Director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness
Jeff Schlegelmilch is a Research Scholar and the Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. In this role he oversees the operations and strategic planning for the center. Before becoming director, he served as the center’s deputy director for more than five years. He also oversees projects related to the practice and policy of disaster preparedness, including the multi-award winning Resilient Children / Resilient Communities Initiative. His areas of expertise includes public health preparedness, community resilience and the integration of private and public sector capabilities. Prior to his work at Columbia, he was the Manager for the International and Non-Healthcare Business Sector for the Yale New Haven Health System Center for Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response. He was also previously an epidemiologist and emergency planner for the Boston Public Health Commission.
He has advised leaders on preparedness systems and policy at all levels of government. He is an Opinion Contributor with The Hill and is frequently utilized as a subject matter expert for numerous media outlets. He is also the author Rethinking Readiness: A brief guide to twenty-first-century megadisasters published by Columbia University Press.
He holds a Master’s degree in Public Health from UMASS Amherst in Health Policy and Management, and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Quinnipiac University.
Laudan is rejoining NCDP as a Project Coordinator focusing on the FEMA housing recovery training grants. She started her public health career working for NCDP primarily focused on the Student Surge Capacity for Outbreak Investigation (Team Epi!) program while also contributing to the CDC-funded web-based training programs from 2004-2011. She then went on to work for Columbia University’s G.H. Sergievsky Center to manage a research study, “the Genetic Epidemiology of Alzheimer’s Disease in African Americans,” funded by the National Institute of Aging.
After relocating to Maine, Laudan worked closely with local and regional government agencies on various community-based public health campaigns. She also served as an Infectious Disease Epidemiologist for the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, as Program Manager and Adjunct Faculty for the University of New England’s (UNE) Graduate Programs in Public Health, and as Adjunct Faculty for UNE’s School of Nursing and Population Health. Among the courses Laudan taught were Epidemiology, Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Global Health. Most recently, Laudan was a Writer & Researcher for One River Grants, a New York State-based grants development and consulting firm.
Laudan received her MPH in Epidemiology and Global Health from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
Affiliated Faculty, Earth Institute;
Adjunct Associate Professor, Teachers College, Columbia University
Thomas Chandler, PhD, is a Research Scientist at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, an Adjunct Associate Professor at Teachers College, and an Associate Member of the Earth Institute faculty, Columbia University. He focuses on post-disaster housing and economic recovery, geographic and social networks, and community preparedness. He is the Director of four FEMA training projects, totaling $5,750,000: “Community Economic Recovery from Disasters”; “Addressing Gaps in Housing Disaster Recovery”; “Improving Individuals’ and Business’ Financial Literacy and Management to Support Post-Disaster Economic Recovery”; and “Transitioning Disaster Survivors from Temporary to Permanent Housing.”
He has also been the Principal Investigator of a U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) research study, “Evaluation of the Public Health System Response to Hurricane Sandy in the NY Metro Area”; Principal Investigator of a U.S. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) research / training project, “Visualizing Social Media: New Tools for Research and Practice”; Co-Principal Investigator of a research grant funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, “Understanding Resilience Attributes for Children, Youth, and Communities in the Wake of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill”; Investigator for a grant funded by GSK: “Resilient Children/Resilient Communities Initiative”; and Co-Principal Investigator of a grant from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: “Performance Measure Development Project”. His work has appeared in Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, The Journal of Social Studies Research, and in Interactive Learning Environments.
Peggy Chao is the Department Administrator at NCDP. She has a master’s degree in International Business from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a bachelor’s degree in Economics from New York University.
Her prior experience includes an administrative position at Rutgers-Public Health Research Institute, data analysis at KPMG, financial positions in Fortune 500 companies, and her own business specializing in high end juvenile products.
Meghan is a Project Associate at NCDP where she provides administrative and logistical support to NCDP’s Director and also serves as the Executive Assistant to the President Emeritus of Children’s Health Fund, dedicated to improving the health and well-being of children worldwide.
Prior to working at NCDP, Meghan worked as a Research Administrative Specialist at Weil Cornell Medicine where she coordinated grant and financial management activities to support research in the Department of Anesthesiology. She holds a Master Health Administration degree from Hofstra University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from The College of Saint Rose.
