Tulane University's
Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy

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DRLA Highlights

UNICEF grant focuses on wellbeing of Rwanda’s orphans

August 19, 2016

Laura Haas and Reggie Ferreira

As Rwanda continues to close its 34 orphanages opened after the 1994 genocide, professors at the Tulane School of Social Work’s Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy are working to train the country’s social workers to help the affected children.

Thanks to a two-year UNICEF Grant, Tulane professors Laura Haas and Reggie Ferreira will help lead trainings to strengthen the national social service workforce via close collaboration with Rwanda's National Commission for Children.

“We’ll be training the country’s social work force to better work with families and children since Rwanda is doing away with orphanages in the country,” Ferreira, an assistant professor at the Tulane School of Social Work, said. “Over the next two years, we’ll be training several social work force employees in Rwanda to strengthen family relationships.”


Summer Institute students experience another day of humanitarian learning and networking  in Washington, DC

July 7, 2016

DRLA Summer Institute 16 Visit to HHS

The DRLA Summer Institute student group had a full and informative day on Thursday, July 7th in Washington DC. The students began the day at the US Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Human Services Emergency Preparedness and Response (OHSEPR) Administration of Children and Families Department (ACF) department. For the first few hours of the morning, the students heard from Captain Mary Riley, U.S. Public Health Services Director, about the many ways ACF and OHSEPR work to help children and families before, during, and after disasters. Captain Riley was very passionate about her work, generous in answering student questions, and encouraging to everyone about their backgrounds and futures.

Captain Riley began the session by stressing how important “psychological workforce protection” is for responders and mental health workers who are deployed during and after disasters. She discussed ways to look out for each other and ourselves and stressed to the students the importance of self care and helping each other while deployed since secondary stress and compassion fatigue can be harmful if not given proper attention. Throughout the presentation, Captain Riley highlighted many items, including ACF’s mission, mandates, “interests" in disasters- which include: child care, child support services, child welfare & foster care, human trafficking and refugee resettlement. She also discussed logistical and operational procedures, as well as how ACF coordinates with other government branches, which we found very interesting. Additionally, she talked about how ACF was formed and their case management program- emphasizing the need to pay special attention to children and family access to child care during and after disasters.

After the session at the ACF office, the students then went across the street to the Secretary’s Response Center (SRC), in the HHS Department of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). Here the students heard from Lieutenant Commander Allen and staff about the very important work that ASPR does to address medical and public health emergencies, such as Zika, Ebola, and special events- such as the DC Independence Day celebration. He also stressed the importance of self-care, as well as “situational awareness”- or always being vigilant of what is going on. Overall, it was an enlightening and inspiring information-packed day at the DRLA Summer Institute.

Jennifer MacNeill, 2016 DRLA Summer Institute Group Coordinator

FEMA Chief of Staff welcomes DRLA Students to National Headquarters

July 6, 2016

DRLA Summer Institute Students are given a tour of FEMA headquarters by Chief of Staff

On July 6th Professor George Haddow and the DRLA Summer Institute student group visited the FEMA headquarters in Washington DC, escorted by FEMA Chief of Staff Michael Coen. To begin the day, the students were invited to observe the official daily morning briefing, during which the various branches of FEMA and the White House all reported on significant goings-on for their sector. Updates included the daily national, space, and storm forecasts, current FEMA disaster operations status and other topics.

The group then had a Q & A session with Michael Coen and Josh Batkin, Director of the Office of External Affairs, during which the staff members answered questions about challenges they face, what they love about their jobs, how they manage stress, advice they can offer new graduates, how FEMA is ensuring their materials are accessible to all populations, and others. Following the morning briefing and hearing from various staff members, including from the communications department, the students were escorted throughout the building and were able to see the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC).

Lastly, Mr. Coen and Mr. Batkin gave the students a tour of the employee working area, which they have recently converted into an open work space floor plan, which they say makes team, inter and intra department communication more efficient and each other more accessible. 

Jennifer MacNeill, 2016 DRLA Summer Institute Group Coordinator

Lieutenant governor to chair advisory council for Tulane resilience academy

May 31, 2016

Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser will chair a Leadership Advisory Council that will help identify and select participants and provide oversight for a fellowship program designed by Tulane University’s Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy.

The Disaster Resilience Leadership Fellowship Program will identify emerging Gulf Coast leaders and equip them with the knowledge and tools needed to more effectively develop and implement plans that strengthen the resilience of their communities to future oil spills and other disasters.


2016 DRLA Summer Institute

The DRLA is pleased to announce that the dates have been set for the 2016 DRLA Summer Institute in Washington D.C.

