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Field Schools

Learning about disaster is often best done in a hands-on way.  As a result, MRU students have the opportunity to participate in field schools and field trips where they gain on-the-ground experience learning about the arduous work of disaster recovery while helping affected communities in a material way.

2015 Sociology Field School

CCDR_midsize_fieldschoolteamTopic:  Disaster Recovery and Environmental Justice

Location:  New Orleans, Louisiana

Dates:  May 8 to May 25, 2015

Faculty:  Tim Haney (sociology; CCDR Director) and Kimberly Williams (Women’s Studies)

The 2015 sociology field school took students to New Orleans to learn about the community’s recovery in the ten years since Hurricane Katrina.  Students visited neighbourhoods that have recovered and those, like the Lower 9th Ward, that are still struggling to rebuild.  They learned  about the politically contentious and economically divisive process of rebuilding a city 80 percent flooded, and also spent time learning about the myriad environmental problems that plague the region and its poorest citizens:  toxic contamination, coastal erosion and land loss, and the continuing health and economic effects of disasters such as the BP oil spill.  Students also learned about the numerous community resilience initiatives happening in New Orelans, including the flourishing of urban agriculture in the city. By partnering with organizations such as the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, students gained hands-on experience helping the city to recover.

Check out these reflections on the New Orleans field school, written by MRU student Roxy Trask



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Field Trip to High River

In both 2013 and 2014, Dr.’s Tim Haney (Director) and Caroline McDonald-Harker (Faculty Affiliate) took their classes, including the Sociology of Disaster, Sociology of Family, and Qualitative Research Methods courses to High River, Alberta to learn about recovery from the devastating 2013 flood that submerged much of the city.  Students heard from guest speakers including the Mayor of High River.  Speakers touched on the impact of the flood on the community, the challenges facing immigrant communities, engineering efforts enacted to keep the city dry, and the resilience of the local population.  Students also toured the town and spoke with local residents about their experiences.

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2013 Sociology Field School

Topic:  Sociology of Disaster

Location:  New Orleans, Louisiana

Dates:  May 7 to May 21, 2013

Faculty: Tim Haney (sociology; CCDR Director) and Kimberly Williams (Women’s Studies)

The inaugural sociology field school was a combined experiential-learning and service-learning project, which took a class of students from Mount Royal University to southern Louisiana to learn about ongoing recovery efforts from both Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

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While in New Orleans and vicinity, we organized and attended a disaster speaker series, with colleagues from Xavier University.  Additionally, we designed and carried out a survey of business owners in several New Orleans neighbourhoods for the Urban Conservancy's "Stay Local!" campaign, aimed at keeping money within the local New Orleans economy.

The experience also involved meetings with women and men in Plaquemines Parish (90 minutes south of New Orleans) affected by both the oil spill and continued coastal erosion.  They powerfully discussed the ongoing health, economic, and environmental effects of the oil spill, as well as the legal context.

Finally, the group engaged in service to the community through volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity.   We helped to build a house in the city’s still-devastated Lower 9th Ward. 

Through these experiences, students were able to:

  1. Learn about disaster risk, vulnerability, and recovery
  2. Apply sociological concepts and theories (e.g., critical race theory, neoliberalism, ecofeminism) to the post-Katrina New Orleans context
  3. Serve the community
  4. Experience the culture, food, history, architecture, and natural environment of southern Louisiana.

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