Ivan Allen College Faculty to Study Disaster Resilience in Historically Marginalized Communities

Posted February 25, 2021

The National Science Foundation recently announced Stage 1 awardees of its Civic Innovation Challenge, including a team featuring two Ivan Allen College researchers.

Allen Hyde, assistant professor in the School of History and Sociology, received funding for “Co-Creating Data for Disaster Resilience with Historically Marginalized Communities in Savannah.” Co-PIs on the project are Yanni Loukissas, associate professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication; Nisha Botchwey, associate dean for academic programs in Georgia Tech Professional Education and associate professor in the College of Design; and Mildred McClain, executive director of Harambe House —  a non-profit environmental justice organization.

The team will study the social and physical vulnerabilities of coastal communities and how environmental disasters affect communities’ ability to rebound and be resilient.

Considerations of social equity and justice are integral to the project. Residents and representatives of Hudson Hill — a working-class, predominantly Black neighborhood adjacent to the Savannah ports — will be included as research partners.

Hudson Hill faces several challenges that impact the community’s ability to respond and recover from natural disasters, such as environmental concerns from port activity, public infrastructure and healthcare challenges, and a lack of job opportunities.

“When we think about resilience, whether it’s after a disaster or another event, a lot of the discussion is framed around telling people to just be more resilient,” Hyde said. “But when we think about historically marginalized communities, we’re not often considering what it is that they feel that they need to be resilient to, what does resilience look like for them in their terms, and do they want to return to the way things were?”

The Ivan Allen College team is one of 52 nationwide to receive the approximately $50,000 grants. Awardees also include Pascal Van Hentenryck, A Russell Chandler III Chair and Professor in the H. Milton Stuart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

Both projects are part of Georgia Tech’s Smart Cities and Inclusive Innovation program, which aims to develop innovative approaches to help build resilient and sustainable communities.

The Civic Innovation Challenge is a partnership among the NSF, the U.S. Energy Department, and the Department of Homeland Security. The challenge specifically seeks projects based on civic priorities identified by communities with a real-world impact that can be evaluated within a year.

Peralte Paul in Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute and Amy D’Unger in the School of History and Sociology contributed to this article.


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Michael Pearson