Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website

CU Denver Alum Deanne Criswell Confirmed as First Female Leader of FEMA

April 22, 2021

Today, Deanne B. Criswell, a University of Colorado Denver alum, was confirmed as the next administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  

After graduating from CU Denver with a master in public administration in 2006, Criswell went on to manage the Office of Emergency Management for the City of Aurora, the third largest city in Colorado, from 2005 to 2011. Criswell also served in the Colorado Air National Guard with multiple deployments overseas and worked as a firefighter for 21 years.  

“We are so thrilled that President Biden has tapped Deanne Criswell as the first woman to head FEMA,” said Paul Teske, dean of the School of Public Affairs (SPA) at CU Denver. “Deanne is the highest-placed alum we have ever had in the federal government service. We are so proud of her accomplishments and excited to see her leadership in action as she fulfills SPA’s goal to have our alums lead, solve, change, and improve our world.” 

“Deanne is the highest-placed alum we have ever had in the federal government service,” said Paul Teske, dean of the School of Public Affairs.

Under the Obama Administration, Criswell gained valuable experience in emergency management by working with FEMA to produce crisis management plans for various natural disasters. In 2019, she moved on to become the commissioner of the New York City Emergency Management department. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she coordinated the delivery of critical aid, relief, and guidance to New York City residents. 

“Deanne Criswell brings honor to CU Denver and all of Colorado,” said Michelle Marks, chancellor of CU Denver. “Deanne has had an impressive career working in the Obama Administration and leading the New York City Emergency Management Department. I can’t wait to see her success as the leader of FEMA.” 

Criswell has led numerous emergency and disaster planning efforts, responding to severe flooding in North Dakota and wildfires in Colorado. She also coordinated transitional housing and family reunification for nearly 2,000 evacuees displaced by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.