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Effective Jan. 1, 2011, James Kendra is the new director of UD's Disaster Research Center.
2:41 p.m., Aug. 3, 2010----James M. Kendra, an expert in
emergency and crisis management, has been named director of the
University of Delaware's Disaster Research Center
(DRC), the first center in the world devoted to the scientific study of
disasters. The announcement was made by University Provost Tom Apple
and the appointment is effective Jan. 1, 2011.
Kendra, who also receives an appointment as associate professor of
public policy at UD, currently is an associate professor of public
administration and coordinator of the Emergency Administration and
Planning Program in the Department of Public Administration at the
University of North Texas.
The University of Delaware is pleased to welcome Jim Kendra as the
new director of our Disaster Research Center, Apple said. His
extensive background in emergency and crisis management, coupled with
his energy and enthusiasm, will serve this world-class center well, as
he leads new efforts to expand its interdisciplinary scope and
Apple also recognized Sue McNeil, professor of civil and
environmental engineering and urban affairs, for her leadership of the
center for the past three years.
Great thanks to Sue McNeil for her tireless work in helping to
realize the center's potential and in overseeing its numerous research
projects around the globe, from Hurricane Katrina to the earthquake in
Haiti, Apple said. McNeil will extend her term as the center's director
until Kendra's arrival.
The word interdisciplinary is emblematic of Kendra's background and
career goals. He actually started out as a merchant seaman on the East
Coast, but a major catastrophe an ocean away -- the running aground of
the Exxon Valdez in Alaska's Prince William Sound -- shifted his interests in the direction of disaster research.
Kendra says he was struck by the media's portrayal of the event as a
seagoing drunk-driving accident with the focus primarily on the
captain. In reviewing the National Transportation Safety Board data,
Kendra says he saw large, systemic, preconditions for disaster ranging
from high-pressure work in a difficult environment, to a crew exhausted
due to downsizing.
Kendra went on to the University of Massachusetts, where he received a
master's degree in geography with a focus in environmental management
and land-use planning. Then he earned his doctorate from Rutgers
University in geography with a focus on individual and organizational
response to risk and hazard.
From 2000 to 2003, he was affiliated with UD's Disaster Research
Center as a postdoctoral research fellow, where he managed a number of
projects focusing on disasters and emergency planning. He has been on
the University of North Texas faculty since 2003.
I'm very honored to be appointed director of the Disaster Research
Center, Kendra said. It's truly a center of worldwide importance, and I
see my job as stewarding and advancing the intellectual legacy of the
center while increasing its interdisciplinary emphasis. Disasters are
the nexus of every social problem -- they intersect in so many aspects
of community and social experience, requiring expertise in sociology,
engineering, public health, and many other fields.
Kendra says one of his principal goals is to broaden the scope of
emergencies the DRC is accustomed to handling. Currently, there is a lot
of debate in the field about what constitutes a disaster, he says.
In my view, it's time to bring drought, desertification, and other
creeping threats more squarely in the mainstream of disaster research,
Kendra also is looking forward to increasing awareness of the DRC's educational capabilities.
It would not be an overstatement to say that my years as a
postdoctoral fellow here at UD were among the most consequential of my
academic career in terms of advanced training and experience, so I have a
strong appreciation of the importance of the 'DRC experience' to
undergraduate and graduate students and postdocs, he says.
The recipient of several honors for excellence in teaching and
student mentoring, Kendra says he looks forward to helping to develop
UD's new graduate program in disaster studies.
My goal in my courses is to prepare students not for their first job, but for their next job, and the job after that -- for all their
jobs, Kendra says. Ultimately, I want to prepare students to take
their place in setting policy agendas related to risk, hazard, and
Article by Tracey Bryant
Originally published by UDaily.
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