Panel 1: Building Resilient Communities from Research
Jennifer Denno Cissé is a Senior Research Manager for the MCII hosted by UNU-EHS, supporting ongoing work on small island states in the Caribbean and Pacific and the development of new insurance products to protect vulnerable populations against extreme weather risk. Dr. Denno Cissé is also involved in MCII’s research and M&E work, helping build the evidence base for high-quality climate risk insurance. She holds a Ph.D. in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University, where her doctoral research focus on resilience estimation and the impact of insurance on resilience. Prior to joining MCII, she was a Senior Risk Advisor in the Bureau for Food Security at USAID. She has previously worked for Catholic Relief Services and as a consultant for both Catholic Relief Services and Lutheran World Relief.
Alonzo Plough joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as Chief Science Officer and Vice President, Research-Evaluation-Learning in January 2014. He is responsible for aligning all of the foundation’s work with best evidence from research and practice and incorporating program evaluations into organizational learning. He also oversees the two grantmaking portfolios focused on innovation and emerging issues: Pioneer and Global Ideas for U.S. Solutions. Dr. Plough has been a national leader in public health practice for more than 25 years. He earned his Ph.D. and M.A. at Cornell University, and his M.P.H. at Yale University School of Medicine’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health. Dr. Plough is currently Clinical Professor of Health Services at the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle.
Michelle Annette Meyer, Ph.D., is the Director of the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center and Associate Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning at Texas A&M University. She received a BA in Sociology from Murray State University and a Ph.D. in Sociology from Colorado State University. Dr. Meyer’s research addresses disaster recovery and mitigation, environmental sociology and sustainability, and the interplay between hazards and social stratification. She uses the lens of social capital to understand how relationships between individuals, governmental, and non-governmental organizations generate or reduce disaster risk and recovery, especially for marginalized populations. These interests have led her to research volunteerism and philanthropy as well as the use of new technology such as social media in disaster settings. Her research projects are interdisciplinary and often involve community participation, connecting engineering, construction science, landscape architecture, public administration, public health, and anthropology with local organizations, students, and residents.
Dr. Meyer teaches research methods, hazard mitigation and recovery, environmental justice, and sociology of disaster. She has worked with numerous graduate students and with more than 25
undergraduates, mostly from groups under-represented in science. Dr. Meyer is an advocate for ethical and participatory science that supports education and community vision along with scientific development.
Daniel Aldrich is an award-winning author and has published five books including Building Resilience and Black Wave, more than 60 peer-reviewed articles, and written op-eds for The New York Times, CNN, HuffPost, and many other media outlets. He has spent more than 5 years in India, Japan, and Africa carrying out fieldwork and his work has been funded by the Fulbright Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Abe Foundation, and the Japan Foundation, among other institutions. He was the 2021 Klein Lecturer at Northeastern University.
Panel 2: Local Community and Government Experiences
Leslie Wright is the founder of Collective Clarity, LLC a consulting practice that helps individuals, teams, and organizations turn complexity and disruption into innovative futures. Clients include organizations from all three sectors—corporate, nonprofit, and government. Her work is built on an enduring belief in the power of collaborations and collective creativity; the power of diversity; the driving need for inclusive and just community; the transformative power of curiosity; and a future built on networked and interdependent systems.
Prior to launching Collective Clarity, Ms. Wright served as the Senior Vice President of Community Building for United Way of East Central Iowa. There she led teams focused on designing and implementing innovative solutions to human challenges. Projects included collaborative care coordination networks, leadership development programs for underrepresented people, and disaster response and recovery coalitions.
Ms. Wright has been a speaker and trainer for the United Way Worldwide network, a facilitator and trainer in organizational development, and performance improvement, and a strategic planning consultant. She is a lifelong learner who has sought to build her skills in the areas of innovation, strategic foresight and planning, network building and diversity and inclusion. In addition to her consulting work, Ms. Wright serves as Board Chair for Prairiewoods (a Franciscan spirituality center), as a member of the Linn County Board of Health, and as a member of the Building Belonging Community.
Nick Crossley is the Director of the Emergency Management and Homeland Security agency for Hamilton County, Ohio. Mr. Crossley has held this position since February 2015. The Hamilton County Emergency Management and Homeland Security agency is an independent agency that acts as the emergency management and homeland security agency for all 49 jurisdictions within the county.
Mr. Crossley has held a variety of leadership roles within the emergency management profession over the past 19 years. He has served in leadership positions at the county, state, and national levels. He currently serves as the Chair of the Emergency Management Accreditation Program (www.emap.org). In addition, he has also served on the National Association of Counties Board of Directors as the International Association of Emergency Managers representative and currently serves on the Justice & Public Safety Committee Homeland Security and Emergency Management subcommittee. Lastly, Mr. Crossley is a Past President for the International Association of Emergency Managers—USA (www.iaem.com). Mr. Crossley holds the Certified Emergency Manager credential from the International Association of Emergency Managers and
the Certified Public Manager credential from the American Academy of Certified Public Managers.
