By Daniel Guerra, Class of 2027

The first two weeks of my research process were riddled with questions, confusion, and rejection. But one striking, constant feeling was my motivation. Before attending the wonderful tour at the Museum of South Texas History, I understood the goal of our team’s research was to collect qualitative data — in our case interviews — about disaster resilience and preparedness in South Texas. However, it wasn’t until this museum tour that the significance and importance of these interviews were highlighted to me. These are not simply interviews. These are stories to be shared

After some initial turbulence, I decided to begin my research process by brainstorming on the kinds of individuals I wanted to interview. I reached out to two local businesses, two individuals within the community, one member of the local Chamber of Commerce, one librarian, and two agricultural extension agents. Three out of the eight individuals happily agreed to an interview with me. But this led me to wonder about the array of reasons behind rejection from the others. I felt a keen interest towards the local businesses because this research is specifically about them. Both local businesses gave me a similar reason: they could not spare the time due to low staff. Although the sample size was small, I took to heart that both businesses were struggling too much to be able to participate in a project that intended to help them. It was sad.

After completing my first two interviews, the research started to become surprisingly exciting. Proofreading the interview transcripts gave me new insights I had not observed during the actual interviews. For example, COVID-19 was the disaster that shook both their worlds, greatly affecting their daily lives. The first participant thought the pandemic had reinvented K-12 institutional teaching methods. They found the transition difficult to adapt to, especially as a soon-to-retire elementary school teacher. Learning to manage technology to run an online classroom was hard for them, but they continued teaching right up until their retirement this year. On the other hand, the second participant found this transition to remote work to benefit their lifestyle. They moved back home with their parents and continued working on contract-remote work. They found this change to be smooth and almost perfectly timed. During a period of financial crisis, they were able to return home and have less financial stress.

These examples highlighted a couple of issues in relation to disaster preparedness: limited access to and understanding of technology. If individuals do not have access to or knowledge of technology, their ability to respond to a disaster is greatly reduced. I also noticed how an older demographic may have more challenges with technology, but they also seem resilient and willing to try their hardest to make things work. Making these initial connections in a small bit of data is a fun learning experience for me. The research cycle was enjoyable: to prepare and learn about the person, to collect data about the person, to analyze that data for conclusions, and for it to further raise more questions and connections.

To learn more about this project and see more student and researcher’s blog posts, click here.