Featured Alum: Dan Berkman and Disaster Relief

Featured Alum: Dan Berkman and Disaster Relief

Hey Everyone! Hope your Thanksgivings (for U.S. students) were most excellent—filled with good food and good company!

I’m back with the latest from FES, continuing with more Featured Alumni. This time, I’ve got Dan Berkman, MEM ’12, taking some time to talk about his experience at FES, and the work he is now doing on disaster preparedness in Washington, DC (a very, very popular destination for FES alumni).

Dan Berkman was one of my good friends at FES, and he very quickly acquired the name Disaster Dan around campus. Contrary to what you might think, Disaster Dan was so named because of his ability to FIX disasters, not to cause them (usually). While he was at FES, he exemplified the kind of entrepreneurial attitude that does so well at the school, and took control of RRAD (Risk Reduction Adaptation and Disaster), the student interest group devoted to discussing risk and disaster management. Though he is too modest to talk about it a lot, he also was central to help try and develop develop a disaster mitigation center at Yale, similar to the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy (YCELP) and the Center for Business and Environment at Yale (CBEY). The center is still being developed, but would not be going forward without Dan’s work.

I sat down with Dan to chat about his experience at FES, and what he’s doing now.

Emily: So Dan, how did you get interested in doing disaster stuff in the first place?

Dan: My interest in disaster management began when I volunteered in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It was there that I saw the importance of being prepared for potential emergencies, especially those related to climate change. At the time, I was a junior at Middlebury College, earning a joint degree in geology and geography. My undergraduate studies allowed me to gain perspective on why natural events occur and how response efforts are planned and executed, particularly for populations and places most vulnerable to disasters. For 3 years after college, I taught ninth-grade Earth Science at a private school in Washington, DC. It was very hard leaving education as I enjoyed teaching, but I always knew I wanted to go back to grad school for disaster management.

Emily: And how did you decide that Yale was the place to do that?

Dan: I admit Yale was not at the top of my list….until after I visited. The other programs I applied to were Michigan, Duke and UCSB. While each seemed like I could see myself at those schools, I really got a gut feeling about FES after my visit. The professors I met were very engaging and I felt I could relate well to the other admitted students. It was also important for me to be geographically close to my family and friends. While looking at graduate programs, I was more interesting in a well-rounded program than one focused specifically in disaster management.

Emily: So you were able to learn what you wanted, even without courses designed specifically for your area of interest?

Dan: Definitely. While at FES, I pursued an interdisciplinary curriculum, taking classes in the School of Management and the School of Public Health to go along with my FES classes. For my summer internship and graduate thesis I combined my interests in education, science, and policy into research on wildland fire management for the National Park Service and Rocky Mountain Research Station out of Missoula, MT. My research focused on identifying the best educational techniques for communicating wildland fire risks to different populations.

Emily: So, what have you been doing since you graduated?

Dan: After graduating with my MEM (master of environmental management), I moved back to Washington DC. My Yale degree and networking skills helped me land a consulting job with Readiness Consulting Services. Some projects I am working on include developing a Hazard and Vulnerability Assessment for Washington DC, educating first responders about helping functional needs populations during an emergency in Western Massachusetts and some Hurricane Sandy recovery work in NY/NJ. Overall, I do a far amount of research and data crunching but it is nice to get out in the field too and interact with the communities in need.

Emily: Anything else to add for our blog readers out there?

Dan: Some of best friends from FES ended up in DC and overall, my FES friendships will last a lifetime. Please feel free to contact me at berkman.daniel@gmail.com if you have any more questions about my experience at FES.


There you have it, ladies and gentlemen! Another awesome alum doing awesome work after their tenure at FES.

Certainly, if you have any questions about admissions, student life, financial aid, or any of the things you have read on this blog, feel free email me! I’m always happy to chat!

Until Next Time,

Emily (emily.schosid@yale.edu)