UPR Tower

The UPR's main tower in Rio Piedras; the university will lead the effort to deal with the backlog at the Property Registry. >Carlos Rivera Giusti

The University of Puerto Rico and the University at Albany, in partnership with the State University of New York (SUNY), the City University of New York (CUNY), and the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), are convening a national conference/workshop entitled, RISE 2019: Transforming University Engagement in Pre- and Post-Disaster Environments: Lessons from Puerto Rico, to be held at the University at Albany on Nov. 18-20 in Albany, NY.

RISE stands for Resilience In Sustainable Reconstruction. The conference is designed to explore ways that higher education institutions can strengthen disaster preparedness, response, and recovery efforts in an era of increasingly extreme weather caused by climate change.

The concept for RISE was born from the experiences of University of Puerto Rico faculty after the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Maria, when dozens of universities traveled to Puerto Rico to provide quick response research, service-learning, student exchange and humanitarian relief. The storm killed nearly 3,000 people and caused $90 billion in damage. UAlbany and UPR, and their partners, are now stepping up to bring this conversation to the national level.

University of Puerto Rico President and RISE Honorary Co-Chair Jorge Haddock Acevedo said: "The University of Puerto Rico is very pleased to be partnering with UAlbany, SUNY, CUNY and the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) in hosting the RISE 2019 national conference with its focus on higher education and resilience. While numerous lessons were learned from the devastation afflicted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria on Puerto Rico, much work needs to be done to build more sustainable and resilient communities. To this end, our universities and colleges are extraordinarily well positioned to leverage our research and discovery, teaching and workforce development, and community and public engagement missions to make a lasting impact in the fight against climate change – one that will go far to protect and safeguard Puerto Rico, as well as our global society in the years to come.”

“Increasingly frequent extreme weather associated with global climate change is arguably the most serious challenge facing society today. As leaders in higher education, we must think more holistically about our role in the future of disaster preparation, response and recovery,” said UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez. “As the host of RISE 2019, UAlbany is proud to set the scenario for a national conversation that looks to transform university-community engagement in pre- and post-disaster environments, and strengthen resiliency.”

“In the aftermath of the hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico, it became obvious that there was a need for the coordination of efforts among the institutions of higher education that were converging on the ground. We realized that universities were acting as first responders without being organized for that role,” said Cecilio Ortiz Garcia and Marla Lugo Perez, co-founders of the University of Puerto Rico’s National Institute for Energy and Island Sustainability (INESI), program co-chairs of RISE 2019, and NCSE senior fellows. “For that reason, INESI collaborated with Arizona State University and the University of Minnesota in hosting a three day workshop in Puerto Rico during the summer after

Hurricane Maria. Almost one hundred researchers, community leaders and emergency managers came together to reflect on their experiences and agreed that this conversation was essential for our survival in the climate change era.”

“RISE 2019 has two main purposes. The first one is bringing together leaders from across the country spanning higher education, government, community groups, and private and non-profit organizations and others to redefine the role that universities and colleges should play in strengthening community resiliency, planning, preparedness, response and recovery efforts around extreme weather and climate-related disasters,” said Michelle Wyman, Executive Director of the NCSE. “The second is creating a national interdisciplinary and multisectorial convergence platform that can promote and sustain the dialogue, research and insertion of transdisciplinary knowledge in policy processes.”

In addition to UPR and UAlbany, RISE 2019 will be co-convened by SUNY, CUNY, and NCSE, and will bring together over 90 institutions of higher education. It will feature panel discussions, roundtables, workshops and keynote addresses led by university and college presidents, scholars, community leaders and governmental officials.

“SUNY is proud to have played a pivotal role in Puerto Rico’s ongoing recovery efforts after the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” said SUNY Chancellor and RISE Honorary Co-Chair Kristina M. Johnson. “As we continue to confront the atmospheric effects of climate change, it is absolutely critical that we shore up our wisdom and collective resources to find ways to effectively manage these natural disasters. We look forward to sharing the lessons learned from our experiences in Puerto Rico with a national audience.”

“I am particularly proud of the work CUNY has done with Gov. Cuomo to help the people of Puerto Rico rebuild,” said CUNY Chancellor and RISE Honorary Co-Chair Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “When it comes to responding to the devastation of Hurricane Maria and other natural disasters, it is essential for anchor institutions such as CUNY to be ready to collaborate with stakeholders, build partnerships and marshal resources. We are honored to participate in RISE 2019 and look forward to exploring the ways in which universities can come together to help communities strengthen their resiliency and manage their responses to climate-related disasters. The mission to help others takes many forms and we believe this is part of our mission.”

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