Who We Are
Kathleen Tierney is director of the Natural Hazards Center, as well as a professor in the Department of Sociology and the Institute of Behavioral Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. During her career she has studied a wide range of disasters, including earthquakes in the U. S., Japan, and Haiti; major hurricanes such as Hugo, Andrew, and Katrina; various technological disasters, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in New York City. Her published work spans many topics, including hazard risk perceptions, disaster warnings, organizational responses to disasters, disaster recovery, social vulnerability to disasters, and the political economy of disasters. Her publications have appeared in the Annual Review of Sociology, International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Sociological Forum, Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, Journal of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, American Prospect, and many others. She is the senior author of Facing the Unexpected: Emergency Preparedness and Response in the United States and co-editor of Emergency Management: Principles and Practice for Local Government. She is currently completing a book entitled Social Foundations of Risk and Resilience.
Tierney has served as a member of the National Academies Committee on Disaster Research in the Social Sciences, the Panel on Strategies and Methods for Climate-Related Decision Support, and the Panel on Informing Effective Decisions and Actions Related to Climate Change. She is currently a member of the National Academies Committee to Advise the U. S. Global Change Research Program. She serves on the steering committee of the American Sociological Association’s Task Force on Climate Change and on the board of directors of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, and she is co-editor of the Natural Hazards Review. Tierney received the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute’s Distinguished Lecturer Award in 2006 and the Fred Buttel Award for Distinguished Contributions from the American Sociological Association’s Section on Environment, Technology, and Society in 2012. Tierney teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on the sociology of disasters and graduate courses on qualitative research methods.
Dennis S. Mileti is recently-retired professor and chair of the department of sociology and director emeritus of the Natural Hazards Center. He is author of over 100 publications most of which focus on the societal aspects of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery for hazards and disasters. His book Disasters by Design, published in 1999, involved over 130 experts to assess knowledge, research, and policy needs for hazards in the U.S. He has served on a variety of advisory boards, and was co-founder and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Natural Hazards Review, an interdisciplinary all-hazards journal devoted to bringing together the natural and social sciences, engineering, and the policy communities.
Wanda Headley began working as a library assistant for the Natural Hazards Center in 1999 and was appointed library manager in 2001. She is responsible for overseeing the library's physical collection as well as managing all aspects of the HazLit database. She holds bachelor's degrees in geography and history, both from the University of Colorado, and is currently working towards a master's degree in library science at Texas Woman's University.
Jolie Breeden joined the staff in May 2008 as Program Associate. In that position, she compiles and edits the Disaster Research e-newsletter, manages the Center Web site, assists in the coordination of special projects and publications, and manages the Quick Response Research Program. Jolie graduated summa cum laude from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Before joining the Natural Hazards Center, she was as a reporter for various Front Range newspapers, including the Broomfield Enterprise, the Longmont Daily Times-Call, the BoulderDaily Camera and the Rocky Mountain News. She has also administered news Web sites for Clear Channel Denver. Jolie is interested in how people use the Internet and Web communication to create authentic social groups outside real-time interactions and how these groups function in opposition to hegemonic institutions.
Dan Whipple joined the staff in May 2008, as the Observer editor. Dan will compile and edit the Natural Hazards Observer newsletter and assist with coordination of special projects and publications. Dan has been a writer and journalist for more than 30 years, specializing primarily in science and environmental issues. He served as editor of High Country News and Northern Lights and held several editorial positions at the daily Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming.Dan holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from Georgetown University and was a Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado during the 1997-98 academic year.
Liesel A. Ritchie is assistant director for research at the Natural Hazards Center. She has served as either principal investigator or senior researcher on almost 70 projects since 1996. Since 2001, Ritchie's focus has been on the social impacts of disasters with an emphasis on technological disasters, social capital, and resilience in renewable resource communities. Her 2004 dissertation on the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was the first study to examine the relationship between technological disasters and social capital.
