Oct. 4, 2021

Postdoc prepares students to strengthen society’s resilience to disasters

Social work scholar one of 32 promising new Eyes High postdocs joining UCalgary; fall Eyes High Match-Funding intake closes Nov. 5
Evalyna Bogdan
Evalyna Bogdan

While many of us were caught off guard when the  COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the world, Dr. Evalyna Bogdan, PhD, wasn’t surprised.

“Disaster researchers tend to focus on disasters and see how prevalent they really are around the world. It becomes apparent that disasters occur on a regular basis,” says Bogdan, Eyes High postdoctoral scholar and environmental disaster sociologist with Transforming the Field Education Landscape (TFEL) in the Faculty of Social Work.

Health scientists have been expecting a pandemic of this proportion for a while, and it's finally arrived.

Bogdan has been awarded funding through the Eyes High Postdoctoral Scholars Match-funding Program to pursue her studies. The program is designed to support UCalgary faculty in recruiting and supporting exceptional postdoctoral scholars through salary matching. The fall intake for the Eyes High Postdoc program closes Nov. 5. Visit the Research website for more information

Along with first responders and health-care workers, social workers play a vital role on the frontlines of helping people cope with disasters, from fires to floods to pandemics. Bogdan’s postdoctoral supervisor, Dr. Julie Drolet, PhD, professor in the Faculty of Social Work, has found that while social workers in Alberta are increasingly more involved in all phases of a disaster — preparation, response, and recovery — there is need to build capacity with training, and support, working in disaster contexts. Consequently, social workers felt they were less recognized and experienced more burnout.

Preparing for disaster

To address these issues, Bogdan will build on a program she co-designed with the High River community after the 2013 flood: We’re Ready! Community Disaster Preparedness Workshops. She’s transforming the program to We’re Ready! Plus (WR!+) Student Training for social work students. The innovative educational and engagement program will help the students better prepare for working with people and communities before, during, and after a disaster. 

The program will include skills to help people return to wellness after a stressful or traumatic event, such as a disaster, but also to build resilience prior to such an event using the Community Resiliency Model.

“I'll be delivering these trainings for the students, and they will also be taught how to teach these skills to community members,” says Bogdan. “It’s a very concrete and tangible way for community members to become more prepared for disasters. They develop an actual communications plan, a hazard and evacuation map, and a community capacity inventory.”

The “plus” part of the program includes content promoting equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and the link between disasters and environmental sustainability.

“That’s so social work students and community members better understand the causes of risk and vulnerability and, for example, things like building in flood-prone areas. It'll also have some training and mentoring on community engagement for students on how to work with community leaders, as part of more of a participatory approach.”

Taking the program to Alberta communities

Bogdan and the We’re Ready! team have conducted several successful case studies with the previous We’re Ready! program. After developing the WR!+ version, she’ll work with students to deliver the workshops in communities.

“The plan is for students to be trained in the spring, and for them to work with community members as part their practicum in the summer,” she says.  

The program will also help solve the problem of too few quality practicum placements available for social work students. “One of the most important milestones in social work students' education is the field practicum when they go into the community,” she says. The WR!+ program allows students to get that crucial on-the-ground experience. Bogdan will evaluate the effectiveness of the program, compare online versus in-person formats, and identify how the program can be implemented across Canada.

“Dr. Drolet’s research identified the critical importance of providing more education and training for social workers to work in disaster contexts,” says Bogdan. “Social workers make the world a better place because they are helping others with life’s difficult problems. They need to be ready for these very challenging disaster-related jobs as well as have the skills and supports to recharge and return to wellness.”

Eyes High Postdoctoral Match-Funding Program

Bogdan’s postdoc research is funded through the Eyes High Postdoctoral Match-Funding Program. The program is designed to support UCalgary faculty in recruiting and supporting exceptional postdoctoral scholars through a 50-50 salary-matching package, split between a faculty member and the Office of the Vice-President (Research).

“We’re pleased to be continuing the Eyes High postdoc program to support our faculty as they grow their research teams,” says Dr. Penny Pexman, associate vice-president (research). “Postdocs are a key part of our research community, bringing exceptional drive and enthusiasm to the teams that they join. We look forward to all that this cohort will achieve.” 

