BOONE, N.C. — For Appalachian State University alumna Lynn Heinmuller Fisher ’97, making the best out of the worst is a professional calling. Fisher applies her creative thinking and problem-solving skills to handle large-scale disasters and emergencies as the first director of emergency management at Austin Peay State University (APSU) in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Fisher, who was recently named to her APSU position, previously served as the community preparedness program manager for Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management.
There, she coordinated responses to disasters, including the Philadelphia Amtrak train derailment in 2015 that resulted in eight deaths and more than 200 injuries. She also served as the command post manager for major events, including the Philadelphia Marathon, as well as parades and special events.
In 2018, Fisher was recognized by the mayor of Philadelphia for creating and implementing the ReadyPhiladelphia preparedness program, working with neighborhoods and civic groups to form plans to assist during disasters. The program was used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in building resiliency programs in neighborhoods nationwide.
“When my work and efforts are in the spotlight, it usually means that someone is having a terrible day,” Fisher shared. “I often think of victims and hold them in my heart as I respond to any other disaster.”
Fisher said her best days were when she trained groups of citizens and helped them understand they are able to respond to a disaster and assist one other.
Laying the foundation as a Mountaineer
Fisher, who grew up in Maryland, transferred to Appalachian after spending a semester in Banner Elk working at Broadstone — Appalachian’s multifaceted outdoor education facility offering adventures, retreats and conferences. The facility, which operates under Appalachian’s Division of Student Affairs, serves university students, staff, faculty and the Greater Western North Carolina region.
Fisher said she loved Broadstone and its staff so much that she decided to apply to Appalachian. She earned a B.S. in recreational management–outdoor experiential education with a minor in sustainable development.
“Outdoor experiential ed and working at Broadstone was a natural fit for me,” Fisher said. “I was able to expand upon my love of science and share it in a nontraditional classroom setting.”
“I learned so much from Judith Bevan, who was then the director of Broadstone. How do you create an experience that has a deep impact on a young person? How do you solve difficult problems with very few resources during a potentially dangerous situation? These skills directly translated into my career in emergency management,” she continued.
Fisher started her job at APSU in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, supporting the efforts of a task force that had already been working for a couple of months on issues pertaining to the pandemic. She’ll transition into working with each department at the university to ensure solid plans and actions are in place to address any potential emergency.
“I am grateful for the time at Appalachian that got me out of the classroom and into something greater,” Fisher said.
What do you think?
Share your feedback on this story.
About the Department of Recreation Management and Physical Education
The Department of Recreation Management and Physical Education in Appalachian State University’s Beaver College of Health Sciences is an innovative, diverse and forward-thinking academic unit consisting of two undergraduate programs. The recreation management program prepares students for careers as professionals in three concentrations: commercial recreation and tourism management, outdoor experiential education, and recreation and park management. The health and physical education program prepares students for careers as K-12 health and physical educators, school-based activity directors and coaches. Learn more at https://rmpe.appstate.edu.
About the Beaver College of Health Sciences
Appalachian State University’s Beaver College of Health Sciences (BCHS), opened in 2010, is transforming the health and quality of life for the communities it serves through interprofessional collaboration and innovation in teaching, scholarship, service and clinical outreach. BCHS offers nine undergraduate degree programs and seven graduate degree programs, which are organized into six departments: Nursing, Nutrition and Health Care Management, Public Health and Exercise Science, Recreation Management and Physical Education, Rehabilitation Sciences, and Social Work. The college’s academic programs are located in the Holmes Convocation Center on App State’s main campus and the Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences, a state-of-the-art, 203,000-square-foot facility that is the cornerstone of the Wellness District. In addition, the college supports the Blue Cross NC Institute for Health and Human Services and has collaborative partnerships with the Wake Forest School of Medicine’s Physician Assistant Program, the Appalachian Regional Health System and numerous other health agencies. Learn more at https://healthsciences.appstate.edu.
About the Goodnight Family Department of Sustainable Development
One of seven departments housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the Goodnight Family Department of Sustainable Development at Appalachian State University prepares students to thoughtfully analyze human development while focusing on the applied practice of pursuing transformative, community-driven development and social change. It offers a Bachelor of Science degree in sustainable development with concentrations in agroecology and sustainable agriculture; community, regional and global development; and environmental studies; as well as a Bachelor of Arts and minor in sustainable development. Learn more at https://sd.appstate.edu.
About the College of Fine and Applied Arts
Appalachian State University’s College of Fine and Applied Arts is a dynamic and innovative group of seven academic departments, bringing together a variety of perspectives, experiences and real-world education to provide unique opportunities for student success. The college has more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate majors. Its departments are Applied Design, Art, Communication, Military Science and Leadership, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, and Theatre and Dance. Learn more at https://faa.appstate.edu.
About the Division of Student Affairs
The Division of Student Affairs at Appalachian State University is committed to the development of lifelong learners and leaders by engaging and challenging students within a culture of care and inclusion. The division consists of 16 units that offer activities and services to help students develop more fully by becoming global learners, fostering healthy relationships, appreciating diversity and different perspectives, understanding community responsibility, enhancing self-awareness, developing autonomy and living ethically. These units include the Career Development Center, Campus Activities, Office of Community-Engaged Leadership, Wellness and Prevention Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Health Service, Parent and Family Services, University Housing, Student Conduct, University Recreation, Intercultural Student Affairs, Student Legal Clinic and Off-Campus Student Services, Electronic Student Services, Child Development Center, and Staff Development and Strategic Initiatives. Learn more at https://studentaffairs.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.