Jamie Aten, Wheaton College associate professor of psychology and founder and co-director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute, has been recognized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as the 2016 Community Preparedness Champion.
This award is one of 11 Individual and Community Preparedness awards for which over 160 applicants competed. Winners were evaluated based on their efforts and success in making communities safer, more prepared and more resilient in disaster situations. Aten was recognized for his work through HDI in helping other faith-based organizations in community preparedness.
Aten never expected to find himself in disaster work. In 2005, just six days after moving to southern Mississippi, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, and he found himself drawn to the profession. By observing the roles of the church and larger organizations in relief, he recognized a need to “better form that work through research and training.”
Aten said, “I realized that if I really wanted to try to help people in the pew and behind the pulpit, and not just in the academy, that I needed to try to learn how to write for a wider audience.”
His aspiration to write for an audience beyond academia is tangible through multiple articles published in the Washington Post, Christianity Today and Psychology Today that seek to translate research in a way that reaches faith-based organizations and churches.
In light of the recent floods in Louisiana, Aten and a team of about 20 members will fly to Baton Rouge in September to help launch several new research and training projects. From there, Aten will fly directly to Washington, D.C. to receive his award on Sept. 13 and 14. The ceremony will be held at the White House, and all recipients will have the opportunity to interact with top FEMA leadership and tour FEMA headquarters.
“This was an incredibly meaningful award for me,” Aten said. “I felt very humbled by this opportunity and by the recognition.”