New FSU Curriculum Targets Disaster Relief

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There has been much talk about natural disasters and the aftermath, but now there’s a push to make the response effort culturally sensitive.

Some suggest Hurricane Dennis in July of 2005 and Hurricane Katrina in August were indeed two different disasters which warranted different response approaches.

Florida State University social work professor Martell Teasley says, "It has to do with a lot of ‘isms;’ racism, sexism, ageism. It has to do with social economic status."

FSU's School of Social Work is now launching a specialized curriculum on management and disaster recovery, one curriculum being coined "culturally sensitive."

"What are some of the nuances in terms of language? Who are the spiritual leaders? Who are the people in the community that you should know in order to empower people to make change," adds Teasley.

Richard Turcotte, president of Catholic Network Florida, says, "How you apply principles of recovery may not be the same way or may not be interpreted the way you intend for it to be interpreted."

FSU is receiving $200,000 from Catholic Network Florida, which heads all of Florida's Catholic charity agencies.

The money will help in developing an advanced degree and non-degree program. FSU is also receiving a matching grant of $50,000 from Gov. Jeb Bush's hurricane recovery fund.

"It's going to provide us with many more case workers who have the kind of understanding and experiences that can go in after a disaster and work with communities long-term as they recover from any kind of disaster," says Chris Floyd, director of the Big Bend Red Cross chapter.

The goal of the new programs is to make those who respond to disasters more well rounded and prepared. University officials say the curriculum should be implemented by the fall of 2006.