The next generation of voices in disaster research

For decades, social scientists have documented that disaster risk is patterned in ways that reflect pre-existing social and economic inequalities. But there is far less knowledge about what works to lessen social vulnerability in disasters and advance social equity.

The Bill Anderson Fund aims to close that knowledge gap.

By empowering a diverse next generation of professionals, academics, and researchers, the Bill Anderson Fund equips leaders through its Fellows program to facilitate meaningful social change on complex issues of inequity. Ultimately, the Bill Anderson Fund aims to prioritize the lived experiences and expertise of marginalized communities in solidarity with the pursuit of disaster risk reduction and environmental justice.

Bill Anderson Fund Fellows Workshop at Texas A&M University at Galveston

Equity-Building in Disasters

Bill Anderson Fund (BAF) Fellows are a diverse group of doctoral students representing a total of 19 disciplines that range from the social sciences, to engineering, to emergency management. They specialize in hazards and disaster studies at more than 30 institutions across the United States.

How inequity impacts disasters is a central question facing not only BAF Fellows, but also many communities and organizations working to reduce the damage and suffering caused by disasters. For the past two years, Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies has supported a collaboration between the Bill Anderson Fund and the Natural Hazards Center to find solutions to these very questions.

“Over just nine years, the BAF has made an incredible difference in shaping how the hazards and disaster community attends to issues of social equity. Our Alumni are now represented in institutions spanning the spectrum of decision-making, from state and local government, to the private sector, to federal agencies, and even the Executive Branch. In all of these spaces, they’re introducing critical questions, innovative approaches, and an unwavering emphasis on dignity and respect for the marginalized communities that suffer disproportionately from disasters.”

—Dr. Nnenia Campbell, Executive Director, the Bill Anderson Fund

Finding Solutions

As part of MACP’s Disaster Relief & Recovery funding, we partner with the University of Colorado Boulder’s Natural Hazards Center, one of the nation’s oldest social science hazards and disaster academic research centers. For 47 years, the Natural Hazards Center has served as the nation’s National Science Foundation-designated information clearinghouse for the social dimensions of hazards and disasters. And over the past nine years, the Bill Anderson Fund has begun to transform the hazards and disaster field through its mentoring model and support for African American, Latine, and Indigenous scholars.

Through this collaboration between the Natural Hazards Center and the Bill Anderson Fund, stronger connections are formed between scholars and practitioners who are working on social vulnerability and equity-building in disasters.

At the 2022 Annual Natural Hazards Workshop, Dr. Oronde Drakes, a BAF Alumnus, shared his research and recommendations, which aim to improve decision-making tools based on models and maps of the physical and social conditions to reduce the highly disproportionate suffering seen during disasters.

Watch Bill Anderson Fund Fellow, Dr. Oronde Drakes, present a Public Communication of Science Lightning Talks for the Natural Hazards Workshop in July 2022.

Bill Anderson Fund Fellow Natalie Coleman presents her research at the 2023 Natural Hazards Workshop

Many other BAF Fellows have also shared their research – contributing to a wave of new findings informed by lived experiences from this next generation of hazard mitigators and disaster researchers.

Beyond research, this partnership also allowed other MACP Disaster Relief & Recovery grantees to attend the Natural Hazards Workshop. By building this network, it is our hope that the insight and findings from BAF Fellows will influence new solutions throughout the fields of disaster preparedness, relief, and recovery.

Bill Anderson Fund Fellows at the Juneteenth Legacy Project