Professor Susan Cutter, member of the ClimRes advisory board, has been awarded the title of Doctor honoris causa at NTNU. At a ceremony on March 20, 2015, Susan received her diploma and ring from the Rector at NTNU.
Susan became a professor in geography in 1993 at the University of South Carolina, where she now is Carolina Distinguished Professor (from 2001) and the Director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute (from 2006). Her primary research interests are in the area of disaster vulnerability and resilience science, and centers around what makes people and the places where they live vulnerable or resilient to extreme events. The measuring, monitoring, and assessment of vulnerability and resilience are fundamental to her work.
Susan’s work is ground-breaking in combining social science, natural science and technology. In authoring and editing fifteen books and more than 150 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, she has managed to convincingly demonstrate the need to integrate a diverse set of knowledge and expertise for understanding the complexities of vulnerability or resilience to natural hazards. Her empirical work spans a number of disasters, both spatially and temporally, including leading post-event field studies of the role of geographic information technologies in rescue and relief operations, for example after the September 11th World Trade Center attack, and studies of evacuation and rescue behavior from Hurricane Floyd striking the east coast of the USA in September 1999. Most recently, in 2006, she led a Hurricane Katrina post-event field team to examine the geographic extent and the social vulnerability of affected communities.
Her work uniquely cuts across academia, planning and management. Susan’s impact on planning and management is paramount and manifold, including her expert testimony to the American Congress on hazards and vulnerability, and as coordinating lead author of Chapter 5 of the IPCC Special Report on “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.”
She serves on many national advisory boards and committees including the National Science Foundation, and was a founding member and served on the Executive Committee of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) (2004-2008) (a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence focused on the social and behavioral sciences). Susan is elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (1999), and is past President of the Association of American Geographers (2000). In 2006, she was the recipient of the Decade of Behavior Research Award given by a multidisciplinary consortium of more than 50 national and international scientific organizations in the social and behavioral sciences. She has also held the MunichRe Foundation Chair (2009-2012) on Social Vulnerability through the United Nations University-Institute for Environment and Human Security, in Bonn, Germany.
Susan’s impressive achievements and competences represent a unique source of inspiration and learning for researchers and practitioners. As a geographer she has managed to convey how space matters for understanding and handling vulnerability and resilience. Consequently, she has also managed to demonstrate how unevenly the effects of disasters hit communities, thus pointing to the critical importance of taking seriously that hazards and vulnerability also are questions of justice, equity and distribution.