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Robertson wins top dissertation award

SJMC assistant professor Brett Robertson has won the 2021 W. Charles Redding Outstanding Dissertation Award from the International Communication Association’s Organizational Communication Division.

His paper, “Developing Resilience through Communication and Community: Natural Disaster Preparedness in Retirement Communities,” explores how residents of retirement communities prepare for natural disasters.

“Older adults are typically one of the most vulnerable populations when a disaster hits,” Robertson says. “They experience the most physical adverse effects.”

One reason, he says, is that residents often assume their facilities are equipped to handle hurricanes, floods and other catastrophes, but that’s not always the case.

“In reality, the best recommendation is that everyone needs to be prepared on their own independent of what these facilities may provide,” he says. “That was a major contribution of the dissertation — looking at residents’ individual and collective perceptions of risk  and whether or not that may have matched with the services that are provided within their community itself.”

His findings could influence how emergency preparedness is addressed in these populations and mitigate the impact of natural disasters when they strike.

Robertson and his dissertation supervisor, Keri Stephens of The University of Texas, were recognized for his work at the ICA’s annual conference in May. He plans to continue conducting research in retirement communities once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

“One of the things I said at the conference was there’s still much more work to be done, and so I look forward to putting in the effort in the coming years,” he says.

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