Director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness
Jeff Schlegelmilch is a Research Scholar and the Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia Climate School, at Columbia University. 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, and co-author of Catastrophic Incentives: Why our approaches to disasters keep falling short, both 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.
Deputy Director, Research Scientist;
Affiliated Faculty, Columbia Climate School;
Adjunct Associate Professor, Teachers College, Columbia University
Thomas Chandler, Ph.D., is the Deputy Director, and Research Scientist at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, an Adjunct Associate Professor at Teachers College, and an Associate Member of the Columbia Climate School faculty, Columbia University. He focuses on post-disaster housing and economic recovery, mass care community sheltering and relocation assistance, pandemic preparedness and response, geographic and social networks, and community preparedness. He is the Director of NCDP’s FEMA training projects.
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 Interactive Learning Environments.
Director of Operations
Peggy Chao is the Director of Operations at National Center for Disaster Preparedness (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.
Assistant Director for Education and Training
Josh DeVincenzo is an Assistant Director for Education and Training and Adjunct Lecturer 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.
Zain Alabweh is a Staff Associate at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) working on the Resilient Children, Resilient Communities initiative and projects related to mitigating and adapting to climate risks. She joins NCDP from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society where she worked on managing climate risk for agriculture, public health, and energy.
Zain holds a Master of Public Administration in Development Practice degree from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. She has experience in political analysis in the Middle East and North Africa region, customs and trade development in Jordan, developing collaborative management guidelines for protected areas in Cambodia, working in the fields of climate information and food security in Latin America and the Caribbean, and coordinating Middlebury College’s Arabic study abroad program in Jordan. Zain speaks Arabic, English and Spanish.
Senior Project Coordinator
Jingjing Bao is a part-time Senior Project Coordinator for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) developing and disseminating instructor-led and web-based courses at NCDP. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Instructional Technology and Media at Teachers College, Columbia University. She holds a master’s degree in Linguistics from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Prior to joining NCDP, she worked as a part-time instructional designer at LIM College, where she helped subject matter experts develop online courses. Before coming to Teachers College, she worked in a large education company in China as a teaching director and later as a school manager. She has extensive experience in course development, learning program assessment, and project management. With a keen interest in learning design and educational technology, she is driven to design and develop engaging and meaningful learning experiences.
Postdoctoral Research Scientist
Thalia Balkaran is an Postdoctoral Research Scientist at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. Her focus is on adapting the Resilient Children/ Resilient Communities Initiative to the Small Islands Context in the Caribbean. Her area of expertise includes small islands, disaster risk reduction, vulnerability, resilience and sustainability. Thalia holds a PhD in Environmental Management from The University of the West Indies.
Policy Manager and Instructor
Lucia Bragg is a Policy Manager and Instructor for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) focusing on the FEMA housing and economic recovery training grants. She has been working in government affairs at the state and federal levels for a collective nine years. Prior to joining NCDP, Lucia directed federal disaster and FEMA policy advocacy for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) for nearly five years, lobbying Congress, and the administration on disaster policy during the development and passage of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, COVID-19 national emergency declaration and stimulus packages, transportation bills, and myriad supplemental disaster aid packages. Lucia also started and directed NCSL’s Public-Private Partnership on Disaster Mitigation and Recovery – a bipartisan task force of state legislators representing disaster-impacted districts and private sector partners from a range of sectors. Lucia holds an MA from Columbia University’s Climate School and BA in political science from Middlebury College.
Laudan Behrouz-Ghayebi is rejoining NCDP as a Project Manager focusing on the FEMA 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 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.
Hannah Dancy is a Project Coordinator at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP), where she supports the planning and implementation of FEMA training grant-based courses about post-disaster economic and housing recovery.
Prior to her time at NCDP, Hannah worked at Teachers College in the Digital Futures Institute, where she focused on introducing new learning technologies and processes to faculty in hybrid settings. She holds a Master of Arts in Ecology, Environmental and Conservation Biology from Columbia University, where she focused on the wildlife trade, captive animal behavior, and science communication. She is interested in the intersection of climate and environmental change with disaster preparedness, and how we can use effective science communication to prepare communities for these disasters.
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
Lauren Esposito is the Senior Project Manager at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP). In her role at NCDP, she supports the FEMA training grants; the Pandemic Response and Resource Initiative (PRRI) and Covid-19 communications; the Resilient Children/Resilient Communities Initiative; 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.
