Brevity & Wit
2019 - Present (3 years, 1 month)
Brevity & Wit partners with socially conscious organizations to co-create equitable design, authentic brands, strategic impact, and inclusive cultures. Our unique approach combines human-centered design, the psychology of behavior change, and the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. My particular focus consists of research on mindsets with regard to social issues, and within organizations; the development of framing and tailored messaging using a combination of design thinking and insights from the social and communications science to maximize organizations’ impact in the world; and devising effective internal communications to help clients scale organizational change.
National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Earth Institute, Columbia University
Senior Trainer, Post-Disaster Recovery
2019 - Present (3 years, 1 month)
The National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Earth Institute works to understand and improve the nation's capacity to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. The center offers training programs focused on post-disaster economic and housing recovery, with a particular emphasis on the ways in which communities can more effectively prepare for and bounce back from catastrophic events. The free curricula, available across the U.S. in both instructor-led and web-based modalities, include collaborative activities, planning tools, tool kits, and geographic information system resources that learners can incorporate into their work practices. My role consists of the delivery of the following trainings: Community planning for economic resilience and recovery, strategies to rapidly rehabilitate damaged housing, collaborative case management services, and disaster financial literacy for individuals and households.
The FrameWorks Institute
Chief of Staff
2018 - 2019 (10 months)
FrameWorks is a communications think tank that uses social science methods to study how people understand social justice issues and identify ways that experts and advocates can explain them more effectively. The institute designs, conducts, publishes, explains, and applies communications research to prepare nonprofit organizations to expand their constituency base, to build public will, and to further public understanding of specific social issues—the environment, government, race, children’s issues, and health care among others. As a member of the senior leadership team I was responsible for directing the organization’s operational and financial activities; overseeing, managing, and improving our commitment to HR (recruitment, performance and staff engagement); advancing our dedication to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI); contract negotiation; proposal writing; supervision of staff and mentoring junior researchers.
National Center for Disaster Preparedness
Project Director, Risk Communication
2017 - 2018 (1 year, 1 month)
The National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Earth Institute works to understand and improve the nation's capacity to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. The special project on risk communication offered trainings for community organizations and direct service providers who are key players in amplifying New York City emergency messaging. To encourage and equip partners with the resources and knowledge to act on these emergency messages, this training gave key stakeholders hands-on tools for how they can best tailor critical emergency information to the needs of their audience. Topics included the psychology of risk-related decision making; how the psychological barriers that can get in the way of optimal decision making may be addressed through better messaging practices; principles to help stakeholders adapt messaging to address the needs of people with disabilities, access, and functional needs; and suggestions for how these principles may be leveraged using social media before, during, and after an emergency. As the project’s director, I developed and delivered communications trainings for NYC agencies involved in advanced warning messaging and disaster preparedness. The trainings were hosted by the NYC Office of Emergency Management and attended by representatives of a wide range of organizations, including city agencies, non-profits, and faith-based organizations.
National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Earth Institute, Columbia University
Director of Research
2016 - 2017 (1 year, 3 months)
The National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) at Columbia University's Earth Institute works to understand and improve the nation's capacity to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. Disasters throw us off balance. The chaos of devastating storms, terror events, or major accidents upsets the equilibria of communities, organizations, and people. NCDP's research focuses on the tipping point of those systems, at levels ranging from the individual, to the household, the community, up to political governance systems, and what is needed to maintain a system’s balance, to right it, or to support the populations and organizations dependent upon it if it has been lost. The center seeks to provide evidence to policy-makers, as well as theory and methods to the scientists, engineers, advocates, and designers focused on building a resilient society. As Director of Research, I initiated, led, and drafted interdisciplinary grant proposals with partners from across the university and beyond; directed and managed the center’s research activities and supervised staff; and collaborated with the Center’s Director and Deputy Director on strategic planning and budgeting.
