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Master of Science in Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy Course Descriptions

DRLS 6010 - Human & Social Factors (3 credits)

Disasters are part of everyday life. Human behavior within a pre- or post-disaster context are deciding factors in determining an individual, family/household or community’s disaster resilience when faced by catastrophe. Evidence based knowledge gained with this course will result in an enhanced understanding of psychosocial and behavioral sciences within a disaster context. Through principles of disaster research and evidence based practice application, this course aims to provide students with the tools to understand and critically appraise human behavior within a disaster context. Students will consider and apply knowledge gained with this course through relevant skills and competencies that is intended to promote disaster resilience through an ecological systemic perspective. Students are expected to acquire both the academic knowledge and relevant applied skills through the educational activities presented with this course.

DRLS 6020 - Disaster Operations and Policy (3 credits)

Disaster Operations represents one of the core competencies of the Disaster Resilience Leadership Sciences (DRLS) academic program. The course focuses on understanding evidence-based best practices and policies for disaster operations that strengthens disaster resilience in affected communities.  It centers on the role leadership plays in guiding disaster operations and policy across all phases of the disaster life cycle (preparedness, response, recovery, and risk reduction). Learning objectives focus on developing student competencies in these areas: hazard analysis, disaster risk and vulnerability, disaster preparedness and risk reduction, disaster response and recovery, approaches and issues related to protection of beneficiaries and staff, crisis communication and informatics, and advocacy in crisis management settings. 

DRLS 6030 - The Economy and Business of Disaster (3 credits)

In resilience contexts, at any phase of the disaster cycle, leaders are faced with an array of options at both macro and micro policy levels, where decisions may greatly impact the lives of others. Many important aspects of disaster, including planning, prevention and mitigation, and disaster recovery are economic in nature. Yet the most vulnerable are often marginalized or ignored by decision makers. The lack of a comprehensive understanding and estimation of disaster vulnerability by decision makers can result in negative effects on livelihoods. Real or perceived constraints within any policy context shape the process by which policies are formulated, decisions made, and resources allocated.

The purpose of this course is to equip students with foundational knowledge and basic economic tools to analyze disaster impacts. This course will strive to impart an understanding of a set of basic theoretical constructs and how these are applied to policy and empirical literature on the economic analysis of disasters. Theoretical topics like inter-temporal choice and valuation, risk, and uncertainty are fundamental to understanding very real and concrete issues that lie at the heart of disasters’ impact on societies around the world: How well do nations and their constituent citizens and business enterprises handle uncertainty and the risk of disaster? Should governments invest in mitigation or set resources aside for recovery? What role do private insurance markets play? How can one systematically evaluate investments in prevention and mitigation if the probability of a disaster strike is not well known?

The course attempts to demonstrate how economic impacts are inter-related to the social, environmental, and infrastructure dimensions of resilience and how a multi-lens approach is critical to understanding the economy and business of disasters.

DRLS 6040 - Environment and Infrastructure (3 credits)

All disasters occur in an environmental context—a physical space shaped by natural and human forces. That context affects almost everything, from the triggering event (a hurricane, an oil spill) to a community’s distinctive vulnerabilities (flood-plain development, declining fisheries). Many of these factors can be traced to human decisions about land development, the use of natural resources, and environmental protection. What is more, today’s environmental context is backlit by climate change, which threatens to intensify many environmental disasters including storms, floods, wildfire, and drought.

Leadership in disaster resilience requires an understanding of how the natural environment and human infrastructure interact to shape the character of disaster risks and offer a platform upon which effective resilience strategies can be organized. This course provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to understand disaster risk in this context and to understand and evaluate the ways that those in the public and private sectors address that risk.     

DRLS 6032 - Quantitative Research and Analysis in Disaster Resilience (3 credits)

Disaster resilience is a complex endeavor requiring many levels of information and understanding.  In order to be effective and competent, practitioners must be able to organize and access various types of information, continually add to their knowledge through critical assessment of research in their fields of interest, analyze field data to better understand and evaluate their practice, and effectively communicate knowledge and ideas to others. 

This 3-credit course introduces students to quantitative data principles, methods, and applications relevant to disaster resilience practice and research.  It emphasizes the practical application of data to assess quality of evidence and contribute to knowledge through systematic inquiry, including comprehension of data collection and research methods relevant to disaster resilience data creation.  Understanding the scope and application of data in disasters is stressed.  Methods in statistics are foundational.  

DRLS 6110 - Humanitarian Assistance Research and Evaluation (3 credits)

Evaluations are a primary tool for humanitarian organizations to maintain accountability and identify critical lessons in response, planning, and recovery.  This 3-credit course focuses on the applications of evaluation science, with emphasis on skills relevant to humanitarian action and emergency response.

The first part of the course includes major methodological choices and common techniques in evaluation. This second part of this focuses on evaluation history, theory, applications, and applied practice.  The third part of the course asks students to apply evaluation skills to a range of real-world scenarios, where the justification of approach, considerations of stakeholders, and logistics of involvement are critical components.  These sessions are intended to provide students with practical advice and insight to the evaluation process.  This course requires frequent submission of individual written assignments, self and peer evaluation, and group work projects and presentations.           

DRLS 7000 - Leadership (3 credits)

Leadership in Disaster: An exploration in theory and practice. 

This course will dive into recent disasters (Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Maria, and others) as the backdrop to explore how theories of leadership ring true or are challenged in practice. Students will be invited to recognize that leaders in the disaster space must be students of people - their needs, motivations, and expectations.

Students will have the opportunity to hear from a number of seasoned leaders who will speak to experiences navigating policy, power dynamics and personalities.

The course will conclude with the opportunity for students to identify traits and behaviors of leaders to be emulated and to craft those into a personal development roadmap for use in their careers as leaders in the disaster space.