Project offered tremendous hands-on learning opportunities for students

Continuous downpours in August 2021 created catastrophic flooding.  

The wildfires that raged in November 2016 scorched more than 90,000 acres.  

And the tornadoes that roared through in 2011 left several dead. 

Natural disasters occur on occasion in the Volunteer State, and having thorough plans in place to help minimize the destruction is critical.  

East Tennessee State University is playing an important role on this front.  

Earlier this month, the state of Tennessee announced that the 2023 Tennessee State Hazard Mitigation Plan had earned formal approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

“This report provides the most current understanding of risk and vulnerability for 15 of the highest impact hazards across the state,” said ETSU’s Dr. Andrew Joyner. “That ETSU got to play a crucial part in this process is so impressive.”  

A member of the Department of Geosciences, Joyner is the state’s official climatologist. Because the university houses the state’s climate office, ETSU is playing an outsized role in climate research

On this project, seven faculty and staff members, four graduate students and one undergraduate all contributed. Those are: 

Wil Tollefson, assistant state climatologist  

Dr. Joseph Harris, director of Emergency and Disaster Planning in the Geoinformatics and Disaster Science Lab at ETSU 

Ingrid Luffman, associate professor  

Emmanuel Afriyie, graduate student 

Fatimah Olawuyi, former graduate student 

Dr. Arpita Nandi, department chair 

Josh Smith, undergraduate student 

Matthew Beer, chief public health officer for climate office and graduate student 

Dr. Megan Quinn, associate professor 

Tristan Holmes, chief mesonet officer for climate office and graduate student 

Dr. Eileen Ernenwein, assistant professor  

From developing and finalizing maps to analyzing climate trends, each contributed significantly to the project.  

“Not only did this project generate hands-on learning opportunities for students, but it demonstrates the real-world impact our university is having on the region and beyond,” said Joyner, who supervised the efforts. 


East Tennessee State University was founded in 1911 with a singular mission: to improve the quality of life for people in the region and beyond. Through its world-class health sciences programs and interprofessional approach to health care education, ETSU is a highly respected leader in rural health research and practices. The university also boasts nationally ranked programs in the arts, technology, computing, and media studies. ETSU serves approximately 14,000 students each year and is ranked among the top 10 percent of colleges in the nation for students graduating with the least amount of debt.




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