Dean's Distinguished Lecture Series

“The 2010 Haiti Earthquake: A Story of History, Race, Inequities, and Natural Hazards”

A person wearing a protection hat and formal clothes under a construction.
Reginald DesRoches, Ph.D.
Provost, Rice University
Wednesday, May 12, 6 p.m. PDT

The 2010 Haiti earthquake was one of the most devastating natural disasters in modern times, resulting in an estimated 230,000 fatalities, 300,000 injuries, and 1 million people left homeless.

"The seeds for the disaster were planted over two centuries earlier, when slaves in Haiti rebelled against French colonial rule, in the only uprising ever to lead to the founding of a state that was both free from slavery and ruled by nonwhites, including former captives," said Reginald DesRoches. "The subsequent 200 years of poverty, national debt, and prejudicial trade policies experienced by the Haitian people have led to vulnerable infrastructure, environmental degradation, and weak governments. All of these challenges culminated in the unprecedented disaster in which nearly one in 10 people in the city of Port-au-Prince lost their lives."

Reginald DesRoches, who was born in Port-au-Prince, served as the key technical leader in the U.S. response to the earthquake, leading a team of 28 engineers, architects, city planners, and social scientists to analyze its aftermath. He will discuss how the earthquake shows that history is not confined to the past, but continues to frame the lives of Haitians today.

Reginald DesRoches Biography

Reginald DesRoches is Rice University’s provost and serves as a professor of civil and environmental engineering, and of mechanical engineering. As the university’s chief academic officer, DesRoches works closely with the president to advance the university’s teaching, research, and service missions. The provost leads academic programs and initiatives across the university’s eight schools, which serve 7,500 students, and numerous centers and institutes.

DesRoches previously served as the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering at the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice University, where he provided leadership to a top-ranked engineering school with nine departments, 140 faculty, and 2,500 students. His research is highly interdisciplinary and spans micro- to macro-scales. He has published over 300 articles and served as doctoral thesis advisor to over 30 students. A fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the society’s Structural Engineering Institute, DesRoches serves as chair of the National Construction Safety Team Advisory Committee, chairs the advisory board for the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure Simulation Center, and is a member of the California Department of Transportation Seismic Advisory Board.

Past Dean’s Distinguished Lectures

Dean's Distinguished Lecture: "Innovating our Energy Future"
José N. Reyes, Ph.D.
NuScale Power Co-founder

Meeting global energy needs in a carbon-constrained world is driving energy innovation. An abundance of clean and resilient energy is needed to lift nearly 6 billion people out of energy poverty. 

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