded.

Indeed, Hipps’ journey is a testament to the transformative power of education and the boundless opportunities that await those who dare to dream at Rinker.

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