As RES/CON, the annual international conference on resiliency and disaster management, was wrapping up at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the New Orleans City Council met at the other end of Poydras Street to recognize a University of New Orleans research center for the expertise and training it generates locally. During its regular meeting on Thursday, March 3 the Council recognized the University of New Orleans Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology (UNO-CHART) for its role in producing more than 100 student researchers with knowledge and experience in a field that is so critical to the city.
In a brief presentation to the council, center director Monica Farris outlined UNO-CHART’s function as an applied social science hazards research center that assists communities in reducing risk associated with natural hazards, specifically hurricane and climate hazards. UNO-CHART founder Shirley Laska highlighted how students in the program not only research a wide variety of topics including repetitive flooding, disaster mitigation planning, community resilience assessments and storm mitigation efforts by coastal communities, but also gain valuable hands-on experience in supporting the New Orleans community.
"I would like to congratulate Dr. Shirley Laska and Dr. Monica Farris along with the entire UNO-CHART organization for training so many well prepared and qualified students,” said Councilmember Susan Guidry. “UNO-CHART prepares students to effectively manage hazard mitigation and risk reduction programs, both of which are essential to a resilient New Orleans.”
UNO-CHART formed 14 years ago and is celebrating its 101st student research assistant this year. The center is almost completely self-funded.
“The students’ competency and commitment to implementing the mitigation and resiliency projects and to their own professional growth drives the center’s success,” Laska said.
According to Laska, more than 90 percent of those students have graduated or will soon. Only eight of those 101 students were unable to complete their degree requirements; of those eight students, three were affected by Hurricane Katrina.
“Given the challenges these days that students have in graduating, the CHART philosophy of treating the students as professionals results in their seeing themselves as professionals, including graduating,” she said. Former UNO-CHART researchers now serve in positions with organizations such as Orleans Parish 911, the Jefferson Parish Office of Flood Plain Management and Hazard Mitigation, and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.
Click here to view the portion of the New Orleans City Council meeting devoted to UNO-CHART.