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SXU Alumna Supports Communities Through Emergency Preparedness


Though Saint Xavier University (SXU) alumna Erin Laske '06 has spent much of her life looking for the next adventure, the value and joy she's found working in emergency management and preparedness has solidified her career path.

Laske graduated from Saint Xavier with a biology degree before pursuing a master's degree in emergency management and leadership from Adler University. She also holds international and state-level certifications and is a certified emergency manager (CEM) and Illinois professional emergency manager (IPEM).

Currently, Laske serves as an emergency response manager for Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) with Aon Risk Consultants. She oversees the corporate emergency response team (CERT). With the CERT, she manages response efforts to major disasters and incidents that impact JLL's employees and operations within North and South America. Her goal is to continue to enhance and strengthen the CERT's preparedness posture through training and emergency response plan development.

While she was pursuing her undergraduate degree at Saint Xavier, Laske also minored in criminal justice and worked as a student worker for Public Safety. She enjoyed her time with the department and decided to begin work there as a security officer after graduating. Always eager to continue learning and delve into new opportunities, she began to pursue paramedic school. Though it ended up not being in the cards for Laske, former SXU police chief Paul Kolesar sparked her interest in emergency management and operations in higher education. Later, former SXU police chief Jack Touhy encouraged Laske to continue her professional development by looking for additional opportunities outside higher education for disaster and emergency response. She soon began work in emergency management with Tetra Tech Inc., working in different states on wildfires, hurricanes and emergency management planning efforts.

"What I enjoy most about being in the field is working with communities to support them after they are impacted by major disasters. I help them to respond, recover and rebuild. I wouldn't do anything else," said Laske. 

Laske finds that her biology and criminal justice background complement her work in emergency management well.

"Both of the academic disciplines taught me to pay attention to detail, to work with people of diverse backgrounds, to listen, to write reports, and to observe experiments. I use these skills in my current profession. I have to be detail-oriented in writing emergency response plans. I need to understand basic weather patterns, climate change research, and how to read statistical reports," said Laske.

Both her classes and her time with Public Safety helped to prepare her for her future. She learned how to interact and work with people of diverse backgrounds, develop skills for assisting with crisis resolution, and enhance her public speaking skills. She also gained the experience of working with a large number of people, at one time supervising over 100 student workers.

"I learned how to work through difficult, confidential and proprietary situations with many different entities involved. Though homes and buildings can be damaged in disaster, victims can also become injured or killed. Life isn't always blue skies and butterflies, but my work with Public Safety taught me to better prepare for working in austere environments," said Laske.

While at SXU, Laske was a member of TriBeta, a biology honor society, and the Student Success Program (SSP), and she participated in various philanthropic events and organizations. She served as a resident assistant (RA) in Regina Hall and was a student supervisor for Public Safety.

"I loved being a resident assistant. I liked meeting new people and new students every year. I also enjoyed attending Homecoming and Spring Formal. I was a member of the Student Success Program and loved meeting a lot of great students and staff. One year, we went to Medieval Times and we also went to a Chicago Bulls basketball game. SXU had such a comforting, welcoming environment," said Laske.

As a former staff member and alumna, Laske felt deeply connected to SXU's core values, and she's continued to demonstrate them in her professional endeavors.

"Compassion and service are very important to me. I talk to employees who may have had their work site or homes destroyed from major disasters, and it's important to me that I guide them toward mental health services available and help them to feel calm," said Laske.

Into the future, Laske plans to grow in the emergency management field. She'd like to mentor students interested in the field and eventually teach.