Brenda D. Phillips
2010 Recipient of the Mary Fran Myers Award
Brenda D. Phillips, Ph.D. is a Senior Researcher with the Center for the Study of Disasters and Extreme Events and is a Full Professor in the Fire and Emergency Management Program, Department of Political Science, at Oklahoma State University where she teaches courses in emergency management, social vulnerability, research methods and community relations. Her work on vulnerable populations has been funded multiple times by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Geological Survey and others and she is in wide demand as a speaker. She is among the first women worldwide to attain full professorship in an emergency management program, thanks in part to the support and dedication of her colleague, Mary Fran Myers.
Brenda Phillips was at the forefront of the U.S. movement to draw attention to issues of gender in the emergency and disaster context, publishing two book chapters on the topic in 1990. A founding member of the Gender and Disaster Network, she went on to develop an impressive body of work on gender and disasters, including co-editing a special issue of the International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters on the topic and the subsequent book Women and Disasters (the second book in a series published by the International Research Committee on Disaster). Most recently she authored Disaster Recovery and collaborated with over a dozen colleagues on Social Vulnerability to Disaster including those who created the original materials for the FEMA Higher Education Project. These colleagues collectively donated the proceeds Social Vulnerability to Disasters to the Mary Fran Myers Scholarship fund. This grant helps low-income members of the global hazards community take part in the annual Natural Hazards Workshop.
She has also been instrumental in drawing attention to the issue of domestic violence during disaster response and recovery, and is an unrelenting advocate for those whose physical disabilities may limit their ability to respond. Addressing ethnic and cultural diversity in disaster and emergency planning and response is another theme in Dr. Phillips’ work. Here, too, she writes with a keen awareness of the difference sex and gender make.
Brenda’s work on gender is distinguished both for the attention she pays to bringing new ideas into practice, and for the holistic approach she applies. The disadvantages women tend to encounter in the disaster context are typically clustered with other factors, such as poverty, which compound their vulnerability. Brenda sees gender not as an isolated factor but enmeshed in a whole pattern of disadvantage and discrimination. Indeed, much of her work is framed in a social justice perspective. She favors a holistic approach to improving resiliency – and one that sees women not just as potential victims, but as essential resources which are underutilized.
It is important to Brenda that emergency and disaster managers and responders are well-grounded in social vulnerability issues. As a professor in a fire and emergency management program she is dedicated to instilling new professionals and practitioners with a passion for inclusive and participatory efforts to build community disaster resilience. Her influence on the next generation of emergency managers cannot be overestimated. Oklahoma State University has recently admitted its first cohort of doctoral students in the nation’s first integrated program in fire and emergency management including the first women to join such a program.
Those who know her well recommend her for this recognition based on prodigious writing, keen analysis, unstinting commitment to putting knowledge to use and a remarkable generosity of spirit. Her leadership, often behind the scenes, has helped bring gender from the margins to the center in ways that enrich scholarship, empower her students, inspire her colleagues, and build a new community of practice. For all these reasons, the Selection Committee, chaired by Cecilia Castro, awards this recognition to Dr. Brenda Phillips.
Chaman Pincha has played a vital role in integrating gender concerns with disaster management in humanitarian organizations in India by using her independent research to further action in the field. Read more
The Gender and Disaster Network and the Natural Hazards Center invite nominations of those who should be recognized for their efforts to advance gender-sensitive policy, practice, or research in the areas of disaster risk reduction. Read more