Westmont Magazine Educating and Connecting Public-Safety Officials

Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran ’90 planned to get married after high school, but her Young Life leader told her, “You’re going to college” — and then helped her apply.

Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran

“I’d never visited a college campus when my mom dropped me off at Westmont,” Heather says. “I was a Young Life kid, and I wanted to learn more about Christ. The school was a perfect fit. They believed in me and took a chance, and I’m eternally grateful.

Heather majored in communication studies. “I found the academic rigor daunting,” she says. “Greg Spencer was my Yoda. I complained to him about my bad grades, and he told me I had bad study habits. He gave me incentive to improve my study skills.”

Heather married after graduating from Westmont and had three children. After working as director of human resources for FamilyCare of Monterey Bay, she took a position with the Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS), connected to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. Starting in 2002 as a part-time operations coordinator supporting the executives who study at the center, she soon oversaw program operations. As director of strategic communications since 2009, she leads communications and admissions, recruiting students and telling their stories through a print magazine she founded as well as the center’s website and social media accounts. She works closely with the Department of Homeland Security and the Naval Postgraduate School.

After 9-11, the Federal Emergency Manage­ment Administration (FEMA) created CHDS to provide graduate programs for federal, state and local responders. The center of­fers a Master of Arts in Security Studies (18 months) and certificates of completion in Executive Education (12 months) and the Emergence Program, developed for Home­land Security and public-safety officials in the first half of their careers.

“We’ve built relationships with more than 2,000 agencies to recruit students,” Hannah says. “Most of the executives at the New York City Fire Department have graduated from our program. Our students come from the FBI, CIA and local agencies such as the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Ventura County.”

Each program enrolls 32 executives, and CHDS receives hundreds of applications for every class. “Agencies find our educational opportunities a great way to retain talent,” she says. “They also like to hire our graduates.

“I love recruiting. I travel a lot to speak about the center and reach prospective students. Our graduates work at the top of their agencies as fire and police chiefs and directors. They want to push themselves to become critical thinkers and meet other public-safety executives. Coming to CHDS from diverse backgrounds, they learn from each other. When a crisis occurs, they have a network of people they trust, and those relationships can help keep our country secure. They get more than an education — when seconds count, they connect with the leaders who can make a real difference ”

Heather interned for Westmont’s public affairs office as a student, and she modeled the center’s magazine on La Paz, the former name of the Westmont magazine. “It was a labor of love,” she says. “Both the publication and the program have grown — we always have a story to tell.”

In addition to writing about CHDS alums, Heather interviews national leaders such as Janet Napolitano, who sat with her for a story that appeared on the center’s website.

She enjoys supporting students at the center. “They have to deal with a lot of difficult situations,” she says. “Being here for them is another way I serve.”

Heather also works with Girl Security, an orga­nization that encourages young women from underrepresented groups to aspire to careers in national security to help diversify the workforce.

Every Sunday, she and her children join her parents and six siblings for dinner. “We have a huge family with lots of cousins and lots of dogs,” she shares.