By Hannah Whitley, CLA Ambassador

Since October of 2015, I have been working with Dr. Hilary Boudet, an Assistant Professor in the School of Public Policy, and her team of graduate student researchers on her National Science Foundation funded project titled “Community Reactions to Extreme Weather Events.” Initially, I was hired by Dr. Boudet to conduct content analysis of local newspapers from 15 communities in which extreme weather events occurred anytime from 2012-2015. Throughout my coding process, I work to identify community leaders, significant events, climate-change opinions, and public policy changes which may have come forth from the effects of these extreme weather events. In addition to newspaper coding, I transcribed field interviews to extract quotes concerning these events and opinions on climate change. While my participation in this project was initially funded by Research Experience for Undergrads (REU) funds sponsored by the NSF, I was successful in securing additional funding from the School of Public Policy’s Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP) as well finding from the Undergraduate Research, Innovation, Scholarship and the Arts (URISC).

In July of 2016, Dr. Boudet was so pleased with my work coding and transcribing, that she invited me conduct my own fieldwork – as an undergraduate! From July 25-28, I conducted a site visit and complete interviews with the stakeholders identified during my coding process in St. Louis, Missouri. In 2012, 10-day heatwave struck the St. Louis metropolitan area, killing almost 30 people in the course of one month. During my time in Missouri, I conducted 11 one-hour interviews, meeting with non-elected government officials, local environmental organizations, climatologists, and media reporters, gauging their opinions on the community prior to, after, and during the heatwave.  Armed with my completed fieldwork and transcribed interviews, I was able to present my findings in a case study at the 2016 Undergraduate Summer Research Symposium at Oregon State University in August.

Although my final report from my fieldwork in St. Louis has been completed, I plan to continue working with Dr. Boudet on this project throughout my final year as an undergraduate at OSU! I am incredibly thankful for the professional development opportunities I have had through this study, as I have been able to participate in a facet of research rarely conducted by an undergraduate.

For more information on “Community Reactions to Extreme Weather Events,” visit:

Details on how to apply for URISC funding can be found at:

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