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Branda Nowell


School of Public and International Affairs

Caldwell Hall 227

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Dr. Branda Nowell, Professor, is an organizational-community psychologist specializing in inter-organizational relationships, social networks, and community capacity for multi-agent collaboration and coordination within complex problem domains. She teaches courses in network governance, organizational behavior, change management, organizational theory, and program evaluation. As an interdisciplinary scholar, she integrates community and organizational psychology with public management to better understand community-based networks of public and nonprofit agencies working in a common problem domain. She currently co-leads a research team ( focused on advancing the science of adaptive capacity toward more disaster resilient communities.  Since 2008, this team has worked in collaboration with the US Forest Service on research aimed to improve inter-agency coordination and communication during large scale wildfire events. Dr. Nowell’s research has received awards from both the APA Society for Community Action and Research as well as the Academy of Management Public and Nonprofit Division. Her published work appears in the American Journal of Community Psychology, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Evaluation and Program Planning, and Conflict Resolution Quarterly.

Extension and Community Engagement

2016 – 2018  NOAA Assessment of Evaluation System Capacity for is National Esturine and Costal Zone Management Programs

2014- 2019   North Carolina Transformation Zone Program Systems Change Evaluation

2014 – 2016   Systems Change Evaluation of North Carolina’s Innovative Approaches Initiative

2009- present   FireChasers Initiative: Building a Science of Adaptive Capacity Toward Greater Community Resilience.  For more information see:


Nowell, B. and Steelman, T. (2014) Responder Network Performance.  A tool for systemically assessing incident response during a large scale wildfire.  Available for download at

Nowell, B. and Steelman, T. (2014) IMT Network Performance.  A tool for assessing the performance of incident management teams  in working effectively with local fire and disaster response operations. Available for download at

Nowell, B. and Steelman, T. (2014) Host Unit Network Performance.  A tool for assessing the performance of host agencies in brokering between incident management teams and local communities. Available for download at

Nowell, B. and Steelman, T (2014) Critical incident response networks.   A framework for conceptualizing incident response from a whole network perspective.  Available for download at


Steelman, T. B. Nowell, C. Fitzgerald, M. Hano. (2015) Social Watch Out Situations for Incident Management Teams.  Wildfire Magazine. JANUARY 26, 2015

Nowell, B. and Steelman, T. (2014) When help arrives: Is your community ready? Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network. Published July 22, 2014.

Office Hours

By Appointment


Research Publications

Nowell, B., & Stutler, J. (2020). Public Management in an Era of the Unprecedented: Dominant Institutional Logics as a Barrier to Organizational Sensemaking. Perspectives on Public  Management and Governance3(2), 125-139.

Prati, G, Procentese, F., Albanesi, C., Cicognani, E., Fedi, A., Gatti, F., Mannarini, T., Rochira,  A., Tartaglia, S., Boyd, N., Nowell, B, and Gattino, S. (forthcoming). Psychometric Properties of the Italian Version of the Sense of Community Responsibility Scale. Manuscript in press with the Journal of Community Psychology.

Nowell, B., & Albrecht, K. (2019). A reviewer’s guide to qualitative rigor. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory29(2), 348-363.

Boyd, N. M., & Nowell, B. (2020). Sense of community, sense of community responsibility, organizational commitment and identification, and public service motivation: a simultaneous test of affective states on employee well-being and engagement in a public service work context. Public Management Review, 1-27.

Nowell, B., & Kenis, P. (2019). Purpose-oriented networks: The architecture of complexity. Perspectives on Public Management and Governance2(3), 169-173.

Steelman, T, and Nowell, B. (2019). Evidence of effectiveness in the Cohesive Strategy:  Measuring and improving wildfire response.  Manuscript in press with International Journal of Wildland Fire.

Nowell, B. and Steelman, T. (2019). Beyond ICS: How should we govern complex disasters?  The Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 16(2):

Nowell, B., Hano, M. C., & Yang, Z. (2019). Networks of networks? Toward an external perspective on whole networks. Perspectives on Public Management and Governance2(3), 213-233.

Nowell, B. Steelman, T., *Velez, A, and *Yang, Z (2018). The structure of effective governance of disaster response networks: Insights from the field.  American Review of Public Administration, 48(7): 699-715.

Nowell, B., *Velez, A.K., *Hano, M., *Sudweeks, J., *Albrecht, K., and Steelman, T. (2018).  Defining network boundaries in complex problem domains: Advancing methods of boundary specification.  Perspectives in Public Management and Governance, 1(4): 273-282.

Nowell, B., *Yang, Z., and *Hano, M. (2018) Sense of Community, Sense of  Community Responsibility, and Public Service Motivation as Predictors of Employee Well-Being and Engagement in Public Sector Organizations. American Review of Public Administration, 48(5): 428-443.

Funded Research

2017     Joint Fire Science Program Innovative Social Science Award for $359,309.  Principal Investigator.  Effective Network Governance for Co-Management: The Role of Cognitive Alignment in Risk Perception and Value Orientation toward Collaboration

2015 North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services for $82,350.  Principal Investigator. Innovative Approaches Initiative Year 2 Outcome Evaluation.

2014  North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services for $55,000.  Principal Investigator. Innovative Approaches Initiative Outcome Evaluation.

2012 National Science Foundation for $349,987.  Principal Investigator. A Pre/Post Disaster Investigation of the Effect of Network Capacities on Disaster Response

2012 Joint Fire Science Program Innovative Social Science Award for $364, 385. Principal Investigator. Relational Risk Assessment and Management: Investigating Local Capacity in Wildfire Response Networks

2012  USDA USFS Award for $124,528.  Principal Investigator. Systematic Learning After a Wildfire: Development of a Post-Fire Research Framework and Protocol

2011  USDA  NIFA Award for $500,000 ($49,112 sub award to NCSU).  Co-Principal Investigator.  Community–‐Based Organizations, Social Networks, and Conservation: Strategies for Rural Economic Development in the West

2010  Fort Bragg BRAC Regional Task Force evaluation contract for $35,000.  Principal Investigator.  Evaluation of the BRAC RTF Comprehensive Regional Planning Process

2010  USDA/USFS for $39,814.  Co-Principal investigator. Implementation Factors that Affect Appropriate Management Response

2009  USDA/USFS for $55,172.  Co-principal investigator. The Interplay of AMR, Suppression Costs, Community Interaction, and Organizational Performance – A Multi-disciplinary Approach

2009 USDA/ National Forest Service award for $84,479. Co-principal investigator. Public Perceptions of Appropriate Management Response (AMR).


Ph.D. Organizational-Community Psychology Michigan State University 2006