Jennifer Willett, PhD, MSW

 Current Research

Jennifer Willett is an Assistant Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, School of Social Work. Her research explores environmental injustice and slow violence through community-based participatory research methods.

Her current project is a community-based research project funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Evaluation (Grant No. 18RE204598). Together with 15 “youth scientists” (high school students from Title 1 schools that serve as co-researchers) the research team is documenting slow violence scenarios (hidden environmental disasters that occur over time and space) in Nevada through photovoice. Areas of focus include climate disasters like wildfires and floods, infrastructure needs in low-income neighborhoods that intersect with environmental degradation, and the continued impact of historic mining processes. The team has presented their findings to various stakeholders across the region and in Washington DC, and is currently developing actions to address these scenarios with AmeriCorps programs.

In a second study, Jennifer is documenting environmental injustices, coping mechanisms, and community needs across the state of Nevada in partnership with a non-profit community partner. This study includes unique environmental injustices like the nuclear test site, water rights, climate change, and mining impacts. Analysis of this data is ongoing.

Previous Work and Background

Prior to moving to Nevada, Jennifer received her PhD from the University of Connecticut, School of Social Work. In her dissertation, she explored slow violence and environmental migration in Kenya. This study was guided by an Advisory Board of poor Kenyans to support the participation of the local population. She found that the study participants were impacted more by small everyday disasters (such as localized floods), rather than the larger disasters that are the typical focus of aid groups. More interventions are needed for this type of environmental disaster.

Personally, Jennifer is a longtime environmentalist and avid outdoorswoman. She loves living in Nevada and enjoys the local environment through frequently hiking, paddling, and climbing in the Sierras with her partner and rescue dog.