Two Students Receive $20,000 Each for Studies of Hurricane-Related Trauma
The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health has awarded two $20,000 fellowships to doctoral students at The University of Texas at Austin who are studying the traumatic experiences of people who fled their homes and communities during hurricanes Ike and Katrina.
Jerry Lord (left), a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology, is studying the impact of Hurricane Ike on Galveston residents. Megan Reid (lower right), a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology, is researching federal disaster relief policies and the hardships those policies have created for hurricane evacuees, especially poor minority families.
“This type of research is invaluable due to the large number of Texans impacted by natural disasters. The effects on families who live in poverty are especially disastrous because they often do not have the resilience or resources to recover easily,” said Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin.
The fellowship was established in 1995 in memory of Dr. Harry Moore, a professor and sociologist who specialized in disaster studies, especially the aftermath of Texas tornadoes and hurricanes. The Moore fellowships are awarded annually to doctoral students completing dissertations on the human experience in crises caused by natural or other major disasters or, more broadly, stress and adversity.
“A natural disaster can devastate a community and cause long-lasting, severe chaos, stress and trauma among those who experience it. The work of these fellows will help identify the critical and immediate needs of residents and communities during times of crises,” said Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., executive director of the Hogg Foundation.
In June 2008, Lord began researching the potential economic and social devastation that a major hurricane could wreak along the upper Texas coast between Galveston and Port Arthur. Lord moved to Galveston to continue his research but was forced to evacuate just three months later when Ike pounded the island.
After his experience, Lord’s focus shifted from the potential to the actual destruction caused by a hurricane. At the university’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, he began poring through archives of Moore’s studies of Hurricane Carla, which devastated Galveston 37 years earlier. Now, with the help of a fellowship named for an earlier scholar who shared his interest, he plans to complete his dissertation in 2010.
“The fellowship affords me undivided time and focus to complete my fieldwork, further research the social dimensions of natural disasters and their aftermaths, and meet my goal of graduating in May 2010,” Lord said. “Otherwise this timeline would not be realistic, without sacrificing analytical rigor.”
Much of Reid’s work is based on two years of interviews with Hurricane Katrina survivors who evacuated to Austin in 2005. She hopes her dissertation will lead to better understanding of how state and social policies can both resist and reinforce inequalities, and also lay the groundwork for more effective social policies to help disadvantaged groups during natural disasters and in everyday life.
“The Moore fellowship gives me the freedom to focus solely on my dissertation and related work this summer,” Reid said. “This ability to concentrate just on this project will allow me to more fully understand the complex housing and replacement issues Katrina survivors have and continue to face.”