Instructional Designer/Staff Associate
Linfan Gan is an Instructional Designer/Staff Associate for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) focusing on FEMA housing and economic recovery training grants. Linfan graduated from Columbia University’s Teachers College with a master’s degree in Instructional Technology and Media last year. She also holds a B.A. in Early Childhood Education and Family Studies from the University of Washington. Before joining NCDP, Linfan worked with the Digital Futures Institute at Teachers College, where she facilitated school faculty with instructional design for their hybrid and online courses. She is interested in education technology with a focus on creating engaging and immersive learning experiences.
Staff Associate II
Sean Hansen is a Staff Associate II 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 Pandemic Response and Resource Initiative through research on the 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.
Shuyang Huang is a Staff Associate working on data management and analysis at NCDP. She earned a Master of Architecture degree from Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP) in 2023, and previously obtained an Urban Planning degree there in 2019.
Abby Meola is a Project Coordinator at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, where she supports the development of FEMA training courses on climate science and equity. Prior to joining NCDP, she worked on creating and adapting STEM curricula for the Columbia Climate School. She also received an MA in Climate and Society at Columbia, where she focused her studies on climate adaptation and partnered with the Kenya Red Cross Society to enhance the use of climate information for regional decision-making. She leverages data and education expertise from work in private, non-profit, and academic settings to create content that is engaging and accessible.
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.
Senior Advisor, Founding Director,
National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP)
Dr. Irwin Redlener is a Senior Advisor for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP), Columbia Climate School, at Columbia University, 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.
He also 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
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.
Senior Staff Associate
Jonathan Sury is a Senior Staff Associate. 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.
Hope Sutherland is a Project Coordinator at NCDP, where they support FEMA training courses on post-disaster economic and housing recovery. Hope recently finished a MA in Climate and Society at the Columbia Climate School and has professional experience in education consulting and music technology. Their interests are in climate communication, sustainable development, community resilience, and in ensuring a just transition for all.
Alex Yixuan Xu is a part-time Senior Project Coordinator at NCDP, assisting with designing learning experiences for FEMA training projects. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Design and Development of Digital Games for learning at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Alex holds a B.S. in Integrated Digital Media from New York University and is interested in designing accessible learning experiences enabled by educational technology.
Sarah Branoff supports the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) with a background in child-focused community development and global health programs. She is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health with a personal focus on public health program design and adolescent sexual and reproductive health. Prior to joining NCDP, Sarah worked for a range of nonprofits focused on issues like childhood access to play spaces in the US and the global response to HIV and COVID-19.
Liliana Funes is working on operations for training programs at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. She is currently pursuing both a Bachelor of Arts in Climate Systems and Sustainable Development at Columbia College. Her main interests include environmental justice and equity in relation to natural disaster prevention and recovery.
Emily Heard supports the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) with a background in child development, resilience research, and emergency management. She is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health with a personal focus on childhood trauma interventions and disaster behavioral health. Prior to joining NCDP, Emily worked in whole community emergency preparedness and in a variety of early childhood development settings focused on the role of emotional regulation in resilience promotion and violence disruption.
Philip Kozlowski is a Departmental Research Assistant at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, where he supports the development of curricula for FEMA training on Climate and Equity and Tribal Resilience. Philip earned his B.A. at the University of Virginia in Environmental Science and Environmental Thought and Practice in May 2023. He is currently earning his M.A. in Columbia Climate School’s Climate and Society Program focusing on Disaster Risk Management. Throughout his career, Philip has been deeply interested in the key connections between interdisciplinary study of the environment through the nexus of climate change.
Himanshhu Panwar works at NCDP, assisting in project management for FEMA projects. He is a Sustainability Management graduate candidate at the School of Professional Studies, with extensive experience in urban planning, sustainable tourism, and environmental management. He has worked on numerous multi-sectoral projects in various geographies across India and Bangladesh. He specializes in the domain of urban biodiversity, air pollution, climate action plans, GIS, and sustainable development.
Jie (Jolin) Shen works at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP), assisting with marketing and outreach. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Communication and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Jolin holds a B.A. in Communication and Cinema and Media Studies from the University of Washington, Seattle. She is interested in studying the role of communication technologies in education and has worked for various companies across marketing, public relations, and communications.
Yaxuan Yang works at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP), focusing on data analysis. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Learning Analytics at Teachers College, Columbia University. Yaxuan holds a B.A. in Media and Journalism from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before joining NCDP, Yaxuan had experiences in model prediction, data visualization and dashboard development, which also align with her interests.
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