SUNY and CUNY Chancellors Convene National Conference at UAlbany to Explore Disaster Preparedness, Recovery, and Response In Face of Climate Change

October 17, 2019

Lessons from Recovery Efforts in Puerto Rico to be Shared at Event

Educators, Scholars, Community Leaders and Governmental Officials from Across the U.S. to Discuss Future Strategies as Part of Three-Day Event in November

Albany — State University of New York Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson and City University of New York Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez today announced the convening of a national conference at the University at Albany, designed to explore ways that higher education institutions can strengthen disaster preparedness, response, and recovery efforts in an era of increasingly extreme weather caused by climate change. "RISE 2019: Transforming University Engagement in Pre- and Post-Disaster Environments: Lessons from Puerto Rico" will be held November 18-20 on UAlbany’s Uptown Campus.

"SUNY is proud to have played a pivotal role in Puerto Rico’s ongoing recovery efforts after the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria," said SUNY Chancellor Johnson, RISE Honorary Co-Chair. "As we continue to confront the atmospheric effects of climate change, it is absolutely critical that we shore up our wisdom and collective resources to find ways to effectively manage these natural disasters. We look forward to sharing the lessons learned from our experiences in Puerto Rico with a national audience."

"I am particularly proud of the work CUNY has done with Gov. Cuomo to help the people of Puerto Rico rebuild," said CUNY Chancellor Matos Rodríguez, RISE Honorary Co-Chair. "When it comes to responding to the devastation of Hurricane Maria and other natural disasters, it is essential for anchor institutions such as CUNY to be ready to collaborate with stakeholders, build partnerships and marshal resources. We are honored to participate in RISE 2019, and look forward to exploring the ways in which universities can come together to help communities strengthen their resiliency and manage their responses to climate-related disasters. The mission to help others takes many forms and we believe this is part of our mission."

UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez said: "Increasingly frequent extreme weather associated with global climate change is arguably the most serious challenge facing society today. As leaders in higher education, we must think more holistically about our role in the future of disaster preparation, response and recovery. As the host of RISE 2019, UAlbany is proud to set the scenario for a national conversation that looks to transform university-community engagement in pre- and post-disaster environments, and strengthen resiliency."

Michelle Wyman, Executive Director of the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) said: "RISE 2019 has two main purposes. The first one is bringing together leaders from across the country spanning higher education, government, community groups, and private and non-profit organizations and others to redefine the role that universities and colleges should play in strengthening community resiliency, planning, preparedness, response and recovery efforts around extreme weather and climate-related disasters. The second is creating a national interdisciplinary and multisectorial convergence platform that can promote and sustain the dialogue, research and insertion of transdisciplinary knowledge in policy processes." 

Cecilio Ortiz Garcia and Marla Lugo Perez, co-founders of the University of Puerto Rico’s National Institute for Energy and Island Sustainability (INESI), program co-chairs of RISE 2019, and NCSE senior fellows said: "In the aftermath of the hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico, it became obvious that there was a need for the coordination of efforts among the institutions of higher education that were converging on the ground. We realized that universities were acting as first responders without being organized for that role. For that reason, INESI collaborated with Arizona State University and the University of Minnesota in hosting a three day workshop in Puerto Rico during the summer after Hurricane Maria. Almost one hundred researchers, community leaders and emergency managers came together to reflect on their experiences and agreed that this conversation was essential for our survival in the climate change era."

University of Puerto Rico President and RISE 2019 Honorary Co-Chair Jorge Haddock Acevedo said: "The University of Puerto Rico is very pleased to be partnering with UAlbany, SUNY, CUNY and the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) in hosting the RISE 2019 national conference with its focus on higher education and resilience. While numerous lessons were learned from the devastation afflicted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria on Puerto Rico, much work needs to be done to build more sustainable and resilient communities. To this end, our universities and colleges are extraordinarily well positioned to leverage our research and discovery, teaching and workforce development, and community and public engagement missions to make a lasting impact in the fight against climate change – one that will go far to protect and safeguard Puerto Rico, as well as our global society in the years to come.”

The concept for RISE 2019 grew out of the experiences of universities and colleges nationwide – including SUNY and CUNY institutions – after Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico in 2017. The storm killed nearly 3,000 people and caused $90 billion in damage. Under the leadership and guidance of Governor Cuomo’s New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative, more than 1,000 volunteers from SUNY and CUNY were deployed to the island to provide humanitarian relief.

RISE 2019 will be co-convened by SUNY, CUNY, UAlbany, INESI and NCSE, and will bring together over 90 institutions of higher education. It will feature panel discussions, roundtables, workshops and keynote addresses led by university and college presidents, scholars, community leaders, and government officials.

The institutions participating at the conference can be found here.

For more information, visit:

About the City University of New York

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in 1847, CUNY counts 13 Nobel Prize and 26 MacArthur ("Genius") grant winners among its alumni. CUNY students, alumni and faculty have garnered scores of other prestigious honors over the years in recognition of historic contributions to the advancement of the sciences, business, the arts and myriad other fields. The University comprises 25 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, CUNY Graduate Center, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, CUNY School of Law, CUNY School of Professional Studies and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. The University serves more than 275,000 degree-seeking students. CUNY offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies.

About the University at Albany

A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers. 

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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