Humanitarian Disaster Institute

Our Story

Learn how the Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) got its start, and about the multifaceted projects underway to help the vulnerable.


Jamie Aten  “Now what?” wondered Dr. Jamie Aten as he stood in his living room seven years ago with a roll of duct tape in hand. He and his family had moved to Mississippi just six days before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, and he had just finished following the preparedness instructions issued by state and local governments.

During the months following the disaster, he visited local congregations and witnessed how these churches addressed the overwhelming needs.

HDI is Formed

After studying the impact of faith on disaster mental health and the response of the local and national church while serving as assistant director of the Katrina Research Center at the University of Southern Mississippi, Dr. Aten came to Wheaton College and founded the Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI). Now housed within the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, HDI is the first social science research center in the country devoted to the study of faith and disasters. 

David BoanDr. David Boan soon joined Dr. Aten as co-director of the Institute, bringing with him a wealth of expertise in the fields of public health, clinical community psychology, healthcare quality and safety, and capacity building that all play a role in his work with HDI.


Gifted at teambuilding, Drs. Aten and Boan have developed partnerships with churches, faith-based and humanitarian organizations, private research firms, individual scientific collaborators, academic centers, and state and federal agencies to conduct research and to provide training and technical assistance to empower the global church


They’ve also gathered a talented team of researchers from across the country to delve into some of life’s biggest questions regarding the impact that adversity can have on psychological and spiritual resilience and growth. Learn more about our research > 

Student Opportunities with HDI

Student Opportunities

And every step of the way, they’ve invited undergraduate students, graduate students, alumni, and fellow faculty from across the disciplines to study, travel, listen, research, write, collaborate, and work to develop innovative tools and materials to help churches and communities rally around those in need due to crises in our backyard, across the nation, and around the world. Learn more about student opportunities through HDI > 

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