Liesel currently directs three National Science Foundation projects—one on the social impacts of the high stakes litigation resolution associated with the Exxon Valdez oil spill, one on the 2008 TVA Kingston Fossil Plant ash release, and one on enhancing targeted research in the Advanced Technological Education Program. She was also recently involved with two NSF-funded RAPID grants. The first study examined post-disaster housing and recovery in Haiti following the January 12, 2010, earthquake. The second study compared community impacts of the 2010 BP oil catastrophe with those of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, focusing on the renewable resource community of Bayou La Batre, Alabama. She is also co-PI on a NOAA-funded project to incorporate social science into its tsunami program.
Liesel is coeditor of the January 2012 issue of American Behavioral Scientist on the BP disaster and is author or coauthor on five recent articles related to her work on that event, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the earthquake in Haiti. She is currently serving as program co-chair of the American Evaluation Association topical interest group on disaster and emergency management evaluation.
RoseMarie Perez Foster is a research and clinical psychologist who is a Senior Research Associate with the Institute of Behavioral Science's Environment and Society program and the Natural Hazards Center. Her previous appointments at the New York University School of Social Work and New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, focused on immigrant mental health and the interface between pre-migration traumatic exposures and host country adjustment. Her current investigation of Chernobyl disaster survivors from the former Soviet Union explores the impact of long-term post disaster psychological sequelae. RoseMarie received her PhD in psychology from St. John's University and post-doctoral training at NYU. She is on the international roster of Fulbright senior specialists in mental health and a recipient of the Frantz Fanon Award for contributions to the immigrant mental health and racial issues literature.
Diane Smith is the Natural Hazards Center's office manager. Her main responsibilities are to monitor and maintain the budget and finances of the Center. She also works with personnel issues and scheduling and planning the Center's meetings and events (especially the annual workshop!). Diane has been here for 19 years, so she is very familiar with the Center's activities and the University of Colorado.
Wee-Kiat Lim is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Colorado and a research assistant at the Natural Hazards Center. His research interests include organizational crisis response and social informatics. Before embarking on his doctoral education, Wee-Kiat was a researcher at the Information Management Research Center at the Nanyang Business School in Singapore. He has also held research and planning positions in Singapore's telecommunications and national defense sectors.
Nnenia Campbell is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology, research assistant at the Natural Hazards Center, and managing editor of the Natural Hazards Review. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Central Florida. Her research interests include technological disasters, risk perception, and social capital in disasters.
Courtney Farnham is a temporary research assistant at the Natural Hazards Center. She graduated from the University of Colorado in May 2010 with her bachelor's in psychology and sociology and has experience in disaster planning and policy with the Anchorage Municipality Office of Emergency Management. Courtney is working on multiple NSF-funded research projects at the Natural Hazards Center, including Discovering the Educational Consequences of Advanced Technological Education (DECA), a longitudinal study of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and a study on the 2008 TVA Kingston Fossil Plant ash release. Her research interests include community preparedness and resilience.
Leah E. James is a Research Associate at the Natural Hazards Center, Institute for Behavioral Sciences. She is also a clinical Assistant Professor for the International Disaster Psychology M.A. Program at the Graduate School of Professional Psychology, University of Denver. Leah is a licensed clinical social worker and has a PhD in social work and social psychology from the University of Michigan. She conducts applied research focused on culturally-adapted services for trauma and disaster survivors, with particular interest in the use of traditional healing practices, peer-leadership, and social action approaches in intervention development. Leah has engaged in international mental health research and humanitarian work in Haiti, Ghana, South Africa, and the DR Congo. She is a co-founder of a lay mental health worker training program for earthquake survivors in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and has conducted multiple evaluations of this project. Additional current interests include the development of a mental health integrated disaster preparedness intervention for disaster prone-communities in Haiti and Nepal, a training program for treatment of gender-based violence survivors in DR Congo, and a meaning-making intervention for veterans with PTSD. Leah also has considerable domestic clinical experience, including as a clinical social worker with the PTSD Clinical Team at the Ann Arbor VA hospital, and as co-leader of a therapy group for incarcerated female survivors of sexual assault.
