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Institute for Disaster Mental Health

Institute for Disaster Mental Health
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Undergraduate Minor

The Disaster Studies minor introduces students to both practice and research in disaster studies with a focus on the emerging field of disaster mental health. Our students study the impact of disaster on individuals and communities and are trained to respond to local and global disasters. The interdisciplinary minor in Disaster Studies is housed within the Psychology Department and overseen by IDMH faculty.

The Disaster Studies minor requires 18 credits including two core courses, Disaster Psychology and Disaster Practicum. Additionally, three electives can be selected from a variety of fields including psychology, political science and government, management, and natural sciences. Students are encouraged to take at least one course that focuses on developing multicultural competence. During the required Disaster Practicum course, students spend one day a week performing fieldwork at their internship site.

Placements for Disaster Practicum interns are offered at:

  • The American Red Cross of Orange County
  • The American Red Cross of the Mid-Hudson Valley
  • Orange County Office of Emergency Management 
  • Ulster County Office of Emergency Management 

In some instances, a student may prefer to intern at an alternative organization. For example, students enrolled in Disaster Practicum during the summer semester may benefit from interning at a site that is closer to home. If you have a suggestion for an alternative site you would like to intern at, please contact Graduate Assistant Cynthia Stewart, cstewart@hawkmail.newpaltz.edu for advising.

In the event of local disasters, practicum students participate in emergency response. For instance, practicum students assist opening and operating Red Cross emergency shelters, as needed. Students enrolled in the minor are encouraged to volunteer for other activities such as IDMH's annual spring conference.

Disaster Studies graduates have gone on to work with the American Red Cross, AmeriCorps, the mental health field and have pursued graduate degrees in emergency management and disaster mental health related programs.

To declare a minor in Disaster Studies, visit the IDMH office in JFT 214 or contact Cynthia Stewart, cstewart@hawkmail.newpaltz.edu , for undergraduate advising. There are no prerequisites to sign up for a minor in Disaster Studies. 

Our Disaster Studies minor was featured in the New York Times in June, 2011: Colleges Now Offering Education in Disaster

To learn more about the courses required for the Disaster Studies minor, please see our plan of study.

The Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) supports a SUNY New Paltz interdisciplinary undergraduate minor in disaster studies. The minor focuses on events of natural, technological and human-induced origin and on how these affect individuals, communities, organizations, and the nation. It is designed to recognize the multi-disciplinary nature of both research and practice in disaster studies. Courses highlight scholarship and practice related to disaster and trauma mitigation and prevention, response, support, recovery, treatment, and policy formulation and planning, as well as the implications of these events at the individual, group, organizational and community level. Those completing the minor will become certified responders for the American Red Cross.


Interdisciplinary Minor in Disaster Studies (18 credits)

  I. Required core courses.........................................6 credits
      PSY456 Disaster Psychology (3)
      PSY497 Practicum in Psychology: Disaster Studies (3)
      Practicum will emphasize preparation, crisis intervention, and response to potential
      emergencies and disasters. Students will spend eight (8) hours per week in the field
      at a designated site. Under advisement, students will have the opportunity to give
      service to the American Red Cross or to the county or New York State Emergency
      Management offices. All students will meet as a group with the practicum coordinator
      for discussion and group supervision. During practicum it is expected that students
      will make themselves available for emergency response in the event of a local disaster.

 II. Additional core courses.......................................9 credits
      Students are encouraged to complete at least one core course that focuses on developing 
      multicultural competence.

      Choose at least three (3) courses from Category II:
          ANT214 Cultural Anthropology (3)
          ANT250 Ecological Anthropology (3)
          BLK100 Introduction to Black Studies (3)
          BLK271 Black Sociology (3)
          BLK285 Introduction to African Psychology (3)
          GEO274 Environment and Culture (3)   
          GEO285 Geography of Hazards (3)

      The following Category II courses have prerequisites or restrictions:
          ANT403 Religion and Culture (3)
          ANT481 Transcultural Health (3)
          CMM359 Communication Among Cultures (3)
          GEO383 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (3)
          POL310 Public Management (3)
          POL318 Local Politics (3)
          POL319 Politics and Media (3)
          PSY330 Crisis Intervention (3)
          PSY403 Health Psychology (3)
          PSY440 Clinical and Counseling Psychology (3)
          PSY497 Practicum in Psychology: Disaster Studies (3) - repeatable course 
          SOC350 Introduction to Human Services (3)
          SOC455 Social Work Intervention (3)

III. Elective courses...............................................3 credits
      Choose at least one (1) course from the Category III list below or one additional course from 
      Category II above.

          BUS215 Business Decision Support Systems (3)
          BUS250 Principles of Management (3)
          CMM202 Interpersonal Communication (3)
          SOC220 Social Inequality in the U.S. (3)

          The following Category III courses have prerequisites or restrictions:
          BLK420 Counseling Underrepresented Students (3)
          CMM358 Conflict Management (3)
          POL348 Terrorism in World Politics (3)
          PSY306 Social Psychology (3)
          SOC323 Death in American Society (3)
          SOC370 Sociology of Families (3)
          SOC431 Mass Media and Culture (3)