New York College Offers Minor in Disaster Studies

For a new generation of college students, disasters, both unnatural and natural, have been a constant occurrence. As a result, many universities and colleges now offer degree and certificate programs in disaster studies and related areas. Recently, the State University of New York (SUNY) in New Paltz instituted an undergraduate minor in disaster studies, a recent addition to their list of diplomas and degrees in the field.

By Bobby Mann


The Rise of Disaster Studies Programs

Catastrophic events such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina shaped today's college students because they were so young at the time. In response to this generation of learners, many of whom have never known a time without terrorism and natural disasters, universities and colleges have begun to offer programs in homeland security, emergency preparedness, disaster studies and associated areas. However, the high number of disaster and emergency management programs is a recent phenomenon.

In 2001 the number of emergency management programs in the United States was a meager 12. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), there are at least 232 programs today. This represents a significant jump in a short period of time. The catalyst for the creation and popularity of homeland security studies was 9/11, but FEMA has pushed for the development of disaster studies programs as far back as 1995, when there were only five. Today, the Emergency Management Education Consortium reports that on average 12 emergency management programs are added each year.

Disaster Studies at SUNY New Paltz

Unfortunately, there are very few colleges and universities that have disaster studies and related programs in the Northeast. However, SUNY New Paltz has distinguished itself for offering diplomas, associate's degrees and doctorates in areas such as public safety administration, humanitarian action, hazard policy and other related fields. Additionally, many of these academic programs focus on treating the immediate emotional and physical aspects of disaster as opposed to informing victims of their trauma and the scope of a disaster.

More importantly, students pursuing the disaster studies minor at SUNY New Paltz also have a chance to get their hands dirty. Many have volunteered to help with flood efforts in upstate New York, and others have participated in ceremonies for survivors of 9/11 at ground zero. A professor even led a group of students to New Orleans to help residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. These experiences provide a strong counterpoint to the history and theory of emergency preparedness and disaster relief discussed in class. It also provides insight into the roles and responsibilities professionals play in the field.

Interested in volunteering your talents to service projects? Learn more about the Peace Corps and its goal of promoting peace and friendship throughout the world.

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