Meet a Social Scientist: Dr. Janet Dilling from the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Program

What is your name?

Dr. Janet Dilling

What kind of work do you do in the college?

I am a Teaching Professor in the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Program.  I teach, do applied research and engage in service in the Program, profession and community.

Why did you decide to become an academic?

I first considered becoming an academic while I was completing my Master’s Degree in Public Administration at the University of Idaho while working as a local city/county Director.  A favorite Professor there really encouraged me to pursue a doctorate and teaching.  Then, years later, while working in my field in Florida, I was offered a job at FSU, with part of my job responsibilities being to develop and start the Emergency Management academic Program here.  I developed and taught my first University course back in 1996 at FSU.  I found that my old Professor was correct….I have loved every minute.  It has been very rewarding to see our EMHS Program grow over the years to be one of the largest in the Nation.

What do you find most fulfilling about your job?

I have a smile on my face every day.  From my many years of teaching in the classroom, and even now, while teaching online, I feel a strong connection to my students.  I have a great deal of enthusiasm for the field of Emergency Management. It is so varied, and touches on so many other fields and disciplines.  As a result, it also brings us students from all over the University.  Conveying that enthusiasm to my students drives me every time I sit down at my computer to answer an email or develop a lecture. Making a personal connection with my students is the most fulfilling part of my job.   I am told that I am always smiling when I am answering a student email. And, believe it or not, I am grateful for Zoom.  I find that I have more in-depth one-on-one conversations with my students now than I did in those moments after class when everyone would come up to the lectern. They have me all to themselves.  For many years I was a little afraid that my enthusiasm and personality would not transfer in an online environment….I was wrong.  Seeing students in one class, then seeing them the next semester in another, and finding out they have decided to pursue one of our EMHS academic certificates makes me feel I made the right decision coming here all those years ago.  Also, being surrounded by such a wonderful, dedicated group of people that I work with every day in our Program makes each day a good day.

Another thing that I enjoy about my job is our ability to get out of the classroom and into the field with our faculty, staff and students.  From the beginning of my time at FSU we have been able to work closely with local, state, and federal agencies to come up with innovative solutions to government problems in the field of Emergency Management.  And, that extends to the international community as well.  Some of my favorite field research trips have been to the Philippines and Chile to study informal settlements in high risk disaster areas.  This has helped us study and determine best practices in how governments can relocate these vulnerable populations to safer locations without aggravating or destroying the cultural, social, economic, political factors and interactive dynamics that influence the way people decide where to live.

What are you working on or teaching right now that has you excited professionally?

Something that I have always strived to do in my classes is to expose students to new knowledge, and then, have them apply that knowledge to real world applications.  Lately, I have been trying to come up with new innovative ways of taking that a step farther to strengthen the critical thinking aspect of that application of knowledge.  Our students are accustomed to using what Howard Gardner would call their ‘’Verbal-linguistic intelligence’’ to listen to lectures, read books and articles, and transfer that newly found knowledge into papers or presentations.  I am endeavoring to add activities to all of my classes that force them to use their Visual-spatial intelligence’’ and critical thinking and decision making skills to solve problems and advance solutions similar to what they will find after graduation.

Is there anything else that you would like to share, such as a recent publication, your website, or your favorite book?

I am currently reading the recent second edition of The Angry Earth:  Disaster in Anthropological Perspective edited by Anthony Oliver-Smith and Suzanna Hoffman, longtime favorite scholars of mine.  It helps us remember that in our modern era, human activity is the dominant influence over our environment….for better or worse.

Janet Dilling, PhD |

Dr. Janet Dilling is a Teaching Professor in the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Program at Florida State University. Her research interests include domestic and international disaster management, high risk human settlements, and the politics of climate change. You can learn more about Dr. Dilling here.

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