Senior Project Coordinator/Instructional Designer
Josh DeVincenzo is a Senior Project Coordinator/Instructional Designer at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. His focus is on developing learning experiences associated with FEMA training projects that navigate housing and economic recovery.
Prior to working at the NCDP, Josh worked as the Learning & Development Specialist at Fifth Third Bank in their Learning Solutions and Technology division. He hopes to create accessible and quality educational programming that benefits the common good at scale. He holds a master’s degree in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership from the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign and is currently a doctoral student of Adult Learning and Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Denise Dunlop is the Administrative Coordinator for The National Center for Disaster Preparedness. Ms. Dunlop began as the Administrative Assistant of the Pediatric Preparedness Program in May 2003. As Coordinator she is responsible for day-to-day financial accounting and office operations for the Center. Prior to joining Columbia, Ms. Dunlop was the Administrative Assistant/Office Manager for The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center.
Senior Project Manager, Knowledge Management
Lauren Esposito is the Senior Project Manager for Knowledge Management. In her role at NCDP, she supports the Resilient Children/Resilient Communities Initiative; the Pandemic Response and Resource Initiative (PRRI) and Covid-19 communications; and communication development and dissemination efforts for NCDP research, practice, and policy outputs.
Lauren holds a master’s degree in Interactive Media with a concentration in Social Media from Quinnipiac University and earned her Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute. Over the past twenty-five years, Lauren has worked in marketing and communications helping organizations, nonprofits, and small business reach their critical goals and outcomes. At NCDP, Lauren is interested in leveraging technologies to improve communication outreach and engagement for emergency preparedness, response, and resilience, Covid-19 pandemic response, climate change impacts and adaptation, and policy development with a special focus on children and disasters.
Sean Hansen is a Staff Associate at NCDP, where he supports research activities related to COVID-19, children in crisis, climate change, and broader societal resilience. In this capacity, he works closely with Dr. Irwin Redlener and the newly established Pandemic Response and Resource Initiative through research on epidemiology and public health policies in the U.S., and globally.
Sean earned his Masters in Public Administration in Development Practice from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, where he focused on humanitarian response, sustainable development, and disaster preparedness. Before joining NCDP, he worked in Washington D.C. in both policy and advocacy for a consortium of International development organizations. He is especially interested in the links between climate change, humanitarian crises, and underlying social vulnerabilities.
Qëndresa Krasniqi is a Staff Associate at NCDP, where she supports research activities related to resilience building, COVID-19, and climate change. In this capacity, she will work on quantifying different elements of community resilience.
Qëndresa earned her Masters in Public Administration in Development Practice from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, where she focused on social protection and social safety nets and the role of socio-economic and racial inequities on global food & agriculture systems, food security and access to health care services. Before joining NCDP, she taught Economics and worked in policy analysis and research with the IPCC, Health Care Without Harm and the European Stability Initiative (ESI). She is especially interested in incorporating the understanding of social vulnerabilities related to socio-economic and racial inequities in disaster preparedness and recovery.
Elissa Peña is a Project Coordinator at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP). Her current work focuses on the development, delivery, and evaluation of FEMA training projects for post-disaster economic and housing recovery.
Before joining NCDP, Elissa worked at Northwell Health supporting the organizational fundraising initiatives for advanced research, clinical innovation, and high-quality patient care. She contributed to the strategic project planning, data analysis, and grant management of development programs at Lenox Hill Hospital, Manhattan Eye Ear and Throat, and Lenox Health Greenwich Village. Elissa earned her MPH in Health Policy and Management from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Director, Crisis Leadership
Joe Pfeifer is the Director for Crisis Leadership at NCDP. He is one of the world’s leading experts on managing extreme events and has appeared in major media interviews and spoken at the World Knowledge Forum, United Nations’ Conferences in NY and Geneva, Wharton’s Leadership Conference, National Guard Joint Senior Leader Conference and other major symposiums. Chief Pfeifer has taught senior leaders from around the world about disaster management, critical decision-making, crisis leadership and communications. With extensive field expertise, he has conducted hundreds of simulations to test public and private sector response capabilities, capacity and coordination and has also testified in front of the U.S. Congress about the threats cities will face in the future.
