Capitalizing on Katrina: UNO Launches Post-Grad Certificate Programs in Hazard Planning and Hazard Policy Studies

Ever-resilient and innovative, the University of New Orleans is capitalizing on its location in a "disaster-prone zone" to launch two new post-graduate certificate programs aimed at preparing local public servants, business people, educators and non-profit or faith-based organization leaders to respond with effectiveness in a crisis.

"The UNO hazard planning and hazard policy studies certificate programs will teach you how to meet, recover from and respond to disasters with minimum downtime, with minimum impact on operational services," said John Kiefer, associate professor and director of the University's graduate program in public administration. "Resilience through knowledge."

On the books for spring semester is coursework applicable to the two new post-graduate certificates, as well as an undergraduate minor in disaster resilience studies, Kiefer said. Courses are scheduled as evening classes to encourage participation by working professionals.

New Orleans: A Living Laboratory

As a low-lying port city located along the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans is "a living laboratory" where students can learn new skills and benefit from experts on the ground who have faced or are prepared to face hurricanes, tornadoes, massive flooding, chemical spills, oil spills and other natural disaster or homeland security issues.

Forewarned is forearmed, Kiefer believes, and area workers with these skills and understanding of available resources, disaster policy and best practices for hazard planning and response will be assets to their businesses and communities. He plans to enhance curriculum with executive seminars, case studies, site visits and speakers.

Hazard Policy Studies Certificate

UNO's new graduate certificate in hazard policy studies, offered by UNO's Department of Political Science, is aimed at full-time and non-degree seeking students and public managers who want to broaden their knowledge and skills on the principles and fundamentals of hazard policy without pursuing a full degree program.

Certification requires completion of three courses, including a required course in U.S. Disaster Policy and Administration, taught by Kiefer, which will instruct students on U.S. disaster policy, the roles of various levels of government and agencies in a disaster and resources that professionals can expect and obtain from government at the local, state and federal levels.

Professionals pursuing the certificate in hazard policy studies will also choose two of three additional courses in planning for hazards, the sociology of disasters and the fundamentals of mapping and Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Kiefer said. A geographic information system (GIS) integrates hardware, software and data for capturing, managing, analyzing and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. GIS allows hazard planners, policy makers and other professionals to view, understand, question, interpret and visualize data in ways that reveal relationships, patterns and trends through maps, globes, reports and charts.

Sociologists have identified a variety of outgrowths of disaster, including mental and emotional health needs, tendencies toward violence, post-traumatic stress disorder and distress in children, he said. The better educators, public servants, business leaders and others understand these trends and outcomes, the more inclined they will be to create resilient organizations and resilient policies.

A course in planning for hazards covers technical systems, "everything from building codes and zoning to...floodplain management," Kiefer said. The interdisciplinary curriculum includes professional certification training in floodplain management, preparing students for the Certified Floodplain Manager test. A primary goal of the course is to help ensure Louisiana's future and current planners effectively address challenges presented by mitigating, managing and delivering public services in hazard-prone areas and communities.

Hazard Planning Certificate

UNO's certificate in hazard planning, offered by the Department of Planning and Urban Studies, is designed for full-time or non-degree seeking students, particularly planners and disaster professionals, who wish to broaden their knowledge and skills on hazard planning principles and fundamentals. The program's interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to educate members of all professions on principles of community resilience and to apply those principles to understanding how hazards and hazard policies affect communities, government and nonprofit agencies, businesses and social systems.

In addition to required studies on planning for hazards, professionals pursuing the certificate may pursue elective coursework in the geography or hazards and disasters, hurricane meteorology, fundamentals of mapping and GIS, environmental planning, coastal zone planning and administration, sociology of disasters and policy dimensions of disaster preparedness.

Business people, for example, will gain understanding of how to prepare employees for a disaster, how to navigate a system of resources, where to go for assistance, what policies are in place to promote assistance, how to get technical assistance during a disaster, how crisis and emergency management plans work, how to shelter in place safely and other emergency management practices. Professionals pursuing the coursework will also build networks.

Disaster Resilient

"We live and work in one of the most disaster-prone areas of the U.S.," said Kiefer. "This program will prepare you and your organization to be more disaster-resilient."


Read More

UNO-CHART Hosts Higher Education Leaders for Disaster Resistant University Workshop
UNO Department of Political Science
UNO Department of Planning and Urban Studies
UNO Planning and Urban Studies Master's Degree Program