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DRLS 6710
Institutions & Politics of Humanitarian Advocacy
July 1 - July 15, 2016

  • Explores International and Domestic:
  • Humanitarian decision making
  • Career paths in the field
  • Practical tools for policy change
  • Dynamics between diplomacy and humanitarianism, resilience, and human security
Visits to/by:
  • NGOs such as InterAction and the American Red Cross
  • Prominent think tanks such as Brookings Institute and CSIS Congress
  • U.S. Governmental agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA
DRLS 6720
Case Studies in Disaster Operations
July 18 - July 29, 2016

Examine and Discuss:
  • Success/failure in disaster response
  • Recovery and relief practices resulting in more resilient communities
  • Impacts of social media on disaster communications
  • Attributes of an effective disaster operations capability
Guest Speakers/Visits include:
  • The World Bank
  • National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD)
  • The United Nations

Dr. Laura J. Haas named DRLA Deputy Director 

"It's an exciting Laura Haastime at the Academy with so much growth and opportunity before us. I am really looking forward to taking on a more active role strategically to help expand DRLA's global reach, both here at home and abroad, and to help establish the Academy as the go-to institution in disaster resilience leadership and applied research. Universities have a unique role to play in resilience strengthening efforts and our global network of university partners will provide important opportunities for our students as they become increasingly exposed to and involved in resilience work."  

Dr. Laura J. Haas has 25 years of expertise and experience working with African ministries of health and education to strengthen institutional and human capacities, including leadership capacity, through education, training and rapid workforce development. In addition to serving as full time Country Director for the Tulane Office in Rwanda, she was fully involved in establishing the nation's only School of Public Health post-genocide. Her work in support of health sciences and social work education includes a broad spectrum of technical assistance encompassing strategic leadership development, curricula reform, educational and training program development, competency framework validation, faculty development, and the integration of information technology and learning. She has been highly involved in establishing key university networks in Africa such as the Leadership Alliance in Public Health in East Africa (LIPHEA), its transformation into the HEALTH Alliance (Higher Education Alliance for Leadership Through Health) and more recently, collaborating with the One Health for Central and Eastern Africa (OHCEA) network. Currently, Dr. Haas supports efforts to strengthen national child protection systems and child resilience with support from UNICEF while enhancing disaster resilience leadership in West Africa with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Haas possesses extensive experience managing and implementing a range of donor-funded programs across Africa, serving as Tulane's representative in Rwanda, and acting as liaison between African governments, multi- and bi-lateral agencies as well as various international and local, non-governmental agencies. She has published in peer-reviewed journals, presented at international conferences, is fluent in both English and French, and holds a PhD from Tulane University and an MBA from Georgia State University.

DRLA Holds RAN Workshop


Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the ResilientAfrica  Network (RAN) leverages the knowledge, scholarship, and creativity of African universities to identify and develop innovative ways to strengthen resilience in target communities across Africa. The network is led by Makerere University, which hosts the RAN Secretariat, and includes Tulane University, Stanford University, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as well as 20 African universities in 16 countries. The architecture of the ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) in Africa consists of four Resilience Innovation Labs (RILabs). The RILabs are focal points of technology innovation and commercialization of university research attracting local and national resources, sustainably funded, with replication potential across sub-Saharan Africa. RAN's RILabs include the Eastern Africa RILab based in Uganda and hosted by Makerere University, West Africa RILab based in Ghana and hosted by the University for Development Studies, Horn of Africa RILab based in Ethiopia and hosted by Jimma University and Southern Africa RILab based in South Africa at University of Pretoria.


Institutional Consultancy to Strengthen Social Welfare Workforce in Rwanda 

In response to UNICEF's request for institutional services to support the capacity development of the professional and para-professional social welfare workforce in Rwanda, Tulane's DRLA is embarking on a two year long program with an innovative approach to human capacity development. This program will emphasize collaborative and experiential learning, learning transfer and measurement, and the establishment of learning communities. Through this program, DRLA will enhance learning outcomes and job performance, building upon evidence-based practices, and will contribute to the strengthening of the national social welfare workforce via close collaboration with Rwanda's National Commission for Children.

Strengthening Collaboration on Humanitarian Emergency Response

The West Africa Ebola crisis, the deadly April 2015 earthquake in Nepal, and ongoing crises in Syria, Central African Republic, and beyond have exposed weaknesses of global humanitarian emergency response efforts. Complex humanitarian emergencies require a constellation of actors from different sectors working collaboratively to save lives and provide critical services. A new report by the Disaster Resilience Group, A Networked Approach to Strengthening Emergency Response Capacity, draws lessons from international and local networks and offers recommendations for building capacity among first- and second-line responders and strengthening networks for emergency response. Panelists will present the report's findings and discuss how they might be implemented to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of emergency response. 

