about us

The Institute for Faith and Resilience is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that exists to create more resilient individuals and communities through strengthening faith. Faith is incredibly important to who we are as human beings—it is integral to many aspects of our lives, but especially so when we come to points of crisis in life. A need exists, however, to understand better how faith affects human resilience. IFR stands at the juncture of  the academic and the practical, the scholar and the practitioner, the religious and the secular. By bridging these gaps through sustained and engaged dialogue, IFR seeks to facilitate research, and create shared understanding, intentional community, and educational resources that will be beneficial to scholar and practitioner alike.  We hope this will begin to create lasting intellectual and cultural change that is evidenced by transformed lives and communities.

IFR seeks to strengthen individual and community resilience through increasing knowledge regarding how faith impacts human resilience. Resilience can be understood as the process of positive adaptation in the face of significant adversity. Many studies indicate that faith is central to positive coping responses and may have a significant impact upon how humans react to adversity. Thus, a better understanding of the impact of faith upon resilience will not only be of interest to researchers, but also will prove useful in helping professionals know better how to incorporate faith in their practices in ways that enable individuals to become more resilient.

We believe that faith and science are not at odds with one another, but rather may mutually inform one another and help us understand human existence in different but complementary ways. Thus, science and theology may both have roles to play in helping understand individuals' positive adaptation to adversity, but too often science sidelines the role of faith in this adaptation, or reduces it to merely a ‘social factor.’ This does not give credence to the complex and very personal nature of faith. More needs to be done to understand the role that faith can play in human resilience and to strengthen that effect through specific faith-based measures.

Lafayette, Louisiana, situated midway between New Orleans and Houston, is in the heart of the Western Gulf Coast region of the US that has recently experienced numerous natural disasters. Hurricanes, flooding, and other disasters have plagued the area, creating significant adversity for millions of residents, many of whom experienced damage to property and/or health. This location provides a unique opportunity for the study of faith and resilience.

IFR creates spaces for dialogue regarding the role of faith in human resilience to adversity through forums such as blog posts, conferences, and training sessions. This dialogue both seeks to incorporate academic insight and to create practical outputs that will be useful to faith communities and public health organizations. Uniquely, IFR has an emphasis upon theological assessment of human resilience, a vantage point distinctly devoid from much research up to this point.



Our work



IFR and its affiliates are engaged in cutting edge research regarding the role of faith in resilient adaptation. For a more extensive listing of research, see the following bibliography.

A part of IFR's mission is to develop a community of scholars and practitioners who work in areas significant to the intersection of faith and resilience. To this end, IFR has a blog, sends out regular e-mail updates, and provides conferences and continuing education opportunities.

Because of its location in South Louisiana, IFR is also able to provide support to researchers from other locations who desire to conduct research in this region.  


IFR is dedicated to creating high quality training materials for use by health and public safety professionals as well as by faith communities. Additionally, IFR has a number of highly qualified and talented trainers who can provide training courses to large or small groups.


Public engagement

IFR is intentionally outward-focused in its engagement with public institutions such as public health and safety organizations, government, and faith communities.  In these forums we advocate for the role that faith plays in enabling resilience, provide expert guidance in this arena, and advise on policies relating to this juncture.


We have many beneficial opportunities for health practitioners, faith groups, and public health and safety workers.

IFR is excited to work with a variety of organizations and individuals in promoting resilience within our communities. We feel that IFR is uniquely situated to advocate for and leverage the role of faith in enabling resilient adaptation.
— Nathan White, Executive Director


our projects

Faith and resilience assessment

IFR is in the midst of developing and trialling a new diagnostic tool for assessing an individual's propensity for resilient adaptation in view of characteristics related to his or her faith. After trialling the tool, we hope it will become useful for scholars as well as for faith communities to assess an individual's propensity for resilience and to develop strategies for strengthening resilience.



Board of directors

Rev'd dr. nathan H. white, Executive Director

Nathan White has expertise in a variety of academic and pastoral fields related to the intersection of faith and resilience. As an ordained Anglican minister, Dr. White has extensive pastoral experience, having served both in local parishes and in the U.S. Army as a Chaplain. His service as a Chaplain includes time on Active Duty where he served with the 1st Infantry Division and 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in the Army Reserve where he served in Germany and in his current assignment at the Office of the Chief of Chaplains, Washington, DC. Dr. White’s experiences as a Chaplain led to his academic interest in the study of resilience, the subject of his doctoral studies at the University of Durham, from whose Department of Theology and Religion he received his Ph.D. in 2017. He also has degrees from Beeson Divinity School, Samford University and Wheaton College (IL). Dr. White has publications forthcoming with Oxford University Press and Springer.

Rev'd Peter N. johnston

Peter Johnston is the Rector of Trinity Anglican Church in Lafayette. A graduate of Yale University and Yale Divinity School, Peter is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, focusing on John Milton. 

Kathryn D. Penna

Kathryn (Kat) Penna is the Family Ministry Assistant at the Bayou Church in Lafayette as well as a Researcher for LSU Medical School. A graduate of Centenary College in Shreveport where she studied Communication and Professional Writing, she has a Masters degree in Public Health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and has worked as a researcher for Northwestern University School of Medicine in Chicago. 

Dr. W. Michael Dunaway

Dr. Michael Dunaway is Director of NIMSAT (National Incident Management Systems and Advanced Technologies) at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. He is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and had a successful career in the US Navy, attaining the rank of Captain. He holds a Masters degree in international relations from Tufts University and a Ph.D. in Systems Engineering from George Washington University. He has worked as Chief of Risk Management and Program Manager for Community Resilience in the Science & Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security, and as the Senior Director for Preparedness and Resilience Programs at the American Red Cross. He has taught at National Defense University and Texas A&M University. 

Dr. Eleanore Heaton

Dr. Eleanore “Ellie” Heaton attended elementary, middle, and high school at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau, Louisiana. She earned her B.S. in Psychology at Loyola University-New Orleans, and went on to earn her M.S. in Applied Educational Psychology and Ph.D. in School Psychology at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Her research in graduate school mainly centered around enhancing student success, and she has been published in several journals including the Journal of Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness and the Journal of Innovative Higher Education. Dr. Heaton is a licensed psychologist and a nationally certified school psychologist. She currently works as a school psychologist in a local parish. The most rewarding part of her job is being able to help children reach their full potential. Dr. Heaton’s Catholic faith was founded by her parents and her education at the Academy of the Sacred Heart, and this faith is the cornerstone around which she and her husband build their lives.





Trinity anglican church

An Anglican church in Lafayette, LA that seeks to create cultural change through worship, friendship, and scholarship. http://www.trinitylafayette.com

National Consortium for Smart Public Safety

A growing coalition of organizations involved in the promotion of public safety technologies and practices.




The National Incident Management Systems & Advanced Technologies (NIMSAT) Institute focuses on the development of public-private partnerships and the application of advanced information technologies to enhance the resiliency of the US to all-hazards, and to the mission of saving human lives. NIMSAT seeks to enhance national resiliency to a full range of potential disasters by conducting research leading to innovative tools and applications that empower the homeland security and emergency management community through education, training, outreach, and operational support. http://www.nimsat.louisiana.edu




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