Jasmine Blais ’17 ’19MS and Juan Lugo ’15 ’19MS will be presenting alongside Professor Claire Connolly Knox at the Governor's Hurricane Conference Friday.

Recent Graduates Earn Scholarships, Present at Governor’s Hurricane Conference

By: Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala on

Five UCF students and recent graduates received a full scholarship to attend the annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference this week.

The conference draws hundreds of emergency management personnel, first-responders and planners from across Florida just before the start of hurricane season on June 1.

The conference offers a limited number of full scholarships to university students. Seventeen scholarships were awarded this year and UCF received the most of any university. The UCF recipients are:

Lugo is also co-presenting a study at the conference alongside associate professor and principal investigator Claire Connolly Knox on Friday. The talk “Post-Disaster Evidence-Based Resiliency: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Irma” will be followed by a panel discussion with emergency managers from across Florida.

The talk will cover highlights from the study. The team, which also includes Jasmine Blais ’17 ’19MS, who earned her master’s in urban and regional planning in May, conducted a statewide study about community resiliency.

The team analyzed reports from 21 counties in the regions hardest regions by Hurricane Irma. The researchers identified common challenges and made recommendations for each county, which will help prepare communities for the next wave of storms.

For Lugo and Blais the opportunity to work on the project gave them the opportunity to apply the lessons learned and also reinforced their passion for the field of study.“Being a Florida native, I know the crucial role emergency management plays in ensuring our communities are prepared for disasters.” — Juan Lugo ’15 ’19MSurban and regional planning/emergency management alumnus

“Emergency management ties in strategic planning, collaboration and communications,” Lugo says. “These are all things I enjoy having a part in. Being a Florida native, I know the crucial role emergency management plays in ensuring our communities are prepared for disasters.”

But the work isn’t easy. When the team started this project, they say they knew it would be time-consuming.

Now as they prepare to join Knox on stage to present their findings to emergency management leaders, Lugo and Blais agree the time spent was well worth it.

“We are confident research like this will continue to improve our communities’ ability to become more resilient,” Blais says, who hopes to launch her professional career in planning in Orlando.

Both graduates praise Knox for making them work hard and showing them that their work pays off.

Knox will also be recruiting students for UCF’s master’s program in emergency and crisis management at the conference in Booth 511 of the exhibition hall. U.S. News & World Reportranks the program No. 7 in the nation. She is a member of UCF’s National Center for Integrated Coastal Research.

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