Bill Anderson Fund Fellows
Fourteen doctoral students, in a variety of disciplines related to disaster studies, are current BAF fellows at several universities nationwide. Another eight students have recently been accepted into the program, Norma Anderson said.
At UD, the current BAF fellows are doctoral students Cynthia Rivas in disaster science and management, April Davison in urban affairs and public policy and Asia Dowtin in geography.
Davison calls BAF “more than a community of scholars and practitioners in the field [but also] a support system.”
As underrepresented minorities in the field, she said, the fellows and their mentors rely on each other for support and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. By participating in the program, Davison said she has been inspired and grateful to learn about Bill Anderson’s career and to follow in his footsteps.
“Norma Anderson knows each fellow personally and is genuinely invested in our path toward success,” she said. “She is a powerhouse [who] has worked tirelessly to see the organization grow and make a difference in the field.”
For Rivas, who recently returned from an exploratory DRC visit to Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the goal of increasing diversity in the study of disasters is a key to finding better solutions in the future.
“What I see the BAF doing is helping give individuals from underrepresented populations opportunities to not only increase representation but bring to the table different ways of approaching, thinking and dealing with disasters,” Rivas said, adding that disaster response is a complex issue and requires a variety of perspectives and approaches.
“When I came into the BAF it not only allowed me to connect to people who are interested in addressing, dealing and solving issues in the disaster science realm but it also allowed me to connect with people that have faced the same circumstances and difficulties as I have and who are coming from underrepresented and vulnerable populations.”
BAF holds three workshops a year, where fellows present their research, share their experiences and network with potential colleagues. The November conference was held at UD, allowing students from other universities—some of which may not have a dedicated specialty in disaster research like the DRC—to connect.
This November, the fellows will be returning to UD for their second annual fall workshop.
Both Wachtendorf and Anderson emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of the field and of BAF and the DRC. From engineering to economics to sociology, they said, graduate students from across UD might become BAF fellows.
“There are so many critical issues, and disasters are going to continue to occur,” Anderson said. “We want to support the leaders of tomorrow in many, many different disciplines.”
About Bill Anderson and the fund
William Averette Anderson earned his doctorate in sociology at Ohio State University in 1966 and went on to a career as a college professor, a National Science Foundation (NSF) officer, a World Bank natural disaster specialist and an official of the National Research Council.
He was known as a pioneering researcher and a leader in fostering student learning and in mentoring the next generation of disaster scholars.
As a professor at Arizona State University, he directed the American Sociological Association’s minority fellowship program. Later, at the NSF, he promoted studies of the effects of disasters on vulnerable populations.
The Bill Anderson Fund aims to expand the number of minority professionals in the field of disaster and hazard research and practice, with the diversity of the field ultimately reflecting that of American society.