Doctoral Candidate Receives FEMA Advanced Poster Award

Sara Belligoni at the Emergency Management Training Center in Emmitsburg, Maryland, on 9 June 2022

Sara Belligoni poses in front of the FEMA National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg, Maryland.



Emmitsburg, Maryland, 9 June 2022

School of Politics Security and International Affairs doctoral candidate Sara Belligoni received the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Advanced Poster Award while participating in the 24th FEMA Higher Education Symposium in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

At the Symposium, held at the National Emergency Training Center, Belligoni presented her research examining how institutions governing the relationship between the U.S. Federal government with the U.S. States and U.S. Territories affect post-disaster recovery. By analyzing the cases of Hurricane Michael in the Florida panhandle and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, she utilized quantitative and spatial methodologies to show the effects of the slow disbursement of federal assistance in Territories on their recovery capabilities. Her findings show that the disbursement timing may be slower in Territories because of their lack of representation and voting rights in the U.S. Congress which is responsible for disbursing post-disaster assistance.

“During the Symposium, I had the opportunity to discuss the policy implications of my study with representatives of FEMA,” says Belligoni “This represented a pinnacle moment in my career because I felt that the three years spent on that research could finally reach and inform policymakers.”

Sara Belligoni at the Emergency Management Training Center in Emmitsburg, Maryland, presenting her poster on 7 June 2022

Sara Belligoni at the Emergency Management Training Center in Emmitsburg, Maryland, presenting her poster on June 7, 2022.

Commenting on the award, Belligoni says, “I joined the emergency management field since I started working on my undergraduate thesis. Back then, while studying at a public university in Italy, my home country, I would’ve never imagined that ten years later I would be receiving an award from FEMA in recognition of my work.”

The doctoral candidate explains the Symposium represented a unique opportunity for academics and practitioners to come together and learn from each other experiences. “I knew I was passionate about this field since day one, but the more I get to engage with the emergency management community, the more I realize how many things we share, including a blend of planning and improvisation skills, and a genuine dedication to helping communities during their most difficult times.”

In addition to presenting her research, Sara Belligoni participated in a four-day training that allowed her to learn from well-known scholars and emergency managers. The doctoral candidate comments on how she enjoyed having the opportunity to talk with senior scholars in public administration and how they took the opportunity to mentor junior ones like her. She says, “I felt included, empowered, appreciated and inspired by so many trailblazers, including several women like me, who are making a difference in the field of emergency management,” and she adds, “I want to thank Dr. Claire Connolly Knox for her mentorship before and during the Symposium. I am glad that through her, I had the opportunity to meet another fellow doctoral student, Ratna Okhai, who is conducting outstanding research on local government and inter-governmental relations in emergency management.”

Sara Belligoni looks forward to continuing her research, combining research and practice, and joining the emergency management community again next year for the 25th FEMA Higher Education Symposium.

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