Gehrig Haberstock, MSW ’16
Alleviating human suffering during disasters
When Hurricane Harvey struck Texas and Louisiana in 2017, Gehrig Haberstock helped supervise sheltering and distribution of emergency supplies for displaced residents. He knew the drill, as he’d served as a mass-care lead when Hurricane Matthew struck the Carolinas just the year before.
As a disaster program specialist for the American Red Cross, Haberstock leads volunteer teams providing preparedness, response and recovery support in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area. The goal, Haberstock says, is to “ensure that we can prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.” That may mean coordinating a response to a single-family house fire, working with an emergency-management stakeholder to ensure shelter readiness, supervising hundreds of volunteers installing free smoke alarms for a local Sound the Alarm event, or conducting follow-up casework to empower a client in recovery following a disaster or emergency.
Haberstock was interested in addressing educational disparities at the global level when he enrolled at the Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW). But, he says, “My interests quickly changed in my first course at GSSW, shifting to disaster relief.”
“GSSW prepared me for my current role by providing me a year to focus on humans, animals and the natural environment and their intersections in disasters,” says Haberstock, who was an advanced-standing student in the Sustainable Development and Global Practice concentration and Animal-Assisted Social Work certificate. “Faculty at GSSW were willing to go the extra mile for those who took their graduate education seriously, whether that was making a professional connection, asking you to make a meaningful contribution in a publication or taking a few minutes to talk about life after school.” Haberstock recently co-authored a chapter on animal-assisted crisis response that will appear in a forthcoming book by GSSW clinical professor Philip Tedeschi.
Haberstock says one of the best parts of his GSSW experience was also the most challenging. “There was a constant need to evaluate and reflect on myself as a person. From concepts to personal biases to worldview, nothing was off the table,” Haberstock says. That professional refinement and self-awareness have served him well as he serves and supervises others in the midst of disasters.
“Faculty at GSSW were willing to go the extra mile for those who took their graduate education seriously, whether that was making a professional connection, asking you to make a meaningful contribution in a publication or taking a few minutes to talk about life after school.” — Gehrig Haberstock, MSW ’16, Disaster Program Specialist, American Red Cross