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As a part of this Experiential Education class, students were asked to collect qualitative interviews from residents living in Columbus, Edgecombe, Robeson, and Wayne Counties to investigate the extent community members remained resilient and recovered from hurricanes.

One student’s experience:

Local Resilience in the Age of Increasing Storm Disasters

By Gregory Sabin

In 2016, Hurricane Matthew pummeled the small Eastern North Carolina town of Goldsboro. The storm brought days of cataclysmic flooding, widespread school closures, and the destruction of homes and businesses. Just two years later, Hurricane Florence similarly wreaked havoc on the already storm-ravaged town. As climate change continues to generate an influx of increasingly violent storms across Eastern North Carolina, it is imperative that researchers and government actors understand the driving forces behind rebuilding and resilience.

Having grown up about an hour east of Goldsboro in the coastal town of Havelock, I possess first-hand experience with the devastation hurricanes can inflict upon a town. This semester, as a student researcher in PLCY 395: Applied Qualitative Research, I had the opportunity to work at the nexus of my lived and academic experience, bringing new knowledge to my eastern NC community.  The course empowered my peers and myself to assist Professor Cassandra R. Davis with her research on disaster recovery, with a specific focus on efforts in Wayne County and Goldsboro.

In the past months, my two classmates and I made two trips to Wayne County, where we conducted half-hour interviews with nine different community leaders.  Through these conversations, we uncovered several useful themes related to resiliency; for example, we found that because the federal government’s response is often slower than expected in the wake of a hurricane, the onus typically falls on the community to direct recovery efforts. Local nonprofits lead the charge to rebuild homes, house families, and feed those in need, while churches act as a social safety net to provide a welcome sense of sanctuary and hope to the community.

We recently presented our findings at the Fall 2018 Experiential Education Showcase. As we proceed with our study and analyze hours of interviews and research, we hope that our work can inform the government about the importance of timely fund disbursement and local organizational partnerships. Further, our work seeks to outline the overall importance of philanthropic giving to local nonprofits in the aftermath of a storm.

Thank you to both our Goldsboro community participants and the Carolina Center for Public Service for your support in making this study possible.

Gregory Sabin is a senior and double major in Public Policy and Political Science with a minor in Music

Students presented posters at UNC Public Policy’s Educational Experiential Showcase in December.  Below are links to each poster.  If you have additional questions about the research findings or about the overall class, please contact Cassandra R. Davis at

Columbus County

Edgecombe County

Wayne County

Robeson County

Cassandra R. Davis received support for this course through the Carolina Center for Public Service at UNC-Chapel Hill.