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Dean's Seminar Series Hosts Discussion on Disaster Response and Reconstruction

Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and civil war – each present unique challenges, but what common lessons can we draw from the past to ensure an effective response to catastrophe in the future?

The McCormick Dean’s Seminar Series hosts a panel discussion to examine these and other pressing issues on Thursday, March 31 at 4 p.m. in the ITW Classroom of the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center. Panelists for the event, entitled “Cracking Open Disaster Response and Reconstruction: Lessons Learned,” will include Carolyn Baer, deputy director of Northwestern University’s Center for Global Health; Ron Sherman of Hagerty Consulting and a former FEMA deputy federal coordinating officer; and Karen Smilowitz, associate professor of industrial engineering and management science at Northwestern University. Brooke Jarrett, a master’s/PhD student in environmental engineering, will moderate the discussion.

The event will draw from the experience of the three expert panelists to discuss how needs are assessed and aid is delivered by local governments, NGOs, and other organizations, and how students can play a role in the process. Discussion will be accompanied by clips from “Escuchen,” a documentary on post-disaster Peru co-produced by Brooke Jarrett.  

About the panelists:

Carolyn Baer is the deputy director for the Center for Global Health at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. She also serves as the program manager for the NIH-funded Medical Education Partnership Initiative in Nigeria (MEPI) and is on the global health medical education steering committee.  After the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Ms. Baer acted as the lead coordinator for Northwestern and the Chicago Medical Consortium managing the deployment of medical personnel as well as serving as the main liaison between the NGO needs on the ground and the NU relief efforts.

Ron Sherman is a disaster response and recovery subject matter expert and consultant with Hagerty Consulting. Prior to joining Hagerty, Ron had a distinguished career with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), serving in leadership positions for our nation’s most complex response and recovery efforts, including 9/11, the 2004 Florida hurricanes, and Hurricane Katrina.
Karen Smilowitz is an associate professor of industrial engineering and management science and the Junior William A. Patterson Chair in Transportation at Northwestern University. Her research considers the opportunities and challenges of introducing operational flexibility into logistics systems. Through the construction of complex models that incorporate difficult-to-quantify considerations, she seeks to improve the efficiency of supply chains and the translation of computational results to real application.

Brooke Jarrett is a graduate student in Northwestern's department of environmental engineering. As an undergrad at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), she and a fellow student spent two summers in post-disaster Peru filming “Escuchen.” During this time, they also taught a workshop for local Peruvian youth on making mini-documentaries about their views on reconstruction, recovery, and life after the earthquake. Brooke's experience includes work in Ecuador and India with cooperatives and non-profits, focusing on the role of technology in empowering communities.