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Vassar professors will present a panel discussion, "Understanding Haiti," January 26, 2010.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY--In the wake of the major earthquake in Haiti last Tuesday and the severe aftershock this Wednesday, Vassar professors Brian McAdoo and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert are working with the local area Haitian and Jamaican communities to present a panel discussion, "Understanding Haiti," about the disaster. McAdoo, a geologist who studies earthquakes and tsunamis, noted that he would particularly like to focus on "Why a Magnitude 7 earthquake would kill over 200,000 people in Haiti, while, in 1989, an earthquake of the same magnitude hit a similar-sized urban population in San Francisco and killed 'only' 63 people."

Following the presentation by Professors Paravisini-Gebert and McAdoo,the program will include a discussion by a representative from the Haitian community, IBM employee Marc Coq, as well as Vassar students Nicole Krenitsky '11 and Jared Augenstein '10, who were both in Haiti during the earthquake with the student organization ProHealth. Free and open to the public, the program on Tuesday, January 26, will begin at 6:00pm in the Villard Room, Main Building

The discussion will provide context and background information, according to Paravisini-Gebert, an internationally known Haitian expert. She noted that she and McAdoo will discuss, "Why this earthquake? What were the conditions in Haiti that caused this unprecedented destruction."

"I especially would like members of the Jamaican community present, as they may not be aware that Kingston (Jamaica) sits on the same fault that destroyed Port-au-Prince. During the quake in Haiti, reports indicate that residents of Jamaica felt the shaking too. I feel that they need to be aware of the hazard that underlies their capital." Referencing a huge earthquake that occurred there in 1692, McAdoo noted that if "that same magnitude quake were to occur today, the damage in Jamaica would be much greater due to the increased population and infrastructure, particularly in Kingston."

McAdoo went on to comment that, "In our research, Professor Paravisini-Gebert and I have been working on how these post-colonial Caribbean states evolve environmentally and socio-economically, making them more vulnerable to all sorts of natural hazards. Understanding these vulnerabilities is the first step in rectifying the problems that put communities at risk. It also helps in the healing process."

Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, Professor of Hispanic Studies on the Randolph Distinguished Professor Chair and Director of the Environmental Studies Programat Vassar, is an internationally known and respected Caribbean scholar. Her work is in the fields of literature and cultural studies, specializing in the comparative study of the Caribbean. Growing up in her native Puerto Rico, Paravisini-Gebert became fascinated by the many cultural connections between Caribbean peoples despite their different histories and languages and has made that the subject of her research and teaching. She is the author of a number of books, among them Phyllis Shand Allfrey: A Caribbean Life; (1996), Jamaica Kincaid: A Critical Companion; (1999), Creole Religions of the Caribbean; (2003, with Margarite Fernández Olmos), and Literatures of the Caribbean;(2008). She is at work on Glimpses of Hell, a study of the aftermath of the 1902 eruption of the Mont Pelée volcano of Martinique; José Martí: A Life, a biography of the Cuban patriot; and Endangered Species: The Environment and the Discourse of the Caribbean Nation.Her blog is at http://www.repeatingislands.com

Brian McAdoo, Program Chair of the Department of Earth Science and Geography and Associate Professor of Earth Science at Vassar, was among the first geologists on-site to survey the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and four tsunamis since then. Soon after Hurricane Katrina struck, McAdoo brought his unique perspective to the U.S. Gulf Coast, where he and colleagues assessed the storm's geologicaltoll. Since Katrina, he has led surveys following tsunamis in Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, and Samoa.  His current research involves studying the complex interactions between geology and communities that make disasters. At Vassar he teaches Oceanography, Global Geophysics and Tectonics, Carbon Conflicts, Oil, the Environmental Science Field Course, and Digital Underground, where his class investigates the African-American history of the Mid-Hudson Valley through its graveyards. His blog located at http://www.tsunamiproject.org.

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Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Thursday, January 21, 2010