Click here to view the report...

Gates Foundation gives $3.5 million to Tulane disaster resilience program

The Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy (DRLA), housed in the Tulane School of Social Work, has been awarded a $3.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to implement the second phase of its Disaster Resilience Leadership (DRL) program over the next three years.

Read the full story about the grant here...

Journey to India

Each September, for fourteen consecutive years, Ron Marks, dean of the School of Social Work conducts the "Journey to India" class.  Last fall, 5 of the 14 student participants were working towards their MS in Disaster Resilience. The journey is an immersive one and offers the opportunity to intimately engage with the Tibetan refugee exile community. After arriving in Delhi, the group travels north to the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains to Dharamsala, home of the largest number of Tibetans in exile, the home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile. One of the central goals of this experience is to enable an understanding of the needs of the Tibetan exile community and to interact with social and health programs working towards meeting these needs. Equally important is the opportunity to learn the ancient wisdom traditions brought to India from Tibet by this exile community. Overall, the experience provides an opportunity to enhance ones professional growth, develop personally, and to see the vitally important interconnection between these two areas.

India Trip 

Pictured right are the 14 MSW and MS Disaster Resilience students with Dean Ron Marks and Dr. Carolyn Weaver, co-teacher, with Ama Ahde, pictured in the center.  Ama Ahde is a Tibetan elder who spent 27 years in a Chinese prison, accused of aiding the Tibetan resistance movement in the 1960's.  She is the author of "The Voice that Remembers."

Upcoming Events & Announcements

None at this time.

Click here to view past events and news...

DRLA Spotlights:

Faculty Updates

In early January, DRLA faculty member Holly Scheib held a workshop in community engagement for the northern Europe operational center of Médecins Sans Frontièresin Amsterdam. Dr. Scheib presented on community engagement principles, best practices, and strategies for programs and measurement in an active workshop with health team leads and community health specialists representing diverse MSF service areas and several European offices. During the 2-day session, the organization studied prior programs and current policies to facilitate discussion on realities of engagement within humanitarian settings.  Dr. Scheib has served as a measurement consultant to a variety of international and domestic non-profit organizations working in humanitarian aid. With DRLA, she assists on measurement and evaluation on several projects and is currently teaching an evaluation course.

Student Research

Tim Hefflinger has been collaborating with Dr. Catherine Burnette of the Tulane School of Social Work in recent months on her work on resilience among Native American women who have experienced Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). Their research has coalesced into two articles that have been submitted for publication. "Honoring Narratives of Resilience: Protective Factors Identified by Indigenous Women Who Have Experienced Violence," has been submitted to The Journal of Primary Prevention and focuses on individual-level protective factors that indigenous American women have found to be important to their well-being after experiencing violence. "Identifying Community Risk Factors for Violence against Indigenous Women: A Framework of Historical Oppression and Resilience" has been submitted to the journal Traumatology and takes a community-level approach to understanding the risk factors that are unique to Native American communities. In both of these articles, Tim and Dr. Burnette use a lens of resiliency to examine the unique attributes of IPV among Native women. Their research will hopefully fill a critical gap in the literature and inform social work practice for this vulnerable population.

Alumni Spotlight

Ms. Hardin served as Executive Director for Evacuteer.org, a New Orleans based non-profit tasked with assisting with City Assisted Evacuation during climatic events. During her time at the organization, she oversaw the largest growth in preparedness programming for vulnerable populations throughout the city, record numbers of trained evacuation volunteers, data driven transit research and mapping, and completion of Evacuspots, a emergency preparedness public art project.  After returning to Washington D.C., Ms. Hardin now works as Global Security Manager for International Relief and Development, responsible for supporting 17 tactical security teams within 9 countries in the Middle East, Africa, and South America. Her duties include: conducting field site security risk assessments, developing and delivering training curricula to 1,800+ field and HQ staff on enterprise risk and security management, and analyzing the likelihood and impact of organizational threats in order to advise senior leadership on mitigative actions. Due to operating in conflict and active combat zones, much of Ms. Hardin's focus is on safety and security planning for  personnel and guard force staffing, travel and transport, hardline perimeter and facility enhancement, compound access point systems, as well as contingency planning for crisis-level incidents. Ms. Hardin is a NAEMT Tactical Casualty Combat Care medic, IAEM Associate Emergency Manager and Hostile Environment Anti-Terrorism (HEAT) certified security professional.