Ron Peters helped rehabilitate six properties after the flooding caused by Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Afterward, he created a large scrapbook on that flood with articles and pictures that he took, which is now in the Howard County (MD) Library. Mr. Peters graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in business, and opened Peters Body shop in 1987 with his brother and father. Mr. Peters was on the county executive appointed flood work group in 2015, the community advisory group after the 2016 flood, and has been on the Ellicott City partnership board for the past 3 years. Mr. Peters installed a network of cameras in Ellicott City after the 2016 flood and recorded the whole 2018 flood on 13 cameras from start to finish. The footage from those cameras have been used by many agencies to see how Ellicott City floods and what mitigation efforts are needed to make the town more resistant to flood damage. Since 2018, the camera system has been expanded to more than 25 cameras at 9 locations with 2 flood alert sensors. Mr. Peters also help create a video on Ellicott City titled “Tiber River Watershed v2.”
Brigid Shea came to Austin in 1988 to start the Texas chapter of Clean Water Action. Prior to that she had been an award-winning journalist at National Public Radio stations in Minnesota and Philadelphia. In Austin, she was a leader in the Save Our Springs (SOS) movement of 1992, which resulted in Austin’s historic SOS law to save Barton Springs. Shea was elected to and served on the Austin city council from 1993 to 1996, where she championed consumer, electoral, and environmental reforms. She has been an advisor to the LCRA, Seton Hospital, and the City of Austin. Her carbon-reduction work won the TCEQ Environmental Excellence award in 2010. In 2014 she was elected to the Travis County Commissioners Court.
Currently, Ms. Shea is the U.S. Board Chair of ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability, the oldest United Nations recognized, non-governmental organization representing local governments, and the Chair of Air Quality subcommittee of the NACo EELU Committee. Ms. Shea serves on the national board of Clean Water Action, is a member of the state board of Texas Campaign for the Environment, and is a former member of the Austin Chamber of Commerce Clean Energy Council. She was selected for the 2019 Women in Government Leadership Program of Governing magazine. Ms. Shea was recently given a Lifetime Achievement award by the Texas Energy Summit.
Panel 3: Using Social Networks to Build Capacity for Resilience
Dr. Jamie Aten is a disaster psychologist and disaster ministry expert. He is the founder and executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute and Blanchard Chair of Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership at Wheaton College. His latest books include the “Disaster Ministry Handbook” and “A Walking Disaster: What Katrina and Cancer Taught Me About Faith and Resilience.” In 2016 he received the FEMA Community Preparedness Champion award at the White House.
Greta McLain, Co-founder and Artistic Director of GoodSpace Murals, has more than 15 years of mural making experience. Ms. McLain is committed to a practice of mural making, which explores the ways that art can bring communities together, the power of visual language to activate voice, and the potential of art as a vehicle for hands-on organizing and educating. Ms. McLain lives and works in Minneapolis and travels around the country and world doing projects wherever community art can be activated as a tool for positive community engagement. She has
created more than 60 murals in Minnesota, Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Cuba, Argentina, Mexico, and France, ranging in size from 200 to 5,000 square feet. Prior to working solely on community focused public art, Ms. McLain was a elementary and middle school art teacher and brings her educational background into the design and execution of community engagement. She earned her B.A. from the University of California Davis and her M.F.A. from Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Ms. McLain continues to be a student of muralism and learns and grows with every project.
Trace Pickering is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Iowa BIG, a learner-centered, transformational education program with a vision to “unleash human potential.” Mr. Pickering has spent the majority of his career in education serving as a teacher, principal, and central office administrator. Mr. Pickering has since left education to work as a Community Builder for a local media company and to become an entrepreneur, where he built and sold two businesses. Mr. Pickering’s passion is on the full transformation of education from a curriculum-centered, 20th century model of learning and schooling to a learner-centered, 21st century model.
Hannah Vick, Ph.D. has led external affairs teams during response and recovery field operations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), specializing in public information and external stakeholder outreach. She currently serves as the Senior Advisor in FEMA’s Resilience, leveraging her field experience to inform decision-making in nationwide preparedness and mitigation programs.
