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When John McGreevy was conducting fieldwork for his undergraduate degree in 2010 in Haiti, the southern portion of the country was rocked without warning by a hurricane that eventually claimed in excess of 100,000 lives and destroyed untold houses and commercial structures.

“Walking the streets of Port-au-Prince, I witnessed firsthand that this ‘natural disaster’ was not ‘natural,’” says John, who is a Ph.D. student in anthropology at UGA. “Instead, combined social and ecological factors seemed to expose Haitians to unequal environmental stress.”

Haiti has one of the highest levels of disaster exposure in the world, and hurricanes have only increased in frequency and strength in recent years. With plans to create an internationally applicable model of hurricane vulnerability, John will spend a portion of his Boren Fellowship in two Haitian communities, Dekle and Camp-Perrin, both of which have suffered significantly after hurricanes while nearby Caribbean nations remained relatively unscathed.

He will conduct mixed-methods research on the underlying causes of hurricane exposure and indicators of vulnerable communities, using satellite image analysis, surveys, and interviews to support an agent-based model to inform disaster management in the U.S. and Haiti.

“I hope to apply the model developed and lessons learned to serve the Federal Emergency Management Agency, reducing destruction from hurricanes and increasing effectiveness of disaster response,” says John, who holds an undergraduate degree in environmental studies from Elon University and a master’s degree in anthropology from Colorado State University.

John will take classes in Haitian Creole at the State University of Haiti in the city of Limonade. While in Camp-Perrin, he will take classes at the Southern branch of Happy Haitian Institute.

“This personalized language study program builds on my growing knowledge of Haitian Creole, the language of rural communities, to support accuracy in conducting interviews and analyzing data from surveys,” he says.

He plans to volunteer as an environmental science teacher at the Helping Haitian Angels orphanage in Dekle and as an English teacher in Camp-Perrin. He will receive personalized language tutoring, “to hone the remaining portions of my Creole grammar and increase my familiarity with rural dialects, which can differ slightly from Creole taught in the United States.”

Besides previously spending time in Camp-Perrin as part of an interdisciplinary team researching changes since the 2010 earthquake, John has worked as an adjunct professor at Colorado State University and a researcher on social change since Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. He volunteers as a consultant for the Parish Twinning program that unites parishes in Layaye, Haiti, and West Chester, Pennsylvania, to support affordable education in rural Haitian communities.

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