Courtney Welton-Mitchell is an assistant professor in the International Disaster Psychology M.A. program at the University of Denver. She is also a research associate with Institute of Behavioral Science's Environment and Society program, Natural Hazards Center at University of Colorado Boulder. Courtney has authored articles in the areas of international disaster psychology, mental health of refugees and other forced migrants, domestic violence, and trauma and memory in publications such as Forced Migration Review; International Journal of Migration, Health, and Social Care; Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma; Journal of Women and Criminal Justice; and Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology. Her current international research interests include mental health integrated disaster preparedness for refugees and internally displaced, local idioms of distress and coping among populations in migratory transition, and evidence-based interventions for marginalized groups including sexual minorities, victims of gender-based violence, and women living with HIV/AIDS. Courtney received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Denver in 2012, holds two M.A. degrees, in social psychology and mental health counseling, and is a licensed clinician. She conducts psychological evaluations for asylum seekers and serves as an expert witness on immigration cases. Courtney is the 2013 recipient of the American Psychological Association: Division of Trauma Psychology’s dissertation award. Courtney worked for several years with U.N. and other humanitarian agencies with camp-based and urban refugees in Nepal, Tanzania, and Egypt before returning to the U.S. She continues to do consultancy work for humanitarian agencies, including recently having completed a global evaluation for UNHCR of mental health and psychosocial services for humanitarian aid workers, with data collection in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Courtney also coordinates disaster simulations on behalf of the international disaster psychology program at the University of Denver in collaboration with the JKSIS Humanitarian Assistance Program.
Lori Peek is an associate professor of sociology at Colorado State University. Lori has authored several articles in the areas of environmental risk, social vulnerability, and disasters. She also served for three years as the assistant co-editor of the Natural Hazards Reviewjournal. In addition to her interests in environmental sociology and the sociology of disasters, she specializes in the areas of religion, gender, race and ethnicity, social psychology, and ethnographic methods. Lori received her Ph.D. in 2005 from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her dissertation research focused on the experiences of second-generation Muslim Americans following the events of September 11, 2001. Lori currently works with the Natural Hazards Center to coordinate the Mary Fran Myers Award and the Mary Fran Myers Scholarship.
Deborah Thomas is an assistant professor of geography at the University of Colorado at Denver, where she is also affiliated faculty with the doctoral program in health and behavior sciences. She works with the Natural Hazards Center on numerous education-related projects. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina in 1999, specializing in hazards geography, and has over ten years of experience working with geographic information systems (GIS) in a variety of social science application areas, including hazards management and environmental health. Her research interests focus on the use of technologies in support of hazards management and issues of vulnerability as they relate to both natural and human-induced hazards and environmental health hazards.
Stacia Sydoriak joined the team as a volunteer contributing writer to DR—Disaster Research News You Can Use in September of 2012. Stacia has a bachelor's in psychology and sociology from Washington and Jefferson College and is a masters student in sociology at Colorado State University. She is also pursuing a graduate certificate in Women's Studies. Her research examines inequality in Yucatan Peninsula communities where the tourist industry and local economy were impacted by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Stacia is also a research assistant at the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis, where she has assisted with the Global Earthquake Model project, a disability preparedness study, and a project with a global challenges research team. Stacia is a member and a volunteer for the U.S. Gender and Disaster Resilience Alliance, and recently won its graduate student paper contest with Health Risks, Human Rights, and Disaster Vulnerability: A Gendered Exploration of the Environmental and Social Consequences of Hydraulic Fracturing in the United States. Stacia is also interested in the way in which race, gender and class impact social relations and access to resources in society, particularly in times of crisis.