The Disaster Science and Management (DSM) Program at LSU is one of the interdisciplinary, intercollegiate programs in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. It is one of the six Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts (“BALA”) degree programs in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Students can enroll to earn a B.A. degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in DSM, undergraduate students can earn an undergraduate minor in DSM, and graduate students at LSU can earn a graduate minor in DSM.
Participation in the DSM program enables students to develop a broad understanding of the nature and impact of disasters on the natural, built, and human environment. The program also provides students with a basis for establishing strategies to plan effectively for, mitigate the adverse effects of, respond to, and recover from disasters. Students have the opportunity to participate in community service-learning projects (such as designing an emergency plan for a local area non-profit organization), volunteer work to build experience, and intern at an organization of their choice to learn aspects of disaster science and management that they plan on pursuing in their careers or in graduate school. Students also are given opportunities to engage in conversations with other students and professionals in many diverse fields where disaster management plays a role. Students may also take advantage of trainings and other career-building activities through DSMA, the DSM student organization. This program prepares students for careers in the public, not-for-profit, or private sectors, as well as providing preparation for graduate school in many different areas such as medicine, public health, geography, anthropology, sociology, psychology, political science, civil, mechanical, and nuclear engineering, public administration, public safety, security studies, humanitarian logistics, human ecology, environmental studies, and many more.
Students in the DSM Program learn:
1. To demonstrate an understanding of how natural and human-caused hazards impact structural and functional dynamics of environmental, social, cultural, political, and economic systems.
2. To identify strategies for enhancing preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery from disasters within the public, private, and non-profit sectors.
3. To demonstrate critical, independent, and creative problem-solving skills for the purposes of organizational policy formulation and implementation in disaster and emergency management.
4. To demonstrate communication skills to explain and discuss local, national, and international / global issues in disaster management.
There are five main focus areas in the DSM program to cater to the broad range of student interests in disaster science and management:
(1) ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
Environmental and ecological hazards and disasters strike every geographical location, worldwide. They can be human-induced (oil spills, toxic waste, air quality, nuclear accidents, coastal erosion, etc.) or natural (hurricanes, tsunami, drought, flooding, ice storms, etc.). Students who are interested in one or more of these topics may choose to conduct research in a 3000 or 4000-level DSM independent study course. Students will be expected to synthesize one or more of the other four focus areas into their reflections.
(2) HEALTH AND PSYCHOLOGY
Physical and psychological illness and health play immeasurably important roles for the sustainability of individual lives, local communities and entire societies. Disaster can be caused by public health and psychological breakdown and/or can be a precursor of such problems (community or infrastructure destruction leading to public health and psychological problems). As with the other five focus areas, students interested in focusing their studies on these matters will be given opportunities to research and obtain experience with practitioners in the field for resume and career-building.
(3) ENGINEERING AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Roads, bridges, residential and business buildings, electricity and gasoline production and delivery systems, and computer systems are just a few of the many examples of engineering and infrastructure that communities depend upon on for maintaining daily life as they know it. Failure of any one of these can constitute a disaster, and other types of disasters can precipitate such failures. Students interested in civil, mechanical, electrical, nuclear, and other types of engineering have much to study when it comes to the mitigation of such failures. As with the other five areas, students are encouraged to conduct their own research and are given resources to do so when participating in the DSM program.
(4) SOCIAL AND CULTURAL DIMENSIONS OF DSM
The breadth of social and cultural dimensions covers the effects of and cause of disasters as they relate to a way of life. Thus, the breadth of study and research possibilities are equally as wide. Social and cultural aspects of disaster science and management can range from application of local knowledge to planning, mitigation, response and/or recovery, to how organizations interact with one another to how nations interact with one another. Students in the DSM program are challenged to focus their queries and research topics in the social and cultural dimensions of disasters while synthesizing the broader ramifications with specific concerns.
(5) BUSINESS AND POLITICAL DIMENSIONS OF DSM
Political and economic turmoil are part and parcel of all disasters and, therefore, disaster management. These are not only limited to governmental policies and practices, but also include those that govern goods and services delivered by for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. Students in the DSM program will learn elements of each of these facets, and if they select this as a focus area may have opportunities to expand their functional knowledge by working with experts in the field who can further advise and direct their studies.
Students earning a minor or B.A. with a concentration in DSM may choose amongst these five areas and work with DSM faculty to design a program to meet their specific interests and career goals. However, all students are required to exhibit knowledge of each of these five areas in DSM introductory courses. Once students have taken the introductory-level DSM courses, they become eligible to be placed at internship sites. Many volunteer opportunities are also available to build experience and build a resume that will help pave the way to a successful career after graduation.