Where are they now?

On completing their studies with Resilient Organisation, our PhD students have gone on to use their knowledge and experience in a range of roles, industries and locations. Below we profile some of our graduates.


Dr Amy Lee (nee Stephenson)

When British woman Amy Lee packed up her life to study disaster management in New Zealand she didn’t know what awaited her.  In 2007 the Coventry University graduate heard about the chance to complete a PhD at the University of Canterbury through the Resilient Organisations Research Programme (ResOrgs). At the time Amy, now 28, had recently completed a degree in disaster management and her lecturer suggested she apply. “When she first mentioned it I wasn’t looking to do a PhD and I really had no idea what was involved – I’d never even thought about it before,” said Amy who now runs her own business, Stephenson Resilience. But after researching the work ResOrgs were doing Amy said she was “incredibly impressed’. “The choice became whether I wanted to work with world experts to solve a real problem facing organisations all over the world or whether I wanted to join the job hunt with very little on my CV – it was an easy choice.”

Amy spent the next three years of her PhD at the University of Canterbury developing and testing a tool designed to measure organisations’ resilience. “Basically it was a questionnaire where the questions were designed to tell us whether an organisation had the capability and culture to survive and thrive even when unexpected problems and crises came up.”

Upon returning to the United Kingdom in September 2010 Amy struggled to get work immediately – a situation which, three months later, saw her form Stephenson Resilience. From there the dream continued to grow for Amy when a job with the Financial Services Authority arose. “The job at the Financial Services Authority was an opportunity that I just couldn’t turn away from,” she said.

“It was not only working on the resilience benchmarking project but also working on the market wide exercise, one of the biggest exercises in the financial sector. Of course being involved with ResOrgs gave me the background to get the job in the first place.”

Amy now works full time with the FSA leading the resilience benchmarking as well consulting with organisations through her own company.

Dr. Fred Pedroso

Disasters know no borders and Brazilian civil engineer Fred Pedroso has the passport stamps to prove it.

At only 31 years of age, University of Canterbury PhD graduate Fred works for the World Bank in Brazil. Focussing on the disaster risk management component of the World Bank’s operations, Fred credits the Resilient Organisations’ (ResOrgs) research programme with stretching his expertise further than any border.

Fred arrived in New Zealand in 2006 on invitation as a researcher. Three months later he was awarded a scholarship with ResOrgs, affording him an opportunity to focus his PhD studies on disaster management in the transport sector.

During his three year scholarship Fred worked closely with various local organisations to test a decision support system which would aid transit authorities after disasters, both immediately and longer term.

Fred said his involvement with ResOrgs gave him extensive experience across varying emergency management fields.

“ResOrgs was very practical orientated which helped me a lot to be able to develop skills that my job currently demands.”

After completing his PhD, Fred spent another year at the University of Canterbury as an assistant lecturer before gaining international disaster management experience at both the 2011 Christchurch and Japan earthquakes.

Fred said despite the different widespread reach of those disasters, the impacts were similar.

“While Japan had to deal with more than 500,000 people for shelter and food Christchurch was dealing with much smaller numbers. However both were huge challenges for the communities in different senses.”

Despite having already achieved so much, Fred intends to further his career in disaster risk management.

“I love that it’s a multidisciplinary field in which you can actually see results in peoples’ lives. We are all at risk (of unwanted events) and been able to increase our chances to survive or reduce the impacts in life and economy is just rewarding.”