He is a Retired Assistant Chief from the New York City Fire Department and the founding director of FDNY’s Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness. During his career, he has commanded some of the largest disasters in the New York City’s history. He was the first Chief at the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001, played a major command role during Hurricane Sandy and helped manage NYC’s Ebola Response efforts.
Pfeifer is also a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. He earned Master’s degrees from the Harvard Kennedy School, Naval Postgraduate School, and Immaculate Conception and has written widely in professional journals and books.
Senior Project Manager
Jackie is the Senior Project Manager at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. With a career-long focus exclusively on hazards and disasters, she’s gained broad knowledge and expertise in disaster preparedness, response, and resilience. Beginning as an earth scientist, she worked in academia to bridge the gap between physical science research and its applications to disaster risk reduction. Her doctoral work explored the applications of a crowd-sourced terrain modeling technology called ‘structure-from-motion,’ focusing on the low cost and accessibility as compared to traditional modeling methods involving satellites and radar. She has researched hurricane evacuation policies pre- and post-Katrina, and undertaken extensive international case studies of regions vulnerable to volcanic hazards as part of the STREVA project (Strengthening Resilience in Volcanic Areas of Latin America and the Caribbean). Most recently she led coordination of Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts through the Long Island Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (LIVOAD), working with non-profit organizations and some of the most vulnerable populations devastated by the storm.
Her advocacy for public access to disaster-specific knowledge has been recognized in awards for science outreach, and she has spoken at the annual conferences of the American Geophysical Union and the European Geophysical Union, as well as numerous smaller conferences. Her BS with honors in geology was awarded by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and she was accepted to the earth science doctoral program at the University of Oxford.
Senior Research Scholar; Founding Director,
National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP);
Director, Pandemic Resource and Recovery Initiative (PRRI)
Dr. Irwin Redlener is Senior Research Scholar and Director of the Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative (PRRI) of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Earth Institute, which works to understand and improve the nation’s capacity to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. Dr. Redlener founded NCDP in 2003 and served as its director from 2003-2020. He is a nationally recognized expert on disaster preparedness policies, pandemic influenza, the threat of terrorism in the U.S., the impact and consequences of major natural disasters and related issues. Dr. Redlener is the author of The Future of Us: What the Dreams of Children Mean for Twenty-First-Century America which earned the 2020 Gold Nautilus Book Award. He is also the author of Americans At Risk: Why We Are Not Prepared For Megadisasters and What We Can Do Now. Previously, he served as one of the ten members of the congressionally established National Commission on Children and Disasters.
In addition to Dr. Redlener’s role as the Director of PRRI, he serves as a regular Public Health Analyst for MSNBC programs such as the 11th Hour with Brian Williams, Deadline White House with Nicolle Wallace, Katy Tur, and more. Dr. Redlener is also a columnist for The Daily Beast on issues ranging from COVID-19 and public health to children and disaster management.
Dr. Redlener is also President Emeritus and Co-Founder, along with singer-songwriter Paul Simon, of the Children’s Health Fund (CHF), a philanthropic initiative created to develop health care programs in some of the nation’s most medically underserved communities. CHF programs are now active in 25 urban and rural communities around the U.S. providing quality comprehensive medical care to more than 80,000 children each year. Dr. Redlener holds an M.D. degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine, an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Hunter College of the City University of New York and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Hofstra University.
The Children's Health Fund
Thessa Roy is a project coordinator at NCDP. Her focus is supporting the development and efficient delivery of federal training programs on disaster preparedness and community resilience for FEMA. These programs will provide training in pre-disaster planning and post-disaster economic and housing recovery.
Prior to working at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Thessa worked in legal administration and academic research where she developed skills in design, recruitment planning, and general business management. Thessa graduated from the Columbia University in 2018 with a B.A. in Psychology.
Antonia Samur is a Staff Associate at NCDP. Her role focuses on managing phase II of the Resilient Children, Resilient Communities initiative, which aims to assist disaster-stricken communities in Puerto Rico and North Carolina to implement a child-focused disaster planning model, with a strong emphasis on rebuilding stronger more resilient communities over the long term. She provides analytic support to the Resilient Children, Youth, and Communities project, which examines the physical and mental health effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on children. In this context, she is studying the role of social media as a source of resilience during and after the oil spill using machine-learning techniques. In addition to these projects she also supports the development of a curriculum on post-disaster housing recovery planning.
