Crisis Management

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Certificate Program Directors: Ian Mitroff and Gary Metcalf

Under the direction of Dr. Ian I. Mitroff, Saybrook University’s School of Organizational Leadership and Transformation will offer a three-course sequence leading to a certificate in Crisis Management. Crises of all kinds are not only a dire fact of contemporary life, but they have become bigger, costlier, and deadlier. They also occur more frequently.  In short, the space and time between major crises have shrunk precipitously.

The three-course sequence examines why this is so, and what organizations can do to manage crises better so that both the probability of their occurrence and resulting damage are lower. The certificate not only gives students basic knowledge about Crisis Management, but the ability to apply that knowledge to complex organizations.

Curriculum (Total 10 credits)

Organizational Dynamics: Since crises always involve multiple organizations, the first course presents basic knowledge about complex organizations: the typical and atypical ways in which they behave, make and don’t make important decisions, resist change, etc. (3 credits)

Psychodynamics: Since people plan for and react to crises, the second course is about how people are affected by crises--before, during, and after their occurrence. The second course delves deeply into psychodynamics. That is, why do people and organizations often exhibit denial in the face of crises, e.g., “It can’t happen to me or to us!” As a result, the course discusses how one can overcome denial. (3 credits)

Crisis Management: The final course presents a comprehensive framework for understanding, coping with, and managing crises. (3 credits)

Integrative Paper or Project: The last activity in the certificate program may be either: (1) the presentation of a project involving the student’s application of learning from the courses to a real organizational problem, or (2) a crisis management plan for an organization, or organizational issue.  (1 credit)

Learning Objectives

Crisis management requires critical thinking and systems thinking, which encompass the following key skills:

  • How to ask the right questions.
  • How to formulate problems from multiple perspectives.
  • How to anticipate and to analyze stakeholders.
  • How to be aware of and to challenge critical assumptions, and hence, communicate effectively with diverse stakeholders.
  • How to think and act systemically, and thus anticipate the chain of additional crises that all initial crises set off.
  • How to formulate crisis plans, procedures systemically and to develop crisis capabilities that are systemic.

Learning/Teaching Approach

To learn more about how to progress through the certificate program in Crisis Management, please contact the certificate director, Gary Metcalf (  to develop a plan based on the schedule of offerings. You will then work through the courses, using the instructions and materials available on the Saybrook online learning platform and attend in-person seminars as scheduled.

The Practical Value of This Certificate

The courses especially look at the underlying failures of communication, economic, epistemic, organizational, and psychological causes of crises, to mention only a few of the many factors that are involved in the cause and prevention of major crises.  In short, crises cut across every known academic discipline and profession. As a result, the three-course sequence is fundamentally interdisciplinary. In this sense, it is as much about interdisciplinary inquiry as it about crises.

Critical and Systems Thinking are at the heart of effective Crisis Communications, Crisis Management, and especially, Crisis Leadership. As a result, Critical and Systems Thinking play major roles in effective Crisis Communications, Crisis Management and Crisis Leadership. Indeed, the failure to exercise Critical and Systems Thinking are two of the biggest factors responsible for the cause of modern crises and major threats to the environment.

Finally, Crisis Management teaches a set of generic skills that are applicable to other key functions within complex organizations. In this sense, the certificate prepares students for dealing with complex business and organizational issues and processes such as Environmentalism, Strategic Planning, Health and Safety, etc.

What's Next

For more information on this or other certificate programs, please complete the form on the right. You may check multiple options.
To enroll in this certificate as a non-degree student, go to Apply Online and select the desired certificate option. This certificate is available to current Saybrook degree students in certain programs as part of, or in addition to, degree classes. Please contact Admissions or your faculty advisor/mentor about enrolling