An Education in Vaccine Distribution

Over the past year, grad student Emma Feeley, MPA ’22, has gotten a double dose of experiential learning

Story by Beth Brosnan and Giles Bruce

While pursuing her master’s degree in public administration at Suffolk, Emma Feeley has also been working full time for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as an emergency management specialist. She spent the summer coordinating staffing at federally run vaccination sites across the country, in 50 states and about 100 tribal nations.

Vaccine distribution is an enormously complex operation—particularly in the thick of an active hurricane season, another major FEMA charge—but Feeley doesn’t shy away from the challenges her job presents. “It’s having that mindset of, ‘This is a problem, and we’re going to do something about it.’ That’s where I thrive,” she says.

Feeley regularly draws on her courses in emergency preparedness and leadership, taught by Professors Brenda Bond-Fortier and Brendan Burke.

“They’ve helped me jump far beyond what’s expected of me, and given me the confidence to pursue different ideas,” Feeley says.

In class and on the job, vaccine equity is a frequent topic of discussion. She’s gained insights into the challenges that communities of color can face in accessing the vaccine, and why a history of discrimination may make those communities wary of public health initiatives.

“We in the federal government have to better engage people at all different levels,” Feeley says. Now that larger vaccination sites are closing down, “there’s a big focus on getting the vaccines directly into the communities that need them. We have the ability to mitigate these things, if we use our resources in the correct way.”

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