UNC will honor 25 students from Professor Don Hornstein's Environmental Law and Policy class for their contributions to victims of Hurricane Florence on Friday at the UNC School of Law.
The recognition of these students' work will kick off UNC’s Research Week, a semi-annual event which highlights the wide variety of ongoing research at Carolina and promotes ways for undergraduates to get involved.
Don Hornstein is a professor in the School of Law, where he is the Aubrey L. Brooks Chair. He is also a member of the University's Institute for the Environment and UNC’s Curriculum in Environment and Ecology.
For the past several years, he and his students have been working to pass legislative policy to assist rebuilding homeowners in coastal areas routinely affected by hurricanes. Over the summer, he and his students convinced the North Carolina Insurance Underwriting Association — a nonprofit insurance company that currently is state's largest single insurer of property at the North Carolina coast — to adopt a new endorsement to their insurance policies. This endorsement would allow homeowners who could prove hurricane wind and rain damage to have parts of their homes rebuilt at no additional cost.
“If their roofs are really damaged, and we need to replace their roofs, we will not just replace it, but we will put on … call it a 'super roof," Hornstein said.
Florence's sudden impact was a “trial by fire” for the policy Hornstein's students had formulated, but he said it was also a learning opportunity to see the full extent of their policy in action.
“My expectation is that later this year, probably in the spring, this work will be the centerpiece in an effort to drastically increase this program," he said. "The work has all been done, and we are now just going to wait for the dust to settle to confirm what we had predicted about Hurricane Florence, and document the hundreds of homes that are going to be built back better."
Emily Browning is a recent environmental science and engineering graduate working on her master’s degree. Last summer, she and her classmates researched similar policies and insurance effectiveness data from surrounding states to formulate a strategy to promote consumer-friendly insurance policies for coastal homeowners in North Carolina.
“We were looking to see how their sinkhole policies were working," Browning said. "A summary of who was eligible for coverage, and looking at the incentives of the program. We seeing if there was evidence of success, and the success rates of it, going through news articles, seeing if it was implemented in the way it was supposed to, and looking for drawbacks.”
Sally Hammer, a sophomore studying political science and environmental studies, was also on Professor Hornstein's research team, said while she felt overwhelmed at the scope of the project at first, she felt that by the end she had gained valuable research skills that would continue to aid her in the future.
“I was a little nervous about it at first, because I had never done this type of research before, but once I got into it, it was much easier to see the significance of what we were doing, and come up with information that would be beneficial," Hammer said.
She also said it's gratifying to see her work actually go on to better the lives of those in her state.
“I think it feels much more significant, not just in the way of contributing to a much larger project, but in the way of seeing the real life applications of what you are being taught to do, and when it comes to school I feel that this had been lacking," Hammer said. "So it was good for me to do work that is impactful, and beneficial that’s not just sitting in a classroom."
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