Wheaton’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) received $1.9 million in grant money last month to pursue a $2.4 million project called “Earth as a School: Finding Meaning, Relating to God, and Experiencing Growth After a Natural Disaster.” HDI is run through the clinical psychology doctoral program at Wheaton College.

David Boan, co-director of HDI and associate professor of psychology, told The Record that in their project, the HDI will use the nearly $2 million grant to “understand how traumatic disasters disrupt a person’s faith in God and how they recover.”

According to Boan, the project’s core initiatives include a lab study of how a natural disaster impacts individuals, several quantitative studies and a qualitative study on the social impacts of disasters. One initiative is a long-term quantitative study that will include a data collection for six months and another for a year.

Boan told The Record that the funding from the grant, given by the John Templeton Foundation, will also be used for support work in Kenya, Haiti, the Philippines and potentially Ukraine.

Jamie Aten, associate professor of psychology, founder and co-director of HDI, is one of the leaders of the new initiative. Boan attributed the award to Aten’s past research, saying that the foundation “approached (Aten) and invited him to submit a proposal based upon his research record.”

Wheaton College called the grant “one of the largest competitive research grants ever received by Wheaton College” in a post on its website on Sept. 4.

President Philip Ryken praised the reception of the grant, calling HDI a “global leader in helping the church respond to natural disasters” in the same release.

The HDI partners with Georgia State, Hope College and the University of North Texas to pursue their projects on the Templeton study.