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Robin S. Cox

Dr. Robin S. Cox

Dr. Robin Cox is a Professor and Program Head of the Disaster and Emergency Management programs at Royal Roads University. She is also the Director of the ResilienceByDesign Research Lab (RbD) in the School of Humanitarian Studies.

The RbD is a space where researchers, faculty, students, post-doctoral fellows, and youth congregate face-to-face and virtually to focus their shared interests in collaborating in participatory action research on community resilience, disaster risk reduction, youth engagement and empowerment, social innovation and creativity.  Robin’s research program is devoted to understanding disaster resilience and the potential for disasters to spark social change and creative innovation. 

Recent Announcements

Robin is part of a collaborative team of researchers working on the Alberta Resilient Communities research project (ARC), funded by Alberta Innovates Health Solutions. The ARC project, led by Dr Cox from the RbD lab, Dr. Julie Drolet (University of Calgary) and Dr. Caroline McDonald-Harker (Mount Royal University) in a ‘whole of community’ investigation of resilience as it relates to children, youth, and their families and communities in the context of post-flood communities in Southern Alberta. The RbD research team, consisting of Cox and a dynamic and interdisciplinary team of post-doctoral and graduate student researchers is spearheading the ARC research with youth. This research will engage youth as leaders and innovators of resilience and offers participating youth the opportunity to develop research and innovation skills through a Resilience Innovation Skills Certificate designed by the RbD in collaboration with RRU Continuing Studies. Participating youth will contribute to a more refined understanding of how youth manifest and contribute to resilience – their own and that of their communities – using arts-based methods, digital storytelling, design thinking and social innovation. The goal of the RbD is to extend this research to communities on Vancouver Island and elsewhere in Canada once the three year ARC project is underway in Alberta.

This work builds from the Youth Creating Disaster Recovery and Resilience (YCDR2 - SSHRC Insight 435-2-12-0975) led by Dr. Cox and Dr. Lori Peek (Colorado State University), Understanding Community Resilience to Natural Disasters to Enhance their Adaptive Capacity (funded by SSHRC Insight Grant 435-2012-1748) and the Voice, Visibility and Engaged Action: Youth, Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience (International Social Sciences Transformation to Sustainability Seed Funding T2S_PP_180). Read more

Ongoing Work

Robin’s current research builds from previous projects such as the Youth Creating Disaster Recovery and Resilience (YCDR2 - SSHRC Insight 435-2-12-0975). YCDR2, led by Dr. Cox and Dr. Lori Peek (Colorado State University), explored disaster recovery with disaster affected youth in Joplin, Missouri following a devastating tornado (2011), Slave Lake, Alberta following the 2011 wildfire, and youth affected by the 2013 floods in Southern Alberta.  The project and the YCDR website are the result of a Canada-US collaboration funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Leading international (i.e., International Social Sciences Transformation to Sustainability Seed Funding T2S_PP_180) and Canadian funding agencies (i.e., Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canadian Institute for Health Research, Canada’s Centre for Security Science, and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research) have funded Robin’s community- and arts-based research with youth, seniors, and those living in rural and remote communities.

Robin is also an active disaster psychosocial responder and council member with the British Columbia Disaster Psychosocial Services (DPS) network. You can learn more about Robin and her program of research and disaster psychosocial practice at her personal website.

Research Philosophy

Robin believes the process of research is as important as the outputs. She says: “Creative research methods such as photo-voice, writing, digital-storytelling, creative process of any kind can provide participants, especially those who are marginalized, with an opportunity to have a voice and to have that voice valued,” and adds, “I am always so honored by participants’ courage and generosity, their willingness to share the insights they have developed from living through disasters and loss. Participants’ stories of devastation and resilience and the findings that emerge can spur the imagination, inspire change and transformation, and strengthen our connections with each other and the world.”


Robin was an Associate Faculty member for two years with Royal Roads prior to her becoming a core-faculty member in 2009. She helped design and teach the original Disaster and Emergency management program while supervising graduate students and developing an active research portfolio of her own. Robin trained as a Counselling Psychologist and prior to joining RRU, her practice included organizational consulting, individual and crisis counselling, critical incident stress debriefing, and group facilitation. She has also worked as an independent scholar and consultant, researching and authoring several national and provincial disaster psychosocial planning frameworks. Robin has taught graduate courses in psychology and interpersonal communication at the University of British Columbia, the Adler School of Psychology, and the British Columbia Institute of Technology. She is a founding member of the British Columbia Disaster Psychosocial Network, and has responded to disasters including the 9-11 terrorist attacks in New York, interface fires in British Columbia, and most recently the 2013 floods in Southern Alberta.


Robin obtained her doctorate in Counselling Psychology from the University of British Columbia where she held simultaneous Social Science and Humanities Research Council and Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Doctoral Fellowships. Her doctoral research, Echoes, Transgressions, and Transformations: Identity Reorientation and the Discourse of Disaster Recovery won the Canadian Psychology Doctoral Dissertation Award (2007). The multi-method study focused on the recovery in two rural communities following the McLure Fire, 2003. In addition to working as a counsellor, her professional background includes working in film and video, television news reporting, and theatre acting.

Recent Publications

Irwin, P., Cox, R.S., Scannell, L., and Fletcher, S.,Dixon Bennett, T., Heykoop, C., and Ungar, M. (2016). Children and Youth’s Biopsychosocial Health in the contextof Energy Resource Activities. Knowledge Synthesis Report produced for Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Scannell, L., Cox, R.S., Fletcher, S., and Heykoop, C. (2016). “That was the Last Time I Saw my House”: The Importance of Place Attachment among Children and Youth in Disaster Contexts. American Journal of Community Psychology. DOI 10.1002/ajcp.12069

Fletcher, S., Cox, R.S., Scannell, L., l Heykoop, C., Tobin-Gurley, J., and Peek, L. (2016). Youth Creating Disaster Recovery and Resilience: A Multi-Site Arts-Based Youth Engagement Project. Children, Youth and Environments, 26(1), 148-163.

Tobin-Gurley, J., Cox, R.S., Peek, L., Pybus, K., Maslenitsyn, D., an Heykoop, C (2016). Youth Creating Disaster Recovery and Resilience in Canada and the United States: Dimensions of the Male Youth. In E. Enarson & B. Peace (Eds.),Men, Masculinities, and Disaster. Routledge Studies in Hazards, Disaster Risk and Climate Change. Routledge.

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