Antonia holds a dual Masters degree in International Affairs from the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University and the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from University of Chile. Alongside her work at NCDP, she manages the Global Schools Program at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Youth Initiative, striving to integrate sustainable development in K-12 education globally.
Project Director, Communications & Field Operations
Jonathan Sury is the Project Director for Communications and Field Operations. He holds a master’s degree in public health in Environmental Health Sciences with a concentration in Environment and Molecular Epidemiology from the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. He is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in public health at the Mailman School of Public Health focusing on Leadership in Global Health and Humanitarian Systems.
He has a keen interest in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and their use in disaster preparedness and recovery. Presently, he contributes to a variety of disaster-related research at NCDP, including evaluating the unanticipated consequences of pandemic flu, determining racially and ethnically appropriate emergency messaging, analyzing the long-term disaster resiliency and recovery issues in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, and the measurement and mapping of social vulnerability and the role of place and space in disaster recovery.
Crystal (Dongqing) Yang is an Instructional Designer at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP). At NCDP she will focus on learning experiences associated with FEMA training projects on Housing and Economic Recovery.
Crystal recently graduated with a master’s degree in Instructional Technology and Media at Teachers College, Columbia University. Crystal holds a B.S in Material Science and Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to NCDP, she worked as an Associate Project Manager at Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press in Beijing, China, designing STEM learning experiences for K-12 teachers and students. She has a keen interest in education technology, with a focus on providing data-driven learning experiences for stakeholders before, during, and after disasters.
Graduate Research Assistant
Vidisha Nerurkar is a Graduate Research Assistant at NCDP. Her current work involves supporting the development, delivery and evaluation of FEMA trainings, which are focused on post-disaster economic and housing recovery.
Vidisha is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Health in Epidemiology with a certificate in Health Policy and Practice, from the Mailman School of Public Health in Columbia University. Prior to pursuing her MPH, she worked as a neurobiology research assistant and co-authored a publication in Nature Communications, while completing her BS in Health Sciences from Boston University.
Research Staff Assistant
Gunjan Saxena is a Research Staff Assistant for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP). She provides research and analytic support into decision-making factors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted business continuity in the essential workforce.
In addition to her work at NCDP, Gunjan is an Advanced Analytics (AA) Manager at Ernst & Young, LLP with a split mandate of overseeing the execution of client engagements and developing the AA practice in the insurance sector, leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities in financial services. Her focus areas center around document intelligence and insurance analytics. Gunjan holds a B.A. in Actuarial Science from the University of Connecticut.
Graduate Research Assistant
Chris Tingley is a Graduate Research Assistant with the FEMA training projects on Housing and Economic Recovery. He is currently pursuing his Master of Public Administration in Development Practice at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).
Chris holds a B.S. in Emergency Health Services Management from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and previously worked in hunger relief and disaster response at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. He’s interested in disaster leadership and making recovery efforts more accessible, equitable and inclusive of climate change adaptation and mitigation practices.
Research Staff Assistant
Zackery White is a Research Staff Assistant for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, focusing on decision support tool development and the role of employee absenteeism in the continuity of business operations for utility services during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is also supporting projects focused on the persistent, long-term needs of those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Zack received his MPH from Columbia University and holds a BS in Biomedical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He previously worked as a health systems consultant with the Ghana Health Service evaluating their community-based emergency referral system and is currently a PhD student in Disaster Science and Management at the University of Delaware Biden School of Public Health where he is focusing on family and childhood disaster preparedness.
Assistant Professor, Center for Global Health Science and Security, Georgetown University
Ellen is a veterinarian whose expertise fuses diverse interests in the life sciences, medicine, homeland security, and the communication of scientific challenges to technical and lay audiences. She has particular experience in public health with a focus on zoonotic disease. As a consultant, she provides technical and science policy advisory services, and is currently co-director of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense. She served for several years as staff with the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security (Peter T. King, NY), handling medical preparedness, biodefense, and science and technology policy. She also works as a small animal clinician, which serves her interests in public health, animal welfare, and parasitology. She recently joined the New York City Medical Reserve Corps.
