Frances L. Edwards

Frances L. EdwardsProfessor, Political Science

What research questions currently preoccupy you?

My overall research is focused on emergency management and homeland security issues. My current focus is water policy in California, cybersecurity, and the evolution of emergency management since the issuing of PPD-8, making sweeping changes to the post- 9/11 emergency response policies.

What personal factors contributed to your study of emergency management and homeland security?

I lived for two years in Yokohama, Japan where I experienced numerous earthquakes, two if which were quite damaging. I was fascinated by the way my Japanese neighbors calmly dealt with the shaking and its aftermath, with each household being prepared to independently deal with the event, as well as being organized on a neighborhood basis for response. I was able to apply the lessons I learned in Japan to my ancillary job of helping with community outreach when I worked for the Irvine Police Department. This led to my interest in and study of emergency preparedness in general.

What has been most challenging in your research on homeland security and emergency management?

For over 20 years I was a local government emergency management professional in California. My biggest research challenge is selecting those areas of emergency management and homeland security research that will be beneficial to public agencies in California and focusing my time and resources there. There is so much still to learn and understand if we hope to save lives and support communities in these turbulent times.

How has your position in SJSU contributed to your research in homeland security and emergency management?

Being freed of the day to day administration of an emergency management and homeland security program allows me to think about specific programs and challenges, and look at ways to improve policies and practices. Being able to work with students on these issues adds to my own knowledge through their insights and research work.

A hidden (research) talent in emergency management and homeland security research:

The American Society for Public Administration’s Section on Emergency and Crisis Management has been my secret to research success. The members are the leading academic researchers in the field in the world, and through this organization I have been able to learn from my colleagues, and do research with many of them. I am honored to be the current chair.

One book that changed your life (or research) & why:

When I was a political science college student, planning to be a Constitutional lawyer, I read Jane Jacobs' Death and Life of Great American Cities. I was a native of Philadelphia and often visited New York, so the book resonated for me. It changed my focus from the law to cities and their management, which ultimately led me to a Master of Urban Planning and a PhD in Public Administration at New York University. It was this background that equipped me to become involved in emergency management and homeland security planning and implementation.

A website/journal/newspaper (in your field?) you follow without fail:

I read Western Cities the day it lands in my mail box. This is the practitioner journal for the League of California Cities, and it keeps me informed of the issues challenging California public agencies, providing me with important news and insights to share with my public administration students.

Advice you’d give to newer faculty or students:

Follow your heart. My mother used to tell us, “You have to work so you might as well do something that you love.”

RSCA Accomplishments

Edwards, F.L. and Goodrich, D.C. (2015). Great East Japan Earthquake, JR East Mitigation Successes, and Lessons For California High-Speed Rail. Mineta Transportation Institute.
Edwards, F.L. (2015). “Crisis Resiliency: The Separate Roles of Mitigation and Prevention,” American Society for Public Administration, Chicago, IL, March 12, 2015.