WT Researchers Earn FEMA Grant to Study Refugees’ Disaster Preparednes


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CANYON, Texas — Two West Texas A&M University professors received federal funding for their efforts to better understand refugees’ needs and obstacles faced during emergencies in Texas.

Once the study is complete, the researchers hope to propose solutions to help refugees better prepare for disasters.

Leading the study are Dr. Ming Xie, assistant professor of emergency management administration in the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice in the Terry B. Rogers College of Education and Social Sciences, and Dr. Li Chen, associate professor of media communication in the Department of Communication in the Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities.

Their successful grant application will fund “Turning Every Disaster into an Opportunity: An Exploratory Study on Refugees Perceived Emergency Management Capacity and Disaster Resilience.”

The FEMA grant allocates more than $7,800 in funding toward the two professors’ research, which will run from Sept. 6 to July 31, 2023.

“We will use the FEMA grant money to examine the needs, obstacles and potential solutions regarding disaster preparedness of refugees in Texas,” Chen said. “The research findings will provide emergency management professionals and policymakers with theory-driven and evidence-based advice at local and state levels.”

The grant money will allow the researchers to offer incentives to the interview and survey participants and to hire a graduate assistant.

“At WT, we teach classes including emergency management and social vulnerability, principles of emergency management, and disaster,” Xie said. “Ninety percent of the students in our emergency management administration program are first responders such as firefighters, police officers, paramedics and emergency managers in the public and private sectors. This research project is a great case study for these students to expand their knowledge about refugees’ disaster resilience.”

The professors plan to hold workshops and table talks at local organizations to address topics such as emergency planning and building emergency kits for refugees in the area.

“Our research project will help us better understand refugees’ needs so that we can propose more relevant topics, information, and resources to empower refugees and equip them with knowledge and skills before, during, and after disasters,” Xie said. “By obtaining an all-around understanding of refugees’ risk and disaster perceptions, culturally specific needs, and perceived barriers to disaster preparedness, local administrators and educators will know what refugees need the most to develop effective interventions. The tailored interventions built upon our research findings will efficiently improve refugees’ disaster resilience, resulting in a significant increase in their well-being.”

As a regional research university, addressing regional challenges is a key principle of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the five-year campaign — which publicly launched Sept. 23 — has raised more than $110 million.