Shayla Clarke '16, MS '19, went from criminal justice to emergency management to a vital role in the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management and an Adelphi 10 Under 10 award.
Native Long Islander Shayla Clarke ’16, MS ’19, came to Adelphi after graduating high school in 2012 to major in criminal justice. Along the way, she realized she wanted to study emergency management and after earning her bachelor’s, continued to study in the College of Professional and Continuing Studies Master of Science in Emergency Management program. She is currently serving as the director of emergency recovery in the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management, while also pursuing a doctoral degree in homeland security.
A 2023 recipient of an Adelphi 10 Under 10 Award, Clarke looks back here on her Adelphi experience, and shares some of the on-the-job insights she has gained.
Why did you choose to come to Adelphi?
I was introduced to Adelphi because my sister went there, and I fell in love with it the second I stepped on campus.
Its nature and greenery completely enchanted me. I remember feeling at home.
What drew you to criminal justice and emergency management for your degrees?
Easy question! In seventh-grade science class, when we were learning about fingerprinting and evidence collection, my teacher set up a mock CSI [crime scene to be processed in the form of an exam] for us. I loved every second of trying to solve a case—it was so much fun.
After that, the [CSI: Crime Scene Investigation] TV shows became really popular, and I wanted to be a crime scene investigator. As a criminal justice major, I took Sociology of Terrorism, which tipped me into emergency management.
What do you value most about your Adelphi education?
Some of my most profound memories and mentors are still from Adelphi and I still hold them near and dear to my heart. I could pop into their offices, and they would give their time freely to answer my questions. This makes Adelphi very, very special.
What is the biggest threat to Long Island?
Coastal storms are the biggest natural threat. Let’s face it—Long Island is a sandbar.
What challenges does climate change present to emergency recovery?
We can’t deny that there is a change in our weather patterns that’s impacting our planning process. Hurricane season and winters don’t look like they used to. We’re seeing floods more frequently, which is very challenging.
On September 29 and 30, Nassau County experienced record-level rainfall and flooding. This wasn’t a hurricane or even a storm—at most it was remnants of Hurricane Ophelia.
How busy were you with all that flooding?
On Friday, September 29, I went into work at 9:00 a.m. but didn’t leave for 23 and a half hours due to the Emergency Operations Center being fully activated. I coordinate with the varying county departments, two cities, three towns and 63 incorporated villages within Nassau County to determine if the resources utilized meet the threshold for a federal disaster declaration in order to recover the associated funds, simultaneously, working toward obtaining assistance for the residents (individuals and small businesses) who sustained loss and damages as a result.
You’re a member of Adelphi Women’s Giving Circle. Why is it so important to you?
The Women’s Giving Circle is one of the most empowering groups of women I’ve ever encountered. There’s something so special about an organization where so many of its founding members are so present, keeping the group’s initial intentions alive. I love the programs and initiatives and everything we do.
Are you involved with any other Adelphi groups?
I’m co-chair of Adelphi’s Student Affairs Advisory Board, which is going into our third year. Last year, we hosted our first career readiness workshop, which will be an annual spring event. The inaugural event had an attendance of about 150 students, many of whom asked for this type of event again.
You just received an Adelphi 10 Under 10 Award. What does this mean to you?
It means a tremendous amount to me. It’s an award that I’ve always looked up to and held in high regard. I do everything that I do because it’s truly what I love, not for accolades. I almost cried when I got the email announcing the award.
What advice would you give to future emergency management students?
The same advice as for any and all students: Use all the resources available to you, including staff and faculty. It’s a special field, and not an easy one. But we play a special role. As emergency managers, we prepare, respond, recover and mitigate against all disasters in close coordination with all public safety agencies such as fire, police and EMS. It’s better to be overprepared than unprepared.