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Hanley Sustainability Institute

Summer 2020 HSI work: GAs completing UD’s resilience assessment for Second Nature climate commitment

By Mark Gokavi

Two Hanley Sustainability Institute graduate assistants are leading the University of Dayton’s resilience assessment as part of UD’s Second Nature climate commitment to plan for climate resilience.

The assessment is a key component of the commitment signed in 2019 by UD President Eric F. Spina to focus on climate adaptation and community-building to address a changing climate and resulting extremes.

Lauren Wolford and Meg Maloney originally planned to speak with UD leaders first, but when the pandemic interrupted university life, the pair instead engaged between 50 and 60 community stakeholders.

“We kind of created our own framework for how we were going to do a resilience assessment,” Wolford said. “We spoke with (Dayton) city management, the environmental advisory board, the water department, different non-profits in the area that serve a variety of different social needs, disaster recovery, emergency management and police,” among others.

“We asked them questions about what resilience means to them,” Wolford added. “As part of our research, we have to establish what the definition of resilience is for Dayton, because it can vary so much depending on what you do.”

To determine where Dayton and the region are, Wolford and Maloney looked at seven types of the area’s “capital” - namely human, social, political, financial, built, cultural and natural.

Because of the tornado outbreak, the Oregon District mass shooting, water issues and COVID-19, emergency planning was top of mind.

“Because of what we’re all currently living in, it was really easy to have these conversations specifically around the pandemic,” Wolford said. “It was inspiring to hear from different organizations.”

Maloney said so many people “are so good at what they do” and already had thoughts and/or plans about what to do when tornadoes, high heat, flooding or droughts hit.

“With climate change, we’re going to see more severe storms in the Dayton region,” Maloney said. “You can’t stop a tornado from coming through Dayton or stop a really bad flood from happening, but what you can do is you can address the needs of the community that might be impacted,” she said. “For instance, the Memorial Day (2019) tornadoes hit north Dayton — a large immigrant community — and a lot of people didn’t have health or medical insurance, so what you can do is provide ways for people to get more affordable insurance.”

According to Wolford and Maloney, the Second Nature commitment process began with conversations with the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission and included Leah Ceperley with UD’s facilities management division, UD assistant professor of sustainability Felix Fernando and others.

Ben McCall, HSI’s executive director, said the resilience assessment is impressively in-depth and systematic, especially considering that it is taking place during a time that included pandemic interruptions.

“I think we are really fortunate as an institution to have a faculty member like Felix and two very talented graduate students like Lauren and Meg to undertake this work,” he said. “The progress that has been made really showcases the power of faculty and student engagement, and I’m proud that HSI has helped to facilitate this important work.”

Wolford and Maloney’s other steps include studying various cities’ resilience plans and interviewing neighborhood partners, some of whom have personal stakes in the commitment.

“Our campus is not a bubble,” Wolford said. “UD has a variety of partnerships with different non-profits and different organizations throughout the city and throughout the community. A lot of UD employees live in the bordering neighborhoods around campus or nearby.”

Maloney called the neighborhood interview process a vision quest. “We ask what people want to see and what the neighborhoods could be in the next 20-30 years,” she said. “Then we’ll tie in leadership around the campus.”

Before their May 2021 graduations, Wolford and Maloney will produce a report to be used by UD’s Climate Action, Resilience, and Environmental Sustainability (CARES) Council to inform the next steps in meeting the university’s resilience commitment.

For more sustainability news and information, visit HSI’s news blog, the Hanley Sustainability Institute website and the sustainability program website.

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