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Department of Geography

Faculty & Staff Directory

Susan L. Cutter

Carolina Distinguished Professor & Director of the Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute
Department of Geography
University of South Carolina

Phone Number: (803) 777-1590
Office: Callcott, Room 312
Curriculum vitae: Download PDF
Susan L. Cutter


Dr. Susan Cutter is a Carolina Distinguished Professor of Geography at the University of South Carolina where she directs the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute.  She received her B.A. from California State University, East Bay and her M.A. and Ph.D. (1976) from the University of Chicago. Her primary research interests are in the area of disaster vulnerability/resilience science and how vulnerability and resilience are measured, monitored, and assessed.  She has authored or edited fourteen books, the most recent published by Cambridge University Press, Hurricane Katrina and the Forgotten Coast of Mississippi, more than 150 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters.  Dr. Cutter has mentored more than 50 masters and doctoral students.

Dr. Cutter has led field teams to study long term recovery from Hurricane Katrina (2005), Hurricane Sandy (2012), the October 2015 South Carolina floods, and Hurricane Matthew (2016).  She has provided expert testimony to Congress on hazards and vulnerability, was a member of the US Army Corps of Engineers IPET team evaluating the social impacts of the New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Protection System in response to Hurricane Katrina, and was a juror for the Rebuild by Design competition for Hurricane Sandy reconstruction.  Her policy-relevant work focuses on emergency management and disaster recovery at local, state, national, and international levels, with funding from NSF, the US Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA, NASA, USGS, FEMA, DHS, South Carolina’s Emergency Management Division (EMD) and State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), and Florida’s Department of Health. 

Dr. Cutter serves on many national advisory boards and committees including those of National Research Council (NRC), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).    She chaired the US National Academies committee that authored the 2012 seminal report, Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative. She is a member of the Research Advisory Group for UK DFID, and served as Vice-Chair of the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) Science Committee, an international advisory board sponsored by the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).  Dr. Cutter serves as co-executive editor of Environment, associate editor of Weather, Climate, and Society, member of the Advisory Board of the Journal of Extreme Events and is an editorial board member for Natural Hazards, Annals of the AAG, and International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.  She is also serving as the Editor-in-Chief for the Oxford Research Encyclopedias Natural Hazard Science.

Dr. Cutter is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (1999).  She is also past President of the Association of American Geographers (2000), and past President of the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) (2008).  Dr. Cutter held the MunichRe Foundation Chair (2009-2012) on Social Vulnerability through the United Nations University-Institute for Environment and Human Security, in Bonn, Germany.  In 2006, Dr. Cutter received the Decade of Behavior Research Award given by a multidisciplinary consortium of more than 50 national and international scientific organizations in the social and behavioral sciences.  In 2010, Dr. Cutter received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of American Geographers, its highest honors.   And in 2015 was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway and was also elected as a foreign member of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters. 


Hazards, risk, and disasters
Vulnerability science
Environmental equality and inequality


GEOG 330: Geography of Disasters
GEOG 530: Environmental Hazards
GEOG 730: Seminar in Environmental Geography
GEOG 735: Seminar in Political Geography
GEOG 830: Advanced Seminar in Environmental Geography

Representative Publications 

Birkmann, J., F. Wenzel, S. Greiving, M. Garschagen, D. Vallée, W. Nowak, T. Welle, S. Fina, A. Goris, B. Rilling, F. Fiedrich, A. Fekete, S. L. Cutter, S. Düzgün, A. Ley, M. Friedrich, E. Kuhlmann, B. Novák, S. Wieprecht, C. Riegel, A. Thieken, J. Rhyner, U. Ulbrich, and J. K. Mitchell, 2016. Extreme events, critical infrastrucures, human vulnerability and strategic planning: emerging research issues, J. Extreme Events 3(2): doi:10.1142/S23455737616500172 (March 16, 2017).

Cutter, S. L., 2016.  The changing context of hazard extremes: Events, impacts, and consequences, J. Extreme Events, 3(2):   doi:10.1142/S2345737616710056 (February 2, 2017).

Ismail-Zadeh, A. T., S. L. Cutter, K. Takeuchi, and D. Paton, 2017.  Forging a paradigm shift in disaster science, Natural Hazards, 86 (2):969-988.

Hofferth, S. L., E. F. Moran, B. Entwisle, J. L. Aber, H. E. Brady, D. Conley, S. L. Cutter, C. C. Eckel, D. Hamilton, and K. Hubacek, 2017.  Introduction: History and motivation, Annals, American Academy of Political and Social Science (AAPSS) 669: 6-17.

Cutter, S. L., 2017.  The forgotten casualties redux: Women, children, and disaster risk, Global Environmental Change 42: 117-121.

Cutter, S. L., 2017.  The perilous nature of food supplies: Natural hazards, social vulnerability, and disaster resilience, Environment 59(1): 4-15.

Cutter, S.L., K. D. Ash, and C. T. Emrich, 2016.  Urban-rural differences in disaster resilience, Annals of the American Association of Geographers 106(6):1236-1252.

Gall, M. and S. L. Cutter, 2016.  Understanding disaster risk through loss data. In Solving the Puzzle: Where to Invest to Understand Risk, Written Contributions. Washington DC: World Bank, p. 70-73.

Hummell, B. M. de L., S. L. Cutter, and C. T. Emrich, 2016.  Social vulnerability to natural hazards in Brazil, Int J. Disaster Risk Sci 7(2):111-122. 

Cutter, S. L., 2016.  Commentary:  Resilience to What? Resilience for Whom?  The Geographical Journal  182(2): 110-113.

Cutter, S. L., 2016.  Demographic change after Hurricane Katrina: A tale of two places, in Helen James and Douglas Paton, The Consequences of Disasters: Demographic, Planning and Policy Implications.  Springfield, IL: CH Thomas Publishers, p. 49-64.

Cutter, S. L., 2016.  “The landscape of disaster resilience indicators in the USA,” Natural Hazards 80(2):741-758.

Bowser, G. C. and S. L. Cutter, 2015. “Stay or go? Examining decision making and behavior in hurricane evacuations,” Environment 57(6):28-41.

Cutter, S. L. and M. Gall, 2015.  “Sendai Targets at Risk,” Nature Climate Change 5 (August):707-709.

Cutter, S. L., A. Ismail-Zadeh, I. Alcántara-Ayala, O. Altan, D. N. Baker, S. Briceño, H. Gupta, A. Holloway, D. Johnston, G. A. McBean, Y. Ogawa, D. Paton, E. Porio, R. K. Silbereisen, K. Takeuchi, G. B. Valsecchi, C. Vogel, and G. Wu, 2015.  “Pool Knowledge to Stem Losses from Disasters,” Nature 522:277-279.

Cutter, S.L. and C. Emrich, 2015.  “A Tale of Two Recoveries: 5 Lessons from Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.  Emergency Management June 25, 2015.

Ismail-Zadeh, A. and S.Cutter (editors and authors), 2015.  Disaster Risks Research and Assessment to Promote Risk Reduction and Management.  Paris: ICSU-ISSC Ad-hoc Group on Disaster Risk Assessment.

Gall, M., K. H. Nguyen, and S.L. Cutter, 2015.  Integrated research on disaster risk: Is it really integrated?  Intl. Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 12:255-267.