RISE 2019 Conference - About

Transforming University Engagement In Pre- and Post-Disaster Environments: Lessons from Puerto Rico


Resilience In Sustainable rEconstruction (RISE)

RISE 2019 will deliver a three-day series of workshops to explore how institutions of higher learning can strengthen preparedness, response and recovery efforts in the face of threats posed by a changing climate and extreme weather. Sessions are designed to deliver a set of actionable outcomes to build a national platform.  

Led by universities and colleges nationwide, in close partnership with the National Council for Science and the Environment, the RISE 2019 Conference will serve to explore new strategies and approaches that bring to bear the power of higher education in pre- and post-disaster environments, while using Puerto Rico as a case study.


RISE Co-Chairs  (Marla and Cecilio )

Development of this conference began in the wake of Hurricane María (2017).  Hurricane María was one of the most deadly disasters in Puerto Rico’s history resulting in nearly 3,000 deaths and over $90 billion of economic loss. In the months following María, numerous universities and colleges from the US mainland traveled to Puerto Rico with the purpose of pursuing quick response research, service-learning, student exchange, and humanitarian relief.  While these efforts to help communities in need were well intentioned, the post-María experience demonstrated several aspects of the university-community relationship in pre- and post-disaster environments that are seldom analyzed in the disaster literature, and urgently in need of study.  

In June 2018, faculty from the University of Puerto Rico (led by RISE Co-Chairs Marla Pérez Lugo, PhD and Cecilio Ortiz Garcia, PhD) invited scholars and researchers from universities and colleges nationwide to Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.  For three days, nearly 100 representatives from 26 universities examined the challenges and critical issues facing institutions of higher learning and the communities in which they serve during disaster and crisis. 

“In the aftermath of the disaster, it became obvious that there was a need for the coordination of efforts among the institutions of higher education that were converging on the ground.  We realized that universities were acting as first responders without being organized for that role,” says Dr. Cecilio Ortiz Garcia, a member of INESI’s steering committee, co-organizer of RISE 2019 and program co-chair. “For that reason, INESI collaborated with Arizona State University and the University of Minnesota in hosting a three day workshop in PR during the summer after Hurricane Maria. Almost one hundred researchers, community leaders and emergency managers came together to reflect on their experiences and agreed that this conversation was essential for our survival in the climate change era.”  

To learn more about the 2018 workshop in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, click here.

This gathering served as the motivation for establishing the inaugural RISE 2019 National Conference, entitled Transforming University Engagement in Pre- and Post-Disaster Environments: Lessons from Puerto Rico

The 3-day conference will be held at the University at Albany, State University of New York on November 18-20, 2019 and will serve to inform the development of a national platform on resilience for higher education.