Dr. Vick’s disaster management experience includes more than 70 field deployments, National Special Security Events, and National Level Exercises. During deployments, she has led interagency teams of federal communicators to establish and maintain effective working relationships with federal and state agencies, the media, community leaders, the private sector, non-governmental and non-profit organizations, political leaders, Congressional members, military components, academia, and the public. In 2012, she led the federal Joint Information Center in New York City after Superstorm Sandy, and most recently, ESF-15 External Affairs for FEMA’s 2021 COVID-19 operation. From 2012-2016, Dr. Vick was a part of FEMA’s National Incident Management Team—East, where she served as an External Affairs Advisor for complex events such as the Flint, Michigan, water crisis at the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Operation Center in 2016 and the Ebola Virus Disease operation at FEMA Headquarters in 2014. During this time, she also developed and taught dozens of training courses on stakeholder engagement, media relations, strategic messaging, and public information and warning.
Since 2017, Dr. Vick has served as an adjunct lecturer at Georgetown University’s Masters of Emergency a Disaster Management program at the School of Continuing Studies. In 2020, she earned her Ph.D. in Fire & Emergency Management Administration at Oklahoma State University–Stillwater. Her primary research interests are government disaster assistance, media engagement during disasters, risk perception and communication, and the history of U.S. emergency management.
Gabriele Almon is the founder of Brain & Bullish, an agency that specializes in story and narrative shifting. Brain & Bullish works directly with writers and producers in Hollywood to create mainstream content that inspires people to feel braver, hopeful, and helpful in crises.
Previously, Ms. Almon served as an advisor to Fortune 500 companies, domestic and international government agencies, and numerous humanitarian organizations. Clients and
collaborators have included Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Box. Gabriele began her career as a grassroots community organizer on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. She was appointed to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Advisory Council, where she served as a foresight and technology subject matter expert from 2016-2019.
She received her undergraduate degree from Howard University and Master’s degree from the University of Southern California. Ms. Almon was recently awarded USC’s Price Pioneer designation, one of only 90 awardees in the history of the Sol Price School of Public Policy, for her bridge-building work between entertainment, media, and the public sector.
Panel 4: Public and Private Partnerships for Resilience
Nidia Martínez Avellaneda, Ph.D., is Director of Climate Risk Analytics in the Climate and Resilience Hub. Based in New York, she leads global catastrophe, climate, and analytics initiatives in order to support the business need to quantify systemic risk and respond to the climate emergencies. Previously, Dr. Martínez Avellaneda worked at Swiss Re and AIG where she developed an expertise in risk management and client support. Dr. Martínez Avellaneda holds a Ph.D. in physical oceanography from the University of Hamburg and a Master’s from the University of Buenos Aires. She has done extensive research on advanced numerical modeling. In 2013, Dr. Martínez Avellaneda received the NASA MPOWIR Speaker Series at Goddard Space Flight Center award for her post-doctoral research at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD. She is a lecturer in financial sustainability at Fordham University in New York City.
Mackenzie Huffman is a Vice President in JPMorgan Chase’s Sustainability group, which collaborates across the firm and with clients to advance best practices in sustainability, develop strategies and financing opportunities, and share knowledge and insights on trends in sustainability and finance. In this role she covers sustainability reporting efforts, monitors industry and policy trends, and engages with stakeholders on sustainability-related risks and opportunities.
Prior to joining the Sustainability team, Ms. Huffman was the Deputy Chief of Staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality where she helped to coordinate environmental policy across federal government agencies. She began her career at the U.S. Department of Energy where she served in several roles focusing on clean energy finance and national laboratory policy. In these positions she also helped to coordinate strategy and communication across the departmental offices and councils advising the Secretary of Energy. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in history and biology from Saint Olaf College in Minnesota.
Erin Dearborn Coryell joined Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies in November 2010 as a program officer for the Disaster Relief & Recovery domain. She is responsible for identifying, developing, and evaluating strategic grants for the domain’s domestic disaster component. The domestic component focuses on 10 states in the Midwest, and grants support preparedness through long-term recovery. Before joining the Philanthropies, Ms. Dearborn Coryell worked in field operations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s ESF–14 Long-Term Community Recovery program and was deployed to disaster sites in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.
She was previously the director of the Philadelphia Regional Fund, a capital grant program for community-serving houses of worship eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The program used training and technical assistance to improve grant readiness and was
supported through public and private funding. She also authored a successful New Market Tax Credit application for a faith-based organization in South Central Los Angeles; worked for a construction company on one of Seattle’s first Hope VI mixed-income housing projects to use sustainable building practices; and worked for an urban developer restoring a landmarked department store.
Ms. Dearborn Coryell graduated from Bard College with a Bachelor’s in art history and from Cornell University’s city and regional planning program with a Master’s in historic preservation planning. She is also a graduate of Harvard University’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative. She has presented at conferences and workshops for the American Planning Association and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and has served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. Ms. Dearborn Coryell is a qualified Architectural Historian under the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualification Standards.