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In Harm’s Way: Measuring and Mapping Social Vulnerability

March 03, 2015
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

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Dr. Shannon Van Zandt
Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Texas A&M University

Associate Professor


Communities are only as strong as their weakest link. They cannot be resilient unless all members are able to withstand and bounce back from an economic, social or physical disaster. Yet, a community’s social vulnerabilities are often neglected. When disaster strikes, its impact is not just a function of its magnitude and where it strikes. Development patterns characterized by sprawl, concentrated poverty, and segregation shape urban environments in ways that isolate vulnerable populations so that low-­income and high-income, White and African­‐American, owners and renters, primary residents and vacationers, are not just socially separated from one another, but also physically separated in clusters and pockets across the community. In many if not most communities, these development patterns interact with the physical geography to expose vulnerable populations to greater risk. At every stage, socially vulnerable populations are at a disadvantage. These disadvantages compound one another through every phase of disasters, aggravating impacts, slowing recovery, and exacerbating pre­‐existing inequities. Further, they accumulate over time, undermining efforts to become more resilient. This research examines the processes by which socially vulnerable populations are placed at higher risk of exposure and the impacts that result from it.


Shannon Van Zandt, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning, Coordinator of the Master of Urban Planning Program, and Director of the Center for Housing & Urban Development at Texas A&M University. She holds the Roy L. Dockery Professorship in Housing and Homelessness. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. Dr. Van Zandt’s research, centers on the spatial distribution of housing and the consequences for vulnerable populations. Her recent research focuses on social vulnerability to and recovery from disaster in Texas, specifically Hurricanes Ike and Dolly in 2008. Dr. Van Zandt’s professional activities include conducting continuing education courses through the University of Texas School of Law and William Wayne Jus’ce Center for Public Interest Law and the City of Raleigh Fair Housing Board and Legal Aid of North Carolina. She has served as a visiting scholar with the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William & Mary, and has been an invited speaker on social vulnerability at the Federal Reserve Bank’s Community Development Conference and the Inter­‐ American Development Bank. She has also conducted Planners Training Service workshops on community resilience for the American Planning Association. Dr. Van Zandt earned her Ph.D. in City & Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2004, and holds a Master of Urban Planning (1997) and a Bachelor of Environmental Design (1993) from Texas A&M University.


March 3, 2015
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm


Rudder Tower, Room 301