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First Responder

Friday, March 1, 2013

This adventurous marketing major is following her dream of becoming a professional firefighter.

by Donna Parker

Deann Dowell, who received a degree in marketing from Trinity in 2006, is a cadet at the Austin Fire Academy. It's an easy thing to say but a far more difficult feat to accomplish. After several years at the helm of the tourist-oriented business Seg City, Deann is now striving to join the paramilitary organization that is the Austin Fire Department. 

"I have never been through an experience quite like this. It's good that I played sports because it is pretty rough. You get yelled at and then built back up as a team. Every day, it's at least 200 pushups and other physical torture but this is an opportunity to be part of an organization that most of my friends who are firefighters call, ‘the best thing in the world," explains Deann.

More than 5,000 people try out for the academy. Only 100 are accepted so Deann is keenly aware of the need to perform over the next few months even though the process can be wearing.

"I went through an interview process, written test and oral boards. Then, a physical test including three minutes on a stair stepper with a 75-pound pack on my back; pulling a 50-pound hose and sprinting with it and carrying two 40-pound pieces of equipment into a maze in complete darkness on my stomach and hands!" laughs Deann.

Then, there is the dummy drag-175 pounds dragged for 30 feet. She's also learned how to forcibly enter a building with a sledgehammer and break through a roof from a very tall fire ladder.

At 29, she's got the stamina to do it and spends countless hours preparing by running around Town Lake in addition to weight lifting and extreme cardio.

"At the end of the day, I want to spend my life contributing. This is the chance of a lifetime and I was absolutely certain before applying that this was my life's calling."

Deann says Trinity was instrumental in preparing her for this (or any other) career with an "awesome" atmosphere and people.

"Trinity really changed me. My friends, professors and teammates opened my mind and taught me more than what was in the textbooks," says Deann.

"The critical thinking skills have come in very handy since I'm studying the EMT course which is a yearlong course crammed into 9 weeks. I also learned study skills which taught me to hunker down and pull out the essentials of what I needed."

Once Deann becomes a full-fledged firefighter, she will also become a first-time mom with her partner Amy whom she married in New York in March 2012. The two spend their free time together cooking and playing with their dogs, Savia and Lulu-or just hanging out with friends. With motherhood and graduating from the academy on the horizon, Deann just stays very focused.

"The due date is the same as my graduation date so I just do it and take it all day by day."

You may contact Deann at alumni [at]