Bogdan is one of 32 postdocs who will be joining UCalgary as Eyes High Postdoctoral Scholars this year, following a competitive selection process. This is the second cohort of awards in the twice-annual program. The program funded postdocs in faculties across campus representing a diverse range of fields of study, research approaches and academic backgrounds. 

The fall intake for the Eyes High Postdoc program closes Nov. 5. Visit the Research website for more information. 

The second cohort of Eyes High Postdoctoral Scholars hired under the match-funding program are: 

  • Dr. Azra Abtahi Fahliani, PhD, Schulich School of Engineering (SSE) (supervisor: Dr. Henry Leung, PhD)
  • Dr. Shokouh Ahmadi Dehaghi, PhD, Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) (Dr. Markus Geuking, PhD)
  • Dr. Eva (Evalyna) Bogdan, PhD, Faculty of Social Work (Dr. Julie Drolet, PhD)
  • Dr. Kirsten Bott, PhD, CSM (Drs. Sarah Manske and Steven Boyd, PhD)
  • Dr. Nicholas (Nick) W. Bray, PhD, Faculty of Kinesiology (Dr. Marc Poulin, PhD)
  • Dr. Shaiful Chowdhury, PhD, SSE (Drs. Uddin Gias and Hemmati Hadi, PhD)
  • Dr. Zahra Clayborne, PhD, CSM (Dr. Suzanne Tough, PhD)
  • Dr. Kaue Duarte, PhD, CSM (Dr. Richard Frayne, PhD)
  • Dr. Ruzena Filandrova, PhD, CSM (Dr. David Schriemer, PhD)
  • Dr. Mohd Belal Haider, PhD, SSE (Dr. Hassan Hassanzadeh, Phd)
  • Dr. Matthew Hethcoat, PhD, Faculty of Science (Dr. Greg McDermid, PhD)
  • Dr. Jithine Jayakumar Rajeswari, PhD, Faculty of Science (Dr. Matt (Mathilakth) Vijayan, PhD)
  • Dr. Jean Kaya, PhD, Werklund School of Education (WSE) (Drs. Roswita Dressler and Kim Lenters, PhD)
  • Dr. Mahati Kopparla, PhD, WSE (Dr. Miwa Takeuchi, PhD)
  • Dr. Celeste Labedz, PhD, Faculty of Science (Dr. Daniel Shugar, PhD)
  • Dr. Alyssa Maryn, PhD, Faculty of Arts (Dr. Deinera Exner-Cortens, PhD)
  • Dr. Nicole McMahon, PhD, Faculty of Arts (Dr. Anthony Sayers, PhD)
  • Dr. Viraj Muthye, PhD, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (Dr. James Wasmuth, PhD)
  • Dr. Dustin Pearson, PhD, CSM (Dr. Jennifer Cobb, PhD)
  • Dr. Wanhai Qin, PhD, CSM (Dr. Paul Kubes, PhD)
  • Dr. Rad Sadri, PhD, SSE (Dr. Edward Roberts, PhD)
  • Dr. Farad Sagala, PhD, SSE (Dr. Apostolos Kantzas, PhD)
  • Dr. Sumedha Sharma, PhD, SSE (Dr. Hamidreza Zareipour, PhD)
  • Dr. Abhishek Shukla, PhD, Faculty of Science (Dr. Qingrun Zhang, PhD)
  • Dr. Pablo Simon Marques, PhD, Faculty of Science (Dr. Greg Welch, PhD)
  • Dr. Balasubramanian Srinivasan, PhD, SSE (Dr. Seonghwan (Sam) Kim, PhD)
  • Dr. Changbai Tan, PhD, SSE (Dr. Jihyun Lee, PhD)
  • Dr. Robin Trama, PhD, Faculty of Kinesiology (Dr. Darren Stefanyshyn, PhD)
  • Dr. Chad Wagoner, PhD, Faculty of Kinesiology (Dr. Nicole Culos-Reed, PhD)
  • Dr. Samantha Walker, PhD, Faculty of Arts (Dr. Naotaka Hayashi, PhD)
  • Dr. Matt Warkentin, PhD, CSM (Dr. Darren Brenner, PhD)
  • Dr. Chaochen Xu, PhD, Faculty of Science (Dr. Philip Egberts, PhD)