Marking the beginning of a partnership between the UChicago Graham School’s Threat and Response Management (MScTRM) program and the Global Management of Risks and Crises program at the Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris, Stevan Weine, MScTRM instructor and Director of Global Medicine and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, traveled to France this spring to deliver three presentations revolving around the mental health and psychosocial consequences of disasters and emergencies.
“It was a really great experience,” he said. “I spent time with their faculty as well as with their students. We found many points of common interest, and some interesting distinctions, both in our curriculums and also in the program models and strategies we use for teaching.”
With both programs focused on preparing students for responding to and recovering from present-day disasters and emergencies, Weine pointed to the benefits that come from collaborations in which both sides share their strongpoints with the other. He highlighted an array of potential ways the two programs might exchange their pedagogical insights, including the possibility of sharing table-top simulations and collaborative writing with faculty.
“On the whole, their focus is slightly more oriented toward the private sector and business continuity than ours,” Weine said. “With a focus on transnational organizations, their curriculum looks globally at the effects disruptions in places like the Middle East and Africa can have on a company’s global operations and supply chains.”
“What we both recognized,” he added, “is that each of our programs brings new dimensions to the table and by partnering we’ll be able to make both programs more comprehensive.”
Weine’s lectures and workshop were based on the class he teaches for the MScTRM program, “Psychological, Social, and Behavioral Contexts of Emergency and Hazard Response.” In the first lecture, he focused on community-level trauma and resilience during and after times of crisis, while in the second his focus was on the individual level, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the impact on first responders. For his workshop, he presented student teams with realistic scenarios of disasters in Paris (e.g. floods, terrorism) from which they had to work together to prepare and respond.
“The interactive format worked well and really made the material come alive,” he said. “An interesting issue of cultural translation arose, however, around the word “community resilience”. For the French, resilience was clear, but community always has ethnic and racial connotations and is discouraged in their political culture. Through discussion, things were clarified by instead using the word neighborhood.”
This coming May, faculty from the Panthéon-Sorbonne program will travel to Chicago to teach a course on business continuity and plans are already underway to supplement their time in the United States with additional lectures to students and alumni. A goal further down the line, Weine noted, involved bringing the two programs’ students together for joint learning experiences, such as tabletops.
“In a globalized world,” Weine said, “we want to learn and teach about a wide range of practices relevant to different contexts. Broadening the scope of the MScTRM program through this partnership will only deepen the knowledge and skills we give our students and help them when it comes to addressing disaster preparation and response wherever their future careers take them.”