Ellen received a bachelor’s of science in biology from the College of Mount Saint Vincent and a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine.
Center for Global Health Science and Security, Georgetown University
Senior Research Scientist;
Director, Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Columbia University
Founding Director, Global Resilience Institute, Northeastern University;
Founding Co-Director, George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security, Northeastern University
Professor of Political Science
Associate Professor in Urban Planning, Columbia University GSAPP;
Director, Urban Community and Health Equity Lab, Columbia University
Deputy Director, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory;
Adjunct Professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences;
Lamont Research Professor, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Clinical Psychologist and Trauma Specialist
Professor of Clinical Epidemiology
Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
Director, Natural Hazards Center
Lori Peek is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Dr. Peek studies vulnerable populations in disaster, with a special emphasis on the experiences of low-income families, racial and ethnic minorities, women, and children. She is the author of Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans after 9/11 (Temple University Press, 2011), co-editor of Displaced: Life in the Katrina Diaspora (University of Texas Press, 2012), and co-author of Children of Katrina (University of Texas Press, 2015). Behind the Backlash received the Distinguished Book Award from the Midwest Sociological Society and the Best Book Award from the American Sociological Association Section on Altruism, Morality, and Social Solidarity.
In 2009, the American Sociological Association Section on Children and Youth honored Dr. Peek with the Early Career Award for Outstanding Scholarship. She was named the 2010 Greek Life Professor of the Year and has received CSU’s Alumni Association Best Teacher Award, College of Liberal Arts Excellence in Teaching Award, the Waterpik Excellence in Education Award, and the Ann Gill Excellence in Teaching Award. In addition, the Institute on Teaching and Learning at CSU selected her as a 2011-12 Teaching Fellow as part of a university-wide competition.
Dr. Peek is the Field Report Editor for Children, Youth, and Environments. She is past Chair of the American Sociological Association Section on Environment and Technology and President of the Research Committee on Disasters for the International Sociological Association. She is a Board Member for the William Averette Anderson Fund, which was created to expand opportunities for African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities in the field of hazards and disasters research and practice. Dr. Peek is an appointed member of the National Academies Resilience Roundtable and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute Resilience Observatory.
Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado-Boulder
Director of Global Health Informatics, Arnhold Institute for Global Health
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Jeb Weisman, PhD, is responsible for leading a team of software engineers, machine learning experts, data scientists, and researchers to build analytics and visualization tools and platforms at the Arnhold Institute for Global Health. The Institute’s premiere analytics platform, ATLAS, supports transformative public health work on local and global scales, as well as providing a resource for researchers and policy-makers.
Prior to joining the Arnhold Institute, Jeb spent three decades working in primary and tertiary care health information technology. He has served as a member of faculty and administration in computer science, public health, information systems, and serves with many professional associations and national collaboratives. Dr. Weisman served as the Director of Strategic Technologies for over 15 years at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Earth Institute, Columbia University.
Holding a doctorate in anthropology, as well as being an informaticist, his work spans non-profit, higher education, local, state, and federal government domains. He is a researcher at SMARTlab, University College, Dublin and OCADU, Toronto. Jeb lectures, builds tools, and advises on ethics in technology, technologies for disaster preparedness and response, and understanding unanticipated uses of complex technical and social systems. He works to translate high-level ideas into practical informatics applications and the humane application of technology on a global scale.
Arnhold Institute for Global Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Senior Lecturer of Nonprofit Management
Gregory R. Witkowski, a senior lecturer of nonprofit management at Columbia University, is a specialist in international humanitarian relief, philanthropy, and reconstruction. Witkowski was selected as a Fulbright Scholar and a Young Leader by the American Swiss Foundation for his research on humanitarian relief. He is currently writing a book on the nonprofit role in the relief, recovery, and reconstruction of New York City after the 9/11 attacks. He designed and teaches “Disaster and Community: Philanthropic and Nonprofit Engagement” offered at Columbia’s School of Professional Studies.
School of Professional Studies, Columbia University