When disaster strikes, a community’s resilience is put to the test. Whether the cause is natural, political, man-made, or technological, Courtney Page-Tan works to understand how communities can withstand, recover from, and even thrive amid and after disasters.
Her interest in community resilience can be traced back to a single moment, one the entire world witnessed: the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated parts of Asia.
“That event catalyzed my interest in how we can build community resilience and potentially address the resilience inequities that exist in some of our most vulnerable communities,” Page-Tan explains.
She says—now more than ever—it’s critical to build community resilience because of increasing and new threats due to climate change.
“If we can build systems and communities that are more resilient to issues like urban heat and flooding, we can potentially mitigate some of the worst outcomes of these stressors,” Page-Tan says.
Thus far, her research has found three key components that help offset the inequalities that often hold people and communities back from rebounding after disasters: social capital, inclusive policy making, and tech and innovation.
Expanding on that research to better understand each of those areas is one of the things that brought her to the O’Neill School.
“When Indiana’s premier urban research institute offers you an opportunity to conduct research on some of society’s most pressing issues – sustainability, urban policy, and community resilience – you take it and say, ‘When do we get started?’” Page-Tan says.
She adds the campus’ downtown location was a big draw as well.
“O’Neill IUPUI’s central location provides a wealth of opportunities to build and engage in community partnerships which are critical to advancing research and teaching in the domain of community resilience,” she explains.
But it wasn’t only the research opportunities that piqued her interest. She says the chance to continue her teaching and work with students at O’Neill was an important part of the decision.
“A position in which I can both generate new knowledge and share existing knowledge to empower and equip students for the advancement of society is the most rewarding job I could imagine.”
Page-Tan says she lives for students’ “Ah-ha!” moments when the lessons they’ve learned come together and they see how those lessons apply in real life.
“It is exciting to witness the moment when it all comes together, and students see the value and how they can apply what they’ve been learning,” she says. “I also really enjoy equipping students to transition from being passive consumers of knowledge into generators of new knowledge they can then share with others—and seeing that happen in the classroom is the highest reward in teaching.”
Why do you think it’s important to involve students in your work?
“Mentoring students in important applied skills is key to developing career-ready graduates. In the course of involving students in my research, students learn and practice important skills, such as research, data collection, data analysis, and communicating complex ideas to general audiences to inform policy. These skills, among others, will be important to our students to succeed in an increasingly competitive global job market.”
What do you enjoy about working with students?
“Students offer new and unique perspectives based on their interests and diverse backgrounds. Engaging students as coauthors and collaborators can result in exciting evolutions and developments in the research process.”
Why should potential students enroll at O’Neill?
“The world needs practitioners who can address the 21st Century’s most pressing societal and environmental problems. At the O’Neill School, faculty are dedicated to advancing student achievement through mentorship and a curriculum that prepares students to address these issues in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.”