Dickinson College Launches New Master’s Program in Managing Complex Disasters

Managing Complex Disasters

Enrollment begins in March for program preparing the next generation of thinkers and leaders for complex, uncertain times

by Tony Moore

You don’t have to look very hard to find news on the COVID-19 pandemic, California wildfires and receding Arctic ice sheets. But finding ways to address these and myriad other complex global situations is a lot trickier than clicking a link and reading an article.

So to get the next generation of thinkers and leaders ready for such a monumental task—one that spans such interdisciplinary issues as globalization, mass migration, technological innovations, pandemics and environmental degradation—Dickinson is launching its first master’s program, in managing complex disasters.

At the forefront

“This initiative has never been more important,” says President Margee Ensign. “We need global leaders with the knowledge to lead through incredibly complex disasters that present countless challenges in very different disciplines. We’re honored to be working with our expert faculty as well as experts from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and Tulane University’s Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy to provide cutting-edge learning and experience for leaders who must anticipate and manage disasters.”

“I’m proud to participate in Dickinson’s new graduate program, which will use the latest information technology and draw on the most up-to-date scholarship, global evidence and on-the-ground experience,” said Bill Bertrand, Wisner Professor, Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine. “It will set a new standard for the lifelong learning necessary for the continuing education of professionals in humanitarian disaster response.”

Noting that the college places a high priority on international perspectives and interdisciplinary modes of analysis and continually tests these approaches against real-world challenges, Doug Stuart—professor of political science and international studies; J. William Stuart and Helen D. Stuart Chair in International Studies, Business and Management; and adjunct professor, U.S. Army War College—says that Dickinson is at the forefront of the international campaign to understand and ameliorate these catastrophic developments. What’s more, Dickinson has also long been at the forefront of sustainability—broadly, the movement to improve the human condition equitably while conserving environmental systems necessary to support healthy and vibrant societies—a notion at the heart of managing complex disasters.

What it entails

With an approach that leans into Dickinson’s liberal-arts foundation, the new master’s program will train the next generation of leaders to effectively and ethically:

  • respond and adapt to complex natural and humanmade disasters
  • examine and analyze contemporary issues and challenges
  • and lead in the face of complex international situations.

The 30-credit online program can be completed in one year as a full-time student or two years as a part-time student. It’s an ideal launchpad for professionals who want to tackle the most complex disaster and humanitarian challenges of our time while advancing their understanding and their careers.

The program builds on Dickinson’s partnership with the U.S. Army War College—as well as Dickinson’s further leadership in global education and civic engagement—to provide students with a uniquely in-depth and useful knowledge base from which to tackle next-generation global issues. And the program’s online platform leads to an accredited master’s degree without students having to relocate or interrupt their careers.

Certificate program

Dickinson is also offering three related, but less time-intensive, certificate programs:

  • Resilience in the Face of Climate Change, Environmental Degradation & Resource Scarcity
  • Human & Social Factors in Disaster Situations
  • Coping With Public Health Emergencies

These programs entail taking a core Managing Complex Disasters course and one other, depending on the intended certificate.

“Human-made and natural disasters have become a daily occurrence, and they are often multifaceted, multicausal and rapidly changing,” says Stuart. “Dickinson is especially well positioned to address disasters that are either caused or exacerbated by problems of climate change, environmental degradation and resource depletion, and this type of useful education has never been more necessary.”

The master’s program application will be available in March, and spring 2021 courses are open for enrollment now. For additional information, visit the program website, complete the online inquiry form or contact stuart@dickinson.edu.


Published January 28, 2021