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OTC alumnus learns lessons from Joplin tornado

 Ryan Nicholls has learned a lot about emergency management both inside and outside the classrooms at Ozarks Technical Community College.

Nothing taught him more about his job as Greene County director of emergency management than in May when a tornado devastated Joplin.

“Joplin was a career moment. All the principals of emergency management that we understood were needed on a scale we never imagined. It was on a scale that we were never tested on before Joplin,” said Nicholls, who attended OTC and eventually earned his master’s degree in emergency management.

Nicholls, the county’s director of emergency management for the past five years, came to OTC to get his GED, and in doing so, he earned a scholarship that paid for several semesters of school.

“OTC helped me get started. It excited me academically and led me to know that I wanted a master’s degree,” said Nicholls, who is 35, married and the father of five children.

After three semesters at OTC, Nicholls spent two years on a church mission in South America. After returning, Nicholls eventually went on to earn his master’s in emergency management.

But it was his time at OTC that Nicholls remembers fondly.

“I got confidence at OTC.  I can probably honestly say that the majority of college instructors who standout in my mind were from OTC. They applied the subject to us in a way that made it easier for us to study. There was a motivation to study and we enjoyed doing it,” he said.

Nicholls said that what he learned at OTC and in his other academic studies were put to the test with the Joplin tornado.

“Analytical thinking, prioritizing, evaluating, problem solving, these are all academic skills learned at OTC,” he said.

Steve Koehler is coordinator of media relations for Ozarks Technical Community College.






College Director of Communications

Phone: 417.447.2655


Steve Koehler

Coordinator of Publications

Phone: (417) 447-2666


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