Schar School of Policy and Government

Tonya E. Thornton, PhD

Assistant Professor and Director of Extramural Projects, Schar School of Policy and Government

Faculty Directory

Research Focus

My academic/scientific interests were born out of research and development opportunities early on in my career. As an individual who had a passion for intelligence gathering and public/homeland security, I quickly realized for the need for the professionalization of emergency management. This is in part due to my experience with a variety of natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina, manmade disasters, particularly the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, and high threats, such as the Pearl High School Shooting. These experiences left me with more questions about the importance of social capital and political trust as an effective tool of communal identify and resiliency, than answers. After all, place matters. In fact, place often determines how we live and die–it is the characterization of our lives. Given this understanding, localities need to once again (if ever) become the force multipliers in addressing the complex problems we often face in the aftermath of crisis. This also includes a better sense of critical infrastructure and the role such systems play in our shared governance model – a trisectoral approach to solving wicked problems is of need.

Current Projects

■ The Frontiers in Resilience Symposium, (a partnership with Sandia National Labs), focuses on the role of communication, coordination, and collaboration for critical infrastructure resilience.

■ The Politics of Fiscal Responsibility: a Comparative Perspective, (research for the Smith Richardson Foundation), examines the daunting array of short- and long-term fiscal challenges of European nations in developing best practices for the US.

■ The Essentials of Emergency Management, (a textbook for Taylor and Francis), is a holistic introductory compilation of emergency management for modern day principles and practices in the US.

■ Managing Challenges for the Flint Water Crisis, (a book for Westphalia Press), that explores the social and political challenges Flint, Michigan, has been facing since 2016, when the contamination of lead in the water system erupted into an environmental and financial challenge facing municipal government.

Select Publications

Neaves, T. T., & Royer, G. A. (2017). The social construction of disasters in the United States: a historical and cultural phenomenon. Journal of Emergency Management, 15(3), 175-187.

Neaves, T. T., et al. (2014). Assessing reverse 911®: a case study of the 2007 San Diego wildfires. Journal of Emergency Management, 12(4), 315-325.

■ Landahl, M. & Neaves, T.T. (forthcoming). Law enforcement in emergency management. London, UK: Emerald Publishing.

Fowler, L., et al. (2017). Cultural penetration and punctuated policy change: explaining the evolution of US Energy policy. Review of Policy Research, 34(4), 559-577.