College Students Confront Disasters That Marked Their Childhoods via NYTimes.com

Colleges Now Offering Education in Disaster

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Interns from SUNY New Paltz are trained in emergency management and disaster response at the Emergency Services Center in nearby Orange County.

NEW PALTZ, N.Y. — Carlene Pinto watched from her middle-school classroom in Brooklyn as the plane pierced the second tower; then she trudged the three miles home as paperwork and dust rained from the sky. Rebecca Rodriguez felt helpless as a teenager watching Hurricane Katrina unfold on television. And Lindsay Yates still shudders at the recollection of Hurricane Fran, which killed two dozen people in her native North Carolina when she was a second grader.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Carlene Pinto, a senior at SUNY New Paltz, with Kelly Lopez, a dispatcher at the Emergency Services Center in Orange County.

Now in their early 20s, these women might be members of a support group for those brushed by trauma at a tender age. Instead, they spent the spring term studying disaster mental health at the State University of New York campus here.

Their undergraduate minor is among scores of programs on emergency management and disaster response that have sprung up across the country in recent years at the same unflagging pace as the catastrophes that have inspired them. Just as earlier waves of college students were molded by long-running conflicts like the cold war, today’s undergraduates have confronted an abundance of sudden, free-ranging calamity, both natural and not.

“This generation has never known a time without terrorism or disaster, and I think it has drawn many of them to this field,” said Karla Vermeulen, deputy director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health, which was founded in 2004 at SUNY New Paltz. “They were 10 at the time of 9/11 and 14 during Katrina, and it’s really shaped them.”

Read the rest here: nytimes.com

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