Michael Bourquin
B.S. Fire and Emergency Services Administration

Michael Bourquin is proof there is always something more to get out of life. After retiring as a fire captain in 2014 with 27 years of public service, he wanted to start pursuing emergency management as a profession in itself.

Little did he know where an early work ethic developed on his grandparent’s ranch and later ambitions would take him. Last December it was to Fort Collins, Colorado to receive his Bachelor of Science degree in Fire and Emergency Services Administration (FESA).

This trip south was extra rewarding because of an unexpected detour Bourquin experienced on this new academic path. Upon completing his online associate’s degree in Emergency Services with Red Rocks Community College in Colorado, he continued pursuing a four-year public administration degree. However, when Bourquin was just six credits shy of graduation, his program was discontinued. Determined to complete his bachelor’s degree, he found the online FESA degree at Colorado State University.

“The FESA degree aligned really well with my public administration goal,” Bourquin said. Even though he had to complete more credits, he was grateful for the program support he received.

“Rebekah Pichotta (the FESA advisor) reached out and made a graduation plan just for me,” he added. “We checked in every semester to ensure I was on track.”

CSU FESA graduates

FESA graduates and FESA Advisor Rebekah Pichotta (second from left)


This type of teamwork is something Bourquin had been very familiar with during his fire service. A turning point in his career came during an intense fire season in Montana. As part of a task force assigned to a wildland fire Hot Shot division, his group of firefighters was tasked with a risky mission during the 2006 Derby Fire. When the weather conditions were just right, they conducted a backburn towards the fire. His team executed the burn successfully and saved the tourist town of Fishtail.

“My team made that a successful mission,” Bourquin added. “It’s never one person, it’s always a team effort. You are only ever successful because of your team. With my family and CSU, everyone helped me set up for success.”

He was grateful the FESA program allowed him to achieve his higher education goal while still staying involved in his family life and new profession working for the state of Montana’s Disaster and Emergency Services department. Bourquin said that while he could have continued his career in fire, he hopes his new role can better prepare communities for future emergency response whether in larger cities or smaller towns along wildland urban interfaces.

Having visited Colorado multiple times before graduation, Bourquin said he may pay it forward to a state in which he completed his entire college career online. Although having lived in Helena, Montana all his life, Bourquin would consider uprooting in the future and using his new-found skills in the Centennial State.

“It may be cool to work for the state or university that has made my new chapter so successful,” he said.