Decades of research have shown that when natural disasters, humanitarian crises, and infectious disease outbreaks occur, ordinary people will step forward to help with the response. Groups and organizations located far from the immediate vicinity of a crisis can play a critically important role in reducing suffering during and after a crisis, including by providing resources and information that are unavailable locally. In this project, the student will help collect and/or analyze qualitative data on one of two recent cases in which distanced actors mobilized to respond to crises: 1) the massive volunteer effort to help Afghans escape as their country fell to Taliban rule in August 2021; and 2) mobilization by members of Sierra Leone’s global diaspora community to respond to the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The student may help collect data from online sources about these mobilization efforts, such as statements from elected officials, documents from government agencies, first-hand accounts by volunteers, and media accounts about the crisis and response. S/he will be trained in the use of qualitative coding software (NVivo) and will help import and code qualitative data from online sources and/or interviews. This project aims to contribute to several streams of organizational scholarship, including literature on organizational resilience (van der Vegt, Essens, Wahlstrom, & George, 2015; Williams, Gruber, Sutcliffe, Shepherd, & Zhao, 2017), emergent organizing in times of crisis (Beck & Plowman, 2014; Majchrzak, Jarvenpaa, & Hollingshead, 2007) and distributed collaboration by geographically dispersed groups (Brinkerhoff, 2009; Neeley, 2021).
I would not be an academic if not for the support of many mentors along the way, and I am committed to paying that forward. I never met anyone who was a professor until I started university, and I know how important it is to demystify this career and open doors for talented young people from groups that are under-represented in academia—especially students who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour. I enjoyed serving as an SROP mentor in 2021, and previously advised undergraduate thesis writers, participants in another program similar to SROP, and young researchers in Sierra Leone. When mentoring students, I meet regularly with the them (virtually now) to provide guidance and feedback. I try to speak openly about the challenges and benefits of graduate school and an academic career, to help students discover whether this is the right path for them—and to help them succeed.