Leadership During Crisis at Dartmouth and Beyond

The Role of Students in Building Community Resilience at Institutions of Higher Education
PRS Briefs
PRS Policy Brief 1213-14
Monday, June 3, 2013

For hundreds of years the assumption that both small- and large-scale communities would fall into chaos should a wide-scale pandemic or natural disaster hit has permeated public consciousness and manifested itself in local and national emergency preparedness plans. Burgeoning research in community resilience debunks this myth and suggests that the public is not only capable of coping with disaster effectively, but that a community can even experience positive growth in the post-crisis period.

Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) are particularly vulnerable to emergency due to their size, their complexity of operations, the close living proximity of students, and the frequency of international travel across the student body in the international study population, for study abroad, and for faculty positions. The very factors that make them vulnerable also make them uniquely prepared to foster a more resilient community. By examining Dartmouth’s current model of preparedness, interviewing key stakeholders, and researching best practices at other colleges this paper proposes a number of ways Dartmouth can better engage its students and build a more resilient community. By utilizing student social capital, leaders can foster more resilient communities and strengthen citizenship among student populations. Furthermore, in engaging students more thoroughly in emergency preparedness and response planning, IHEs have a unique opportunity to advance their educational missions—to cultivate leadership and civic engagement in a student body.