Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Scott RobinsonNovember 2009
Dr. Scott Robinson's path to the Bush School began in Dallas, where he grew up and eventually earned his bachelor's degree from UT-Dallas. He says that a defining moment for him was the Columbine tragedy, which occurred while he was in graduate school at Texas A&M. That incident focused his interest in several areas of public administration, in particular the link between education management and disaster preparedness. Robinson earned his master's and doctorate degrees in political science from A&M, and taught at Rice University in 2001 while finishing his Ph.D. He then returned to UT-Dallas as an assistant professor of political science, and joined the Bush School faculty in 2007.
Several graduate fellowships helped develop Robinson's approach to research. Two NSF (National Science Foundation) programs enabled him to study the empirical implications of theoretical models at the University of Michigan and methods of educating the next generation of hazard researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill. His current research interests include emergency management and, in particular, how schools are handling these crises. He's now completing a study on how Texas public schools have prepared for disasters and whom they have worked with to prepare for any eventuality. While the Columbine tragedy piqued his interest originally, the events of 9-11 and the destructive hurricanes of recent years reinforced his interest in these topics. Robinson says he realized that schools do a great deal on a daily basis that has little to do with education per se. His interest is in how schools balance these non-educational goals in an educational environment.
Robinson is also currently working on two multi-year projects focused on disaster preparedness and response, issues particularly relevant to the Brazos Valley which has dealt with hurricane evacuees and a potentially dangerous chemical spill. The first project studies the capacity of communities to absorb evacuee populations in terms of public health systems, social services, and infrastructure. With funding from the NSF and partnerships with Louisiana State University and UNC-Pembroke, this study will compare six communities from across the U.S., assessing how each has dealt with recent evacuation hosting activities and the difficulties they encountered. The goal is to improve services to evacuees.
The second project is a program evaluation for the NVOAD (National Voluntary Organizations in Disaster), an umbrella organization for nonprofits in disasters. Responding to natural and man-made disasters is no longer limited to government officials and agencies. As the response to Hurricane Katrina, 9/11-and now the Haitian earthquake demonstrates-nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as nonprofits and churches are an important part of a community or nation's capacity to respond to a disaster. This evaluation will provide NVOAD with information needed to improve national and local coordination of NGOs as well as codify the best practices in volunteer organization preparedness in the form of the National Nonprofit Response Framework. This document will serve as a counterpart to the National Response Framework which provides guidance for government response in emergencies.In addition to these two projects, Robinson is conducting research and analysis on school district responses to health crises. The outbreak of the H1N1 virus in 2009 affected many school-age children, making clear the lack of information and guidance available to school districts on crisis management. Robinson, along with colleagues from the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, was recently awarded a grant by the Natural Hazards Center to study how school districts decide whether or not to close in response to a disease outbreak. The study will identify information the districts need to make these decisions, and whom they consult as the crisis develops.
Robinson's research has been published in key journals, including Policy Studies Journal, the American Review of Public Administration, Political Research Quarterly, and the American Journal of Political Science. Many of these articles have focused on the linkage between disaster response and emergency management, the impact of disasters on public policy, and how public officials deal with these crises. His recently published article in Public Performance and Management Review reviews how local governments are coordinating their efforts with federal homeland security policies and with relevant federal agencies. Robinson is also working on a book about how schools in Texas responded to the many students evacuated in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and how they formed partnerships with these students.
As an associate professor, Dr. Robinson teaches public management and organizational theory at the Bush School, as well as courses in grant and contract management, homeland security, and emergency management. He defines his teaching style as participatory because he sees case discussions and the use of real or mock scenarios as valuable exercises. However, he uses another approach in his classes on grants and contracts in which the class is focused on creating a real or mock grant proposal. "Public service is central to everything I teach," Robinson says. I always ask myself - and always want students to ask themselves - how does this help someone serve the community?"
For more information on Dr. Robinson's educational and work background see the following link: http://bush.tamu.edu/faculty/srobinson/