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Green River takes initial strides in campus resilience during weeklong visit


The above Green River employees participated in workshops and interviews during the weeklong visit.

Representatives from the Community and Regional Resilience Institute (CARRI) and the Meridian Institute spent the week of Aug. 19-23 visiting Green River's campus and gathering crucial information to develop a prototype design that will ultimately be implemented to improve the resilience of all U.S. colleges and universities.

The Department of Homeland Security has selected the CARRI and its home organization, Meridian Institute to design, facilitate and document its Campus Resilience Enhancement Pilot Program.

The Aug. 20 kick-off meeting and federal panel was one major event during the weeklong visit. A panel of regional representatives from federal agencies, including FEMA, DHS Infrastructure Protection, DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Secret Service discussed how their agencies can assist in greater resilience for campus. Valley Regional Fire Authority and the Auburn Police Department also participated in the meeting.

During the visit, the CaRES team conducted over 80 interviews with Green River participants representing areas in academics, student life, safety and security, administration, athletics, student government, international programs, and communications.

"We were the only community college out of the seven colleges selected, and that was significant for them because they didn't know as much about our operations and resources," explained Creek. "They were impressed with the things we've had to do without major resources."

CARRI Executive Director Warren C. Edwards wrote a thank-you letter to President Ely after the visit. He specifically noted "GRCC's exemplary representation of the community college mission and experience, its innovative program for international students and leadership in embedding resilience practices into community college campus life."

After this, the Meridian Institute will compile the data and information collected at each of the seven colleges. In November, they will send out a big program, incorporating the findings from all the campus visits, and begin collecting feedback on the program from the colleges.

"When a crisis happens, people know that everything is back to normal when school is back in session," said Creek. "We have a bigger impact than we think. We need to build on that and make it stronger."

One CaRES representative, Robin White, returned to campus for a resilience presentation and to facilitate a faculty and staff workshop. The presentation was held in the Performing Arts center Sept. 19, during opening week. In her talk, White defined resilience for the campus community. "Along with traditional emergency management, resilience is managing change and disruptions; it's about protecting and recovering the essential campus experience." Much of resilience, White explained, is preparation before the crisis happens: identifying essential needs and resources, and premeditating ways to recover the ability to bring every critical function back to campus.

In April, Green River was one of seven U.S. colleges selected by DHS for the national Campus Resilience Pilot program. Green River was the only community college in the group.