Intersectionality presents a nuanced way to view vulnerability to advance social equity and resilience. The intersectionality construct has been used for many years in a variety of disciplines to examine the intersection between well-established social categories (i.e., race, sex, ethnicity, gender, disability, class) and how discrimination in each of these categories creates layers of inequality, inequity, and marginalization in established systems and structures. While social vulnerability has long been a central focus of emergency management practice, those efforts have rarely taken an intersectional focus. More recent literature by hazard and disaster researchers on intersectionality (i.e., circa 2017 to date) suggests using the concept in emergency management practice to reduce vulnerability, marginalization, and inequities. This article addresses the importance of intersectionality in effective emergency management practice and shares an approach used to teach intersectionality to students at the undergraduate level. The approach utilizes extensive student engagement and discussion to bring the importance of the concept to the forefront of students’ minds. The author’s overarching goal in teaching and sharing the concept here is to change fundamentally how next-generation emergency management professionals view vulnerability. 


Carol L. Cwiak

Carol L. Cwiak, J.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Management and Disaster Science at North Dakota State University (NDSU). She teaches preparedness, career and professional development, mitigation, business continuity, and crisis management and coordinates internships. Carol has been active in her engagement at NDSU and the emergency management community, including leadership and service on numerous emergency management boards, committees, projects, initiatives, focus groups, the National Emergency Management Executive Academy, and NDSU’s Veteran Alliance Organization. Most recently, she focused on developing the Code of Ethics and Professional Standards of Conduct for EM Professionals and the role of EM in addressing the root causes of vulnerability created and exacerbated in complex systems.

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No. 7 Teaching Intersectionality: Conceptualizing Layered Vulnerability to Advance Social Equity and Resilience