Initial Publication Date: June 4, 2014

Workshop Synthesis

The final session of the workshop asked participants to summarize their closing thoughts about the workshop topics and experiences. The list below represents a synthesis of some of the common themes regarding teaching about risk and resilience.

See workshop outcomes that build from the ideas expressed in this synthesis.

  • Developing risk and resilience is a local, interdisciplinary problem. To prepare undergraduate students as citizens and professionals we need to work across disciplines. An interdisciplinary approach to teaching about risk and resilience is critical to develop the required understanding of the Earth processes and human activities driving the hazard as well as the community's capacity for response and recovery.
  • Resilience is often thought of as returning to the status quo. In the context of a changing climate and growing population, we must connect resilience to sustainability and envision a new way forward.
  • Case studies can serve as a focus for interdisciplinary conversation and as a flexible tool for teaching across the disciplines within a single class or across courses. Case studies are typically retrospective (looking at cases that have happened in the past). However, we need to include prospective case studies and scenarios (realistic examples of what is likely to happen in the future). Prospective case studies encourage consideration of risk and planning for resilience. The geosciences open up the opportunity for long time scale retrospective and prospective perspectives. Cases are a traditional form of teaching in business supporting strong collaboration.
  • To gain skill in addressing strategies for managing risk and developing resilience requires students moving from abstract concepts to practical solutions. This provides powerful opportunities for active learning for students within their local communities. Global processes often underlie local impacts providing a powerful mechanism for teaching systems thinking and introducing abstract global concepts.
  • Challenges of risk and resilience play out across the world in different ways. Understanding the challenges faced and actions taken in different societal contexts illuminates the problems and opportunities while building international understanding and respect.
  • There is substantial expertise in communicating complex issues like climate change and in challenging situations like a hazard response, including understanding of how different approaches are needed to communicate with different audiences. We need to draw on this expertise to better communicate with our students and to teach them to be effective communicators around these issues with their families, communities and colleagues.
  • Stories, images, numbers and details make risks tangible. This is an important aspect of engaging students and empowering them to address solutions. These mechanisms are so powerful that we need to attend to unintended consequences and build our skill in their use. Context is important, as is feedback and evaluation and the use of experts and literature on communication.
  • Risk and resilience provide a focus that can allow us to communicate across disciplines about common challenges we face in educating our students from technological issues to high level learning goals and open new opportunities for collaboration.
  • Students should be prepared to help their communities make informed choices to reduce risk in their community including attending to the impacts on marginalized or underresourced populations. As educated people, they have an additional responsibility in these discussions and in emergency responses.
  • There is a need to increase links between the natural hazards community and the emergency management community. These groups generally come from different backgrounds, with different ethoses, and different vocabularies. In order to work together, we should learn more about the language and culture of the other.
  • There are abundant examples and resources for teaching about risk and resilience from which we can build.
  • Addressing risk and resilience requires action across the country and making collaborations across institutions is particularly powerful.
  • Higher education plays an important role in building knowledge and awareness of risk and resilience. We need to be part of the team-building connections for the practitioners both in our local communities and in our areas of expertise.
  • We and our students will be important assets in a disaster response. We need to consider this role as we develop our curriculum and our own expertise.