Hardworking, forward-thinking, intelligent, and self-motivated are just some of the characteristics that describe Brett Dunckel, a Broward County Fire Prevention Officer (FPO) and University of Florida graduate.
Although Brett has achieved a lot in his over twenty-year career in the fire service, including being named Fire Inspector of the Year by the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association, he remembers a time in his life where he felt something was missing from his list of accomplishments. That was a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, the university of his dreams.
Since Brett had established himself professionally in a career that he loved in Broward County, he knew moving to Gainesville to attend UF was not an option. When researching his options, Brett came across UF Online’s Fire and Emergency Services (FES) program, which would allow Brett to complete his bachelor’s right from home in South Florida. There was only one dilemma for Brett — he wanted to first finish the associate’s degree he started years ago before pursuing his bachelor’s.
A BURNING DESIRE FOR A UF BACHELOR’S DEGREE
When Brett first started in the fire service, he didn’t see a need for a bachelor’s degree. As he progressed in his career, the more he realized that having degrees, especially a bachelor’s degree, would make him more qualified for career advancement.
“When you have a degree, it gives you that much more credibility rather than just holding a fire inspector license,” Brett stated. “There is a lot of value by having that added level of knowledge.”
Brett found that Seminole State College in Seminole County, FL, offers an associate in science (A.S.) degree in Fire Science Technology, which fit his interests perfectly. Another advantage of this degree is that it is offered online. Through Seminole State College, Brett not only graduated with his A.S. but also earned his associate in arts (A.A.) since the credits aligned towards earning both degrees.
Brett was ready to move forward towards applying to earn his bachelor’s at UF Online. He noted that as someone working in the fire service, many online schools have minimal acceptance requirements for those in the fire service, making it very easy to get accepted into those programs. Brett added that many of those programs may not even be accredited. He personally was never interested in other online colleges because he always had his eyes set on UF. Brett wanted a nationally-ranked education that he knew was worth the time he would be investing.
“When people ask you where you went to school and you say another online school, a lot of people have the connotation that you just paid for a degree,” Brett said. “Whereas if you say, ‘I went to the University of Florida’ that holds a lot more clout, and they know you were a serious student.”
JOINING THE GATOR NATION THREE HUNDRED MILES FROM CAMPUS
Living in Fort Lauderdale, Brett didn’t know what to expect when he started his first UF Online FES class. From the outset, it was clear that both his professors and his dedicated academic advisor wanted him to succeed and get everything he could out of the program.
“You can tell the professors were in the students’ shoes at one time,” Brett mentioned. “They share their experiences, and they even want to learn more about our careers so they can help guide us to ensure what we are learning is applicable towards what we do.”
Did you know?
Through UF Online’s Fire & Emergency Service program, students can choose one of three specializations to focus on the area most relevant to their career interests. These specializations include Fire, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Management, and Emergency Management. Learn more about these specializations here.
By specializing in Emergency Management, Brett knew the skills and knowledge he was learning in his classes would apply to his current position as a FPO. UF’s FES program exposes students to different administrative aspects like closing stations or removing trucks. For Brett, these administrative skills are instrumental to what he does daily at his job as the FPO at Port Everglades.
MOVING UP THE LADDER WITH A UF DEGREE
As a Gator graduate, Brett feels that he received the same quality education as those on campus and always felt connected to UF as an online student.
“The program really made an effort to invite students up to the university to be a part of the graduation.” Brett added, “They made you feel like you were a student on campus that whole time. Being on campus for graduation made it real that I was graduating from UF.”
Brett’s advice to other individuals in the fire or emergency services field who want to pursue a bachelor’s degree is to earn it through UF Online. “Yes, it’s going to be a lot of work compared to some of those easier programs, but in the end, the value of your education will exceed the extra work that you had to put in to get there,” Brett advised. “A lot of other programs give work experience credit, but you are only learning a small amount in comparison to the FES degree at UF.”
Beyond his education and career, Brett has spent his life making a difference in his community. Before being an FPO, Brett was a paramedic and inspired many of his peers by coming out as the first openly gay firefighter in his department. He even founded a website called “You Can Be Anything,” supporting and encouraging LGBTQ+ individuals to pursue any career no matter their orientation.
Brett’s accomplishments prove that Gators near and far continue to represent the Gator Nation in extraordinary ways. We congratulate Brett on the huge and well-deserved honor of being named Fire Inspector of the Year and for achieving his dreams as a Gator grad. Go Gators!
EARN A UF DEGREE IN FIRE & EMERGENCY SERVICES
The demand for skilled individuals in the emergency services industry is growing. With a UF degree in Fire & Emergency Services via UF Online, you can earn the managerial skills you need to move up in your career. This program offers three areas of specialization: Fire, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Management, or Emergency Management. With a specific focus in any of these areas, you can enhance your skills to better suit your desired career. Some potential career paths with a FES degree include fire department management, emergency management, private industry safety management, and federal government agencies focused on safety and emergency management. To learn more about the UF Online FES program, visit the degree page or attend an upcoming virtual information session.