Course Syllabus

Disaster Management Leadership

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2022 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Exploration Elective - 3 credits

Study Tour:

Lisbon, Portugal

Major Disciplines:

Leadership Studies, Management, and Organizational Behavior

Faculty Members:

Katarina Hejrskov -

Program Director:

Susanne Goul Hovmand -

Time & Place:

Tuesdays 14:50-17:45, V23-301

Description of Course

Pandemics, terrorist attacks, natural disasters. How do you respond as a leader during extraordinary crisis? How do you make decisions with limited, rapidly changing information and wide ranging consequences? This course is built around exercises and simulations that teaches you the skills it takes to respond to unusual emergencies. Together, we explore cases that have called for extraordinary leadership in unusual times and get inspiration for our own practice of leadership in Copenhagen and Lisbon.

Included Travel Component

A mandatory study tour is included in this course at no extra cost.

Our travel destination is Lisbon in Portugal where a vibrant start-up and tech scene has both emerged but also been hit hard due to the pandemic. During our three day study tour we meet leaders and experts who share their experiences and perspectives on leadership during crisis and disaster management. You will also learn about cultural and national differences during times of uncertainty.

This trip comes at no extra cost to you but is a mandatory part our curriculum and active participation is expected. Our study tour takes place over three days during the period of your semester known as the ‘Study Break’ and you must depart with the group from Copenhagen Airport. Please notice you cannot meet us at the destination and failure to leave with the group from Copenhagen Airport has a negative impact on your final grade.

Learning Objectives

In this course, you will:

  • Reflect and discuss theories in relation to leadership experiences, simulations, and hands-on activities
  • Explore, compare, and contrast Denmark and Portugal as case studies for critical analysis of disaster management and leadership through times of change and uncertainty
  • Walk the talk: Gain experience as a leader during our study tour activities 
  • Demonstrate mastery of course material and reflect on how it applies to your lived reality


Katarina Hejrskov, LLB & Professional Legal Studies (Equivalent of the Danish cand.jur./Masters) and a Bachelor of Commerce (Management and Marketing) from the University of Auckland. Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand and accredited Mediator & Restorative Justice Facilitator. Founder and Mediator at Heron Mediation. Co-chair of International Summits at the Elder Mediation International Network and Legal Advisor for the Peace Foundation NZ. Expertise in conflict resolution, restorative justice and leadership. External lecturer of law at AUT Auckland. With DIS since 2021.

Course Topics 

(subject to change)

  • Leading through national crisis. During Covid-19 European leaders had very different responses to the pandemic as they were leading their countries through the crisis. We will use Portugal and Denmark as cases for a comparative examination of national leadership during the pandemic.
  • Terrorism and disaster management. How can one prepare for the unexpected? We examine different strategies and initiatives when we analyze and discuss Scandinavian cases in order to throw light on disaster management and the approaches that guide decisions when planning for preparedness, response, and recovery, in order to reduce risks.
  • Leading with an agile mindset. Is there a difference in leadership perspectives and approaches when leading a large-scale organization as oppose to a small company or start-up during crisis? What can we learn from talking to different leaders about their actions and key learning moments when they were standing on burning platforms and had to make decisions with limited information and wide ranging consequences?
  • Leadership and culture. During your study abroad experience you can experience cultural differences. In this course we take seriously those great learning opportunities and use them as springboards for discussions and reflections. Leadership, culture and cultural differences play a key role throughout our course and you will be encouraged to reflect and analyze differences between the United States, Scandinavia and Portugal.

Teaching Methods 

The teaching in this course is based on experiential learning and students are expected to participate actively in activities, independent field work, presentations and discussions both during class, field visits, on study tour, and on canvas.

The course is taught using a combination of methods. There is a very strong emphasis on participation and using the the city as our classroom (rain or shine, we'll be outside). While I am responsible for the overall structure of the class, all of us will contribute to the production of knowledge and creating a learning space with reflection, responsibility and trust.

The class will mainly be student driven through group work, hands-on activities, and debates. Your own engagement play an important role and you are encouraged to reflect actively on your leadership experiences during our hands-on activities and help towards creating an inclusive and safe learning environment. 

Overall, the aim is to create a class community characterized by respect and willingness to listen/consider others’ perspectives, where it is safe to explore ideas together and individually, even when they are not fully conceptualized or thought through. This requires a great amount of trust in each other and a willingness and curiosity to consider each other’s arguments.

Required Readings 

Course readings are found on Canvas. Before each class, you are expected to read texts, listen to podcasts, and/or watch films/videos assigned for the class.

Readings include:

  • Avishai, B., Kim, J. Y., & Coll, S. (2020, April 21). The pandemic isn't a black swan but a portent of a more fragile global system. The New Yorker.
  • Brafford, A. M., & Ryan, R. M. (2020, September 25). 3 ways to motivate your team through an extended crisis. Harvard Business Review.
  • Chatterji, A. K., & Toffel, M. W. (2020, December 1). The new CEO activists. Harvard BusinessReview.
  • Elkington, J. (2020, October 29). The 6 ways business leaders talk about sustainability. HarvardBusiness Review.
  • Tedeschi, Richard G. (2021, January 26). Managing YourselfGrowth After Trauma.


Written participation and engagement on Canvas


Attendance, participation and engagement


Individual project or paper


Media production


Students are expected to:

  • Students are expected to show up for class prepared and participate actively
  • Complete all assigned worked prior to each deadline and each class
  • Contribute actively and engaged during classes, visits, activities, on study tour, and make sure to always speak up and contribute to our knowledge production each time we are together
  • Be punctual and attend all assigned activities both during our classes, mandatory activities, visits, and on study tour.
  • Missing classes, activities, visits and assigned work without a legitimate excuse will result in a lower final grade
  • Cell phones are to be shut off or silenced during class and texting, using social media etc. during class will have a negative impact on your participation grade.
  • Laptop, tablets, and smartphones are NOT to be used during class and visits unless approved by your instructor or for note-taking. If you fail to meet this expectation, it will have a negative impact on your final grade.


**To be eligible for a passing grade in this class you must complete all of the assigned work**

  • Active class participation throughout the course: A=96 / Occasional participation: B=86 / Little or no participation: C=76. Fine-tuning of percentage points may occur, reflecting student performance.

  • Note that attendance at all classes and the mandatory study tour is required and expected and is not credited as participation. Failure to attend will have a negative influence on the participation grade, however.
  • Canvas discussions Before most classes you are required to post at least one entry to our Canvas discussions page. You are required to complete thoughtful canvas responses to readings, guest lectures, and visits in Denmark and in Portugal. Your instructor will provide you with more information.

How to Get a Good Grade

  • Involve yourself! Allow yourself the luxury of taking a genuine interest in the course.
  • Get organized! Enter all due dates in a calendar and set aside time to work on assignments and prepare for class. 
  • Prepare for class! Every class! 
  • Take good notes! You will be graded on your analytical thinking. 
  • Participate! Sharing your thoughts and ideas in class is not just important for the participation grade, it is one of the best tools for developing your analytical skills.

A word about grades 

I realize that grades are important to you, but try not to let your anxiety about grades deter you from taking intellectual risks and learning just for the joy of learning. I do not grade to punish or reward you just as my grade is not an indication of my evaluation of you as a person. I grade you to give you my honest assessment of your academic performance. 

Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:

 DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia - www.DISabroad.orgLinks to an external site.

Please notice that the course topics are subject to change, depending on how the semester unfolds and the interests of the class.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due