Jessica Austin is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is also a graduate research assistant at the Natural Hazards Center, where she serves as the primary data manager for the Social Science Extreme Events Research network. Before returning to full-time study, Jessica held multiple policy and administration roles in state, federal, and non-profit public health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. She earned a Master of Public Administration from Western Michigan University and a Master of Science in anthrozoology from Canisius College. Her research specialties include animals and society, social psychology, and qualitative research methods.
Melissa Villarreal, MA
PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, University of Colorado, Boulder
Graduate Research Assistant, Natural Hazards Center, Institute of Behavioral Science
Social vulnerability; sociology of disasters; race/ethnicity and immigration; gender and intersectionality; diversity & inclusion; environmental justice
I am a PhD Candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Department of Sociology and a graduate research assistant at the Natural Hazards Center. My work primarily centers around the post-disaster recovery process of vulnerable populations. I am currently working on my dissertation project: an intersectional, multi-level analysis of the long-term, post-disaster housing recovery of Mexican immigrant women in Houston, Texas after Hurricane Harvey. I was awarded the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP) in 2019, giving me a full three years of funding to conduct my work in Houston. In 2021, I was awarded the American Sociological Association (ASA) Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (DDRIG) to continue this project. In 2021, I was selected to be a Kinder Scholar for Rice University’s Kinder Scholar Program. The Kinder Scholar Program, located in Houston, selects researchers, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students who conduct high quality research in the area. I have also worked on projects looking at women’s experiences during and after disaster; the benefits of mentoring for marginalized doctoral students of color; structural vulnerability and reproductive health access for Mexican-origin immigrant women; parental notification and access to abortion among minors; and the enhancement of the ethical quality of disaster research. Finally, I am a William Averette Anderson Fund (BAF) Fellow, which is dedicated to advancing the success of minority professionals in the hazards and disasters field.
Tracy Fehr is a Sociology PhD Candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder. For dissertation research in 2022-2023, Fehr conducted a multi-sited ethnography of Gender and Transitional Justice in Nepal as a Fulbright Hays DDRA fellow. Fehr’s research interests lie at the intersection of gender, development, human rights, law, and peace and conflict. Her research is intimately connected to timely political and social issues and focuses on understanding how broader social forces and power relations shape women’s everyday realities. In 2023, Fehr was awarded the CU Boulder Sociology Department Feminist "Walk the Talk" award as a testament to her engagement in ethically conducting international research to contribute to social change. Since 2018, Fehr has also been teaching as a Graduate Part-Time Instructor and, in 2020, received the CU Boulder Graduate Teaching Excellence Award.