Can A Class Really Change Your Life?

Jennifer Kirkland, ENP, CPE, RPL

Best Practices

The Communication Center Manager (CCM) class tagline is “Two Weeks That Will Change Your Life.” Some of you will read that and think to yourself “Yeah, right. How can a class do that?” I invite you to learn more about what this class offers so you can truly see how possible it is to change your life.

The first life-changing aspect of CCM, presented by Fitch & Associates, is in the connections you make with other students. I know this firsthand. After graduating from CCM in 2010, I’m still in contact with some of my fellow participants. It’s so nice to find out that others are facing the same challenges you are, and it’s helpful to have others to share ideas with, give and receive feedback, and generally share the same challenges of leadership. Tom Somers, graduate of the inaugural class in 2004 as well as the class leadership award winner and the 2023 Dr. Jeff J. Clawson Leadership Award recipient, still stays in touch with some of his classmates. Somers is an instructor for CCM, teaching continuity of operations and disaster planning.

CCM is a unique experience because it engages all aspects of the student. When you come to CCM, you begin learning about yourself and your leadership style on the first day. While the class dives deep into practical skills such as budgeting, staffing, 911 technology and NG911, it also poses the question: “What kind of leader are you, and what is the legacy you want to leave?” The more you know about yourself, the better you can work on your strengths and address your weaknesses. CCM helps you in this step of your leadership journey, asking challenging questions and allowing you the time and space to explore them with the guidance of trained and knowledgeable coaches and instructors.

CCM provides you with all the skills you need to lead in your communication center. Don’t let the name intimidate you! This class is beneficial to supervisors as well, because the more you know about the operations of your center, the better a supervisor you are AND the better prepared you are to advance in your career when the time comes. In addition to the practical skills listed above, CCM also helps you build your skills in these areas: writing, public speaking, customer and media relations, time management, change management, relationships, human resources fundamentals, and so much more. Each session is taught by a subject matter expert (SME) with experience in the industry. These are professionals who travel specifically to teach at CCM, and when they are not teaching, they are working in their respective fields. They are committed to lifelong learning, which means that every topic is up-to-date, specific to your class session.

CCM’s class structure contributes to the learning experience. Participants get to know one another and their core faculty instructors by interacting on Ninth Brain—an online learning management system—for six weeks. By the time you gather for your first on-site week, you are feeling more comfortable with your fellow students. You’ll continue to get to know each other as you are sorted into project groups. Each day of the first week is full of learning opportunities and skill-building activities. This is NOT a death-by-PowerPoint course or full of all-day lectures. On-site sessions take full advantage of being in person to help you learn in a variety of ways, including Leadership Cinema, where we use film to study leadership concepts.

At the end of the week, you’ll return to your center ready to put into practice your new skills while looking forward to coming back for week two with your new friends. In the six weeks between on-site sessions, you’ll work with your group on a research project topic of your choice. This is an opportunity to dive deeply into a topic that is important to you and your group. Many groups have gone on to publish the results of their projects. A CCM group won the research poster contest at NAVIGATOR 2022! CCM students have a history of impacting the 911 profession long beyond the class ending. You’ll also continue to interact with weekly assignments in Ninth Brain.

The second on-site week picks right up where it left off, bringing you more instructor SMEs. During the week, you will present your projects to the class, practicing your public speaking skills and working in a team. You’ll choose the class leadership award winner. The CCM leadership award honors the student who most emulated and demonstrated the values discussed and learned in class. Previous award winners include Gary Bell and Monica Million, both of whom went on to become NENA presidents, and Joe Coons and Tom Somers, both of whom are now CCM instructors. We’ve also celebrated Amanda Tudor and Chris Campbell, among many others, who continue to shine in our industry, leading their centers with excellence and integrity. You’ll be part of a celebration reception, where you’ll receive your certification and a special CCM pin. As a CCM graduate, you’ll receive discounted access to NAVIGATOR the spring following your class session, where’ll you walk across the stage during a ceremony honoring CCM graduates.

Many people wonder how, in today’s PSAP staffing crisis, they can afford to take two weeks out of their center to attend CCM. The question is, how can you afford NOT to? If you want to be the best leader you can, you must invest in yourself to do so.  

CCM 2021 graduate Angela Modrell (pictured) shares that “CCM was the experience I was not expecting. We disconnected from our everyday hustle and stress as telecommunicators, supervisors, and managers and concentrated on ourselves and our journey as leaders. CCM staff brought in subject matter experts for most every aspect of communication center management and each seminar was up-to-date and informative. They taught us to recognize our leadership style and how it affects others, and then how to adjust our leadership style into appreciative supervision. The CCM experience is well worth your time.”

Back to that life-changing thing? For me, taking CCM in 2010 led to having the confidence to submit session proposals to teach at NAVIGATOR a year or two later. Because I stayed in touch with people I met at CCM, when they needed new instructors to teach, I was fortunate to be selected. When Fitch & Associates needed a new 911-focused core faculty member, they asked me if I was willing, because of my CCM graduation and experience. I joined as core faculty in 2016. Each CCM class, I am lucky to meet 911 professionals from around the country, learn more from each of them, and make connections that help me every day in my leadership journey. Because I had the knowledge and experience from CCM, I’ve had opportunities to lead PSAPs and join NENA’s Education Advisory Board, as well as become a NENA instructor. I truly would not be where I am today without having taken the CCM class.

The 2023 CCM session will be held on-site in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (USA), this fall. The first online session begins Aug. 28, 2023. For more information, go to https://fitchassoc.com/communication-center-manager-program/. If you want to apply for a scholarship for next year’s program, learn more about Fitch EMS Foundation Scholarship opportunities at https://fitchemsfoundation.org/.

If you have questions, I’m happy to answer them! Feel free to email me: jkirklandenp@gmail.com.