Sara is an expert in risk, crisis and resilience management

Her research interests include personal and organisational resilience, decision making in stressful scenarios, crisis communication, simulations, organisational learning and learning from failure.

Sara Hadleigh-Dunn is the Course Leader for Portsmouth Online's MSc in Risk, Crisis and Resilience Management. We sat down with her to discuss her varied research interests, the biggest challenges for risk managers right now, and her advice for those thinking about getting into the field.

What’s your background and what led you into the field of risk, crisis and resilience management?

I have a BSc (Hons) in Management Science and an MSc in Corporate Risk and Security Management, both from the University of Southampton. It was in my final year as an undergraduate when I took a risk management module option that gave me an interest in the field of risk, crisis and resilience started and started me on this path.

I have worked with SMEs, public and private sector organisations, advising on risk, crisis and resilience, from decision making in stressful conditions to designing a crisis management team and their terms of reference. A considerable amount of that work has been with various Fire and Rescue Services, including working with London Fire Brigade on Exercise Unified Response.

Dr Sara Hadleigh-Dunn-1

Sara Hadleigh-Dunn

Can you tell us more about your research interests?

My research interests have developed further than my PhD topic which was anti-terrorism and crisis management. Currently my research encompasses personal and organizational resilience, decision making in stressful scenarios, crisis communication, simulations, organisational learning and learning from failure. My recent publications have focused more on this last area. 

What led you to develop the MSc Risk, Crisis and Resilience Management programmes at Portsmouth?

When the programme started at Portsmouth in 2008, the majority of MSc Risk courses focused on IT risk, financial risk or emergency planning.

For those who didn’t want to focus on such specific areas, or wanted a greater understanding organisational risk management, crisis management, decision making, leadership in crises, environmental risk management and project risk management, there was little out there, other than professional short courses.

It was this gap that the MSc Risk programmes at Portsmouth sought to address.

What are the biggest trends/challenges in the risk management field right now?

Covid-19 has created a multitude of challenges for the field right now, from affecting response to natural disasters to creating new vulnerabilities within the workforce.

Cyber attacks, not least linked to politics and controlling information are an ever present trend. The rise of the far-right and associated terrorist incidents are also an increasing trend that we have sadly seen this year.

What would you say to someone thinking about getting into this field?

It will be one of the best decisions that you make. It will be challenging but the range of areas that you will be engaged with, the variety of issues that you’ll face and the genuine positive difference that you can make, mean that all the hard work is worth it.

As someone who’s a course leader for both an on-campus and online degree, what’s one misconception about online learning that you think people hold?

That it’s easier. Postgraduate study is hard, it’s meant to be challenging, to develop your skills and confidence. It also requires excellent time management skills and motivation when balancing work and family life with study. When studying online, your motivation and time management skills are even more important.

An MSc in Risk, Crisis and Resilience Management will help you develop appropriate strategies to manage risk across various industries. Our part-time, online course is accredited by The Institute of Risk Management:

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