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Psychology, climate, public health, humanities

Alan Flurry

We're seeing, and UGA students are experiencing, great examples of the breadth of expertise in the liberal arts learning environment that is a major research university. With the unfortunately impending hurricane Florence, Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor Marshall Shepherd is responding to media requests around the clock, from around the world. And in his own regular Forbes column, he expanded the discussion of storm-related conditions and why some people living along the coast do not evacuate by engaging his UGA colleague Sarah DeYoung, assistant professor of health policy and management in the UGA College of Public Health:

Dr. Shepherd: How can we overcome challenges associated with the decision-making process?

Dr. DeYoung: To improve evacuation compliance (I know you asked decision-making, but compliance is super important) people need to realize that this event could be unlike anything they have seen in their lifetime. Past evacuees I've interviewed made decisions based on "well, it never got this bad here before" and then they had to be rescued by the Coast Guard. Another challenge is that people might be confused by thinking this is a "coastal event" but really it will be statewide. No one has talked about tornadoes spawning off, but in Hugo, that is what almost killed my family (we lived in a trailer) and that was in Catawba County NC, far far far west.

In the course of the same day, Shepherd spoke to a class on psychology and climate in the department of psychology, sharing some of the psychological challenges of communicating and responding to weather and climate issues.

On a campus with high-level, in-demand expertise, the collegial relationships between our faculty influence our students, as does their work in overlapping subject areas that allow for greater potency of investigations and solutions. The combination of the sciences and humanities informs the powerful tendency to think with the critical capacity to consider:

“I think scientists would have to attain a quality of self-transparency about their own ideological commitments that the practice of positive science itself won't disabuse them of because the root of the presuppositions is outside of their discipline,” [UGA philosophy Ph.D. student] Osei-Frimpong said, “but with this self-transparency, positive science can and does do useful work for our understanding of humanity.”

Just another day on an extraordinary campus.

Image: A view of hurricane Florence from the International Space Station, courtesy of NASA.

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