5 Questions with Faculty: Jeannette Sutton and Stephen Coulthart

Jeannette Sutton joins UAlbany from the University of Kentucky.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 10, 2020) – One specializes in disaster and risk communication, the other in intelligence analysis and the impact of emerging technologies on security – both have added their expertise to the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC).

Jeannette Sutton, an associate professor and CEHC’s new director of graduate studies, and Stephen Coulthart, an assistant professor, packed their bags in the midst of COVID-19 to join the college this semester.

What are you working on now?

Sutton: I have several active federally funded research projects. One is a study, funded by the National Science Foundation, investigating messages sent by official responding organizations on Twitter during COVID-19. A second, funded by NOAA, uses eye-tracking technology to measure visual attention to tornado graphics that are used to warn persons under imminent threat. I’m also studying behavioral responses to earthquake early warning messages delivered over digital devices.

Coulthart: I am finishing a study that examines the adoption of digital technologies in the U.S. Border Patrol. The results should help us better understand how occupational culture, organizational structure and other factors drive (or inhibit) technological innovation in government. I am also working on projects that focus on how publicly available information for intelligence purposes – open source intelligence as it’s called — can be ethically taught and used.

How did you become interested in your career path?

Stephen Coulthart holds a sloth in the Peruvian Amazon.
Stephen Coulthart met a new friend while traveling through the Peruvian Amazon in January.

Sutton: I started down this path as a practitioner responding to the Columbine High School shooting and then transitioned to studying how services are provided to victims of violence during my dissertation research on 9/11.

Coulthart: The Sept. 11 attacks and the Iraq War ignited my interest in security matters. I thought: ‘what modest contribution can I make to improve decision making so we don’t make the same mistakes again?’ Many years in graduate school led me to conclude studying intelligence and technology is a good way to answer this question.

What drew you to join CEHC?

Sutton: This is a really exciting place to be right now. Across the nation and around the world people are looking to experts to help lead us through this pandemic and concurrent hazard events. This college is well-positioned within the state and the nation to truly make a difference.

Coulthart: Definitely the people and the focus of the school. Before coming to UAlbany, I knew several CEHC faculty members and I was impressed with their scholarship and collegiality. When you add in CEHC’s unique mission and “first-in-the-nation” status, I knew I found my dream job.

What is your favorite class to teach?

Sutton: Crisis and risk communication. We work through theories and case studies and do a lot of hands on, practical activities that include things like developing warning messages and conducting a press conference.

Coulthart: I like to teach all of my courses but for different reasons. I enjoy teaching introductory courses because I get be the person who shows students a whole new field. On the other hand, I also like creating and teaching specialized courses, which gives me a creative outlet to tinker with new content.

What’s one thing campus would be surprised to know about you?

Sutton: I took up quilting about six years ago and I love to spend time with my Maine coon cat in my sewing room. I spend so much time in front of the computer each day creating text on a screen. Quilting is a tactile activity and it’s really creative. It also has an obvious start and end point. When you’ve sewn your last stitch, it’s time to start a colorful new project.

Coulthart: Despite coming to UAlbany from my previous academic position in West Texas, I grew up in Central New York and this is actually the second time I have been a New York State employee. The first time I worked as a seasonal park ranger for the New York State Park Police while attending SUNY Oswego.

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