Resilient Design Education in the USA

Research Team
Mai Thi Nguyen, Ph.D., Gavin Smith, Ph.d., Colleen Durfee, M.A., Ashton Rohmer, M.A., Darien Williams, M.A.

This research is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of University Programs and the Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence.

Although resilient design is an important and emerging field of inquiry, we have scant knowledge about how US colleges and universities teach and train students who go on to become scholars and practitioners in this field. This study, the first of its kind, provides key insights into resilient design education and also the barriers to the delivery of this type of education.

Examining five design-based disciplines, including architecture, building sciences, engineering, landscape architecture, and planning, the study found that resilient design, as a field, is a small but rapidly growing area of study. There are an increasing number of individual courses taught as well as the creation of university degree, minor, and certificate programs focused on resilient design.  The emerging focus on natural hazards, disasters, and resilient design in college and university curricula, while promising, remains highly varied.  Resilient design courses and programs are frequently siloed in particular disciplines rather than serving as a venue to apply interdisciplinary systems thinking.  Similarly, the majority of courses are developed in isolation rather than as part of degree, minor, or certificate program.

Beyond curricula within academic units, research centers, institutes, and extension programs offer students project-based and experiential learning opportunities.  These are spaces in which inter- and multi-disciplinary collaborations between faculty, students, and practitioners can take place through funded research or applied resilient design projects.

Experts agreed that to design resiliently requires interdisciplinary, systems-based, and multi-scalar thinking because of the interdependencies embedded within and between the ecological, physical, and social environments.

Link to study:

Brief description of study: