Director of Research and Engagement: Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis



Jennifer Tobin-Gurley is the Director of Research and Engagement at the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis (CDRA). She is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Sociology at Colorado State University (CSU). She earned her B.A. in Sociology and Women’s Studies from CSU in 2005 and M.A. in Sociology in 2008. Jennifer’s master’s thesis research drew on qualitative interviews with local disaster recovery workers and single mothers who were displaced to Colorado after Hurricane Katrina. Jennifer is the recipient of the 2014 Beth B. Hess Memorial Scholarship, the 2014 Graduate Student Research Excellence Award from the Department of Sociology, and was chosen by CSU’s School of Global and Environmental Sustainability as a 2014/2015 Sustainability Leadership Fellow.

Jennifer has been involved in a wide range of funded research projects with CDRA, including an examination of children's experiences following Hurricane Katrina, a gap analysis on preparedness for individuals with access and functional needs, and an analysis of disaster preparedness among childcare providers in Colorado. In a partnership with GeoHazards International Jennifer traveled to New Zealand following the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake as part of an international project to explore of earthquake risk reduction activities in 11 cities in 7 different countries.

Jennifer is currently working with a team on the SHOREline project, which is a youth empowerment program established in high schools along the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill. She also is a research assistant for the Sandy Child and Family Health Study, which focuses on the impacts of Hurricane Sandy on the health and well-being of children and adults. Jennifer is the research coordinator for Youth Creating Disaster Recovery, which is a participatory project focusing on the recovery of youth following disasters across Canada and the U.S. Her dissertation research will focus on the educational continuity of two schools following the 2013 floods in northern Colorado. Email:


  • Sociology of Disasters


    Course Description: Disasters can result from forces of nature such as wildfires, hurricanes, tornados, floods, earthquakes, and droughts; technological accidents such as nuclear reactor meltdowns, train derailments, oil spills, and chemical releases; willful acts of violence such as terrorism and shootings; or a combination of the above. Disasters can be slow to emerge, as is the case with drought, or can be sudden or unexpected such as when earthquakes or tornadoes strike. These events have the potential to disrupt community functioning, cause displacement, and result in significant economic and property loss, injuries, fatalities, and profound emotional suffering. Disasters are occurring with greater frequency and greater severity than ever before. Between 1992 and 2012, disasters affected over 4.4 billion people, caused 1.3 million deaths, and resulted in over $2 trillion in economic losses (UNISDR 2012). In part, these global shifts are caused by changing environmental conditions, but they also occur due to entrenched social, economic and political inequalities that expose more and more people to higher levels of risk. This course is designed to introduce students to the sociological investigation of disasters their origins, effects, and the social dynamics that create risk of and vulnerability to disasters.