UO student wins $16,000 Sea Grant award

Oregon Sea Grant has selected Sarah Allison as the recipient of the 2014-2016 Resilience and Adaptation Graduate Fellowship. The $16,000 award will support research for her final project, “Keeping Local Economies Safe: the Role of Economic Development Plans in Natural Hazards Resilience.” 

Allison is interested in helping communities prepare to withstand natural disasters and recover from them. Those disasters could include an earthquake or tsunami, but also include annual hazards such as flooding and winter storms. She is pursuing a Master of Community and Regional Planning (MCRP) and the Oregon Leadership in Sustainability (OLIS) graduate certificate. The Sea Grant fellowship will support her research, travel, and conference attendance.  

“This is a big deal. It's the biggest student award I've seen in the twenty-five years I've been here,” said Robert Parker, executive director of the UO’s Community Service Center (CSC) in the UO Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management.

Building on earlier projects with the CSC, Allison developed a research project, focused on Oregon South Coast communities, to identify specific opportunities for increasing economic resilience to hazards through economic development plans. 

“The idea is to increase the capacity of a community to set goals that serve their particular needs, and make progress towards those goals,” Allison said. 

Oregon Sea Grant developed this year’s fellowship as a “one-time opportunity to support a student, or students, working on new research on resilience and adaptation with direct connections to coastal community needs in Oregon,” said Sarah Kolesar, Research and Scholars Program Leader at Oregon Sea Grant. “Sarah’s project reviews were very good across the board, and our panel appreciated her intended investigations into how resiliency was incorporated into economic development plans along Oregon’s south coast. We look forward to working more with her, and seeing her results.”
Allison’s undergraduate degree in acting—and nine years subsequent work as a stage manager for drama and dance productions—segues neatly into a career in planning, she said. “The common thread for me has been the development of communities. My theater communities were much smaller than the ones I engage with through planning, but the intention is the same. I entered graduate school with an interest in strengthening the social fabric of communities and the way that different systems interact.”

As part of her research, Allison will develop outreach materials for local communities. The materials would be “brief, accessible handouts aimed at local planners, economic development professionals, and emergency managers that identify strategies for increasing economic hazards resilience and strategies for collaboration between those three groups,” she said.

Rich Margerum, PPPM department head, and Josh Bruce, program director of the Oregon Partnership for Disaster Resilience, recommended Allison for the fellowship. A national panel of reviewers scored the applications.

As an Oregon Sea Grant Scholar, Allison will engage in professional development activities and present her research at conferences through June 30, 2015.

November 10, 2014