2015 - 2016 (8 months)
ecoAmerica builds institutional leadership, public support, and political will for climate solutions in the United States. As a Research Writer in the Climate for Health Program, I distilled scientific literature on decision science and risk communication, and translated research on health impacts of climate change for leaders in public health, business, policy, and the faith community. The resulting publication, “Let’s Talk Health and Climate: Communication Guidance for Health Professionals” was designed to be useful for experienced and novice climate change and health communicators alike. The guide synthesizes the latest academic research and message testing on climate communications from across the social sciences into a practical guide to support meaningful discussion of climate change and health with individuals and groups.
Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED), The Earth Institute, Columbia University
Managing Director & Research Scientist
2005 - 2015 (10 years, 9 months)
The Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) is part of The Earth Institute whose overall mission is to address complex issues facing the planet and its inhabitants, with a focus on sustainable development. CRED is an interdisciplinary center that studies individual and group decision making under climate uncertainty and decision making in the face of environmental risk. The Center’s objectives address the human responses to climate change and climate variability as well as improved communication and increased use of scientific and technical information. In addition to advancing fundamental theory in psychology, behavioral economics, and other social science disciplines, CRED researchers work on integrated applied field projects around the world, where decision science is brought to bear on sustainable development challenges in such settings as agricultural decisions and water management.
My role as managing director and research scientists included both research and management functions. My research focused on environmental risk perceptions and behavior change, applying methods from the decision sciences, psychology, behavioral economics, sociology, history, and anthropology to real-world settings of sustainable development. One of the most comprehensive projects was the Regeneration Initiative (HRI)/Cote Sud Initiative (CSI), a collaboration of the Earth Institute, the UN Environment Programme, and various organizations in Haiti. I conducted interviews and focus groups on environmental risk perception, awareness and behavior. Results fed into the development of early warning systems as well as a wider communication strategy for the initiative. Another international project looked at Health Risk Management in a Changing Climate: A Global Approach to Building Local Capacity, a joint project with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Climate Centre. I served in an advisory role to a suite of projects in Tanzania, Kenya, Indonesia, and Vietnam, and developed interview protocols and surveys to gain insights into the understanding of the relationship between climate change/variability and disease (dengue fever and diarrheal diseases) among Red Cross staff and local communities.
On the management side, my responsibilities included the following:
Manage the center’s suite of 50+ interdisciplinary research projects, including budgetary oversight; Strategic planning; Devise and implement an outreach strategy; Oversee day-to-day operations, grow the center’s team, and supervise and develop staff; Mentor graduate students and postdoctoral scientists; Write proposals and oversee pre- and post-award management (including reporting); Act as key liaison to the center’s advisory board, funding agencies, and partner organizations; Serve as member of university committees, scientific review panels, and advisory boards; Represent the center at meetings, present findings at 100+ professional conferences and public speaking engagements, which required translation of research for broader non-academic audiences, such as government agencies, inter-governmental organizations, non-profits, business, general public; Plan and coordinate events (including weekly seminar series, annual meetings, special events).
International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI), Columbia University
Post-Doctoral Research Scientist
2002 - 2004 (2 years, 2 months)
The mission of the IRI is to enhance society's capability to understand, anticipate and manage the impacts of seasonal climate fluctuations, in order to improve human welfare and the environment, especially in developing countries. My appointment was a joint appointment between IRI and the Department of Psychology, with the aim to combine social and climate science to improve climate-sensitive decisions in agriculture and public health. In one of my primary projects I studied the role of climate perceptions, expectations, and forecasts in farmer decision making in the Argentine Pampas and South Florida. A second project took me to Southern Africa in an effort to introduce the use of climate information for malaria preparedness in regions where the disease is epidemic (rather than endemic). The work resulted in a publication: Improving Epidemic Malaria Planning, Preparedness and Response in Southern Africa, (Malaria Journal 3:37, 2004), and an instructional poster designed for WHO-Afro: Malaria Surveillance, Forecasting, Preparedness and Response in Southern Africa.