News & Announcements

Jennifer First returns to School of Social Work as MizzouForward hire

Jan. 16, 2024

Jennifer First
Jennifer First

For the third consecutive year, the College of Health Sciences has made a new faculty hire via the MizzouForward initiative, a 10-year investment designed to elevate and promote the University of Missouri as a top research university.

Jennifer First, Ph.D., is set to return to the School of Social Work this summer as an assistant professor. First currently is an assistant professor with the College of Social Work at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, though she earned her doctoral and master’s degrees in social work at Mizzou. She has also worked as a mental health program manager for the MU Disaster and Community Crisis Center and as an external associate with the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine.

“I am excited to join the School of Social Work as a faculty member and have the opportunity to work with so many wonderful and talented faculty members,” First said. “The University of Missouri provides multiple strategic and collaborative opportunities to continue and expand my research program, and I envision many fruitful partnerships.”

Her research examines the impacts of climate change and environmental hazards (e.g., extreme heat, air quality, tornadoes, floods and pandemics) on human health — particularly the social inequities that place individuals and communities at increased risk for adverse health outcomes in the face of climate-driven hazards. This work includes assessing mental health vulnerabilities, examining injury and fatality risks from extreme weather events, studying risk communication and behavioral processes, formulating hazard mitigation strategies and implementing interventions to foster adaptive coping and well-being.

“I am committed to generating research that involves community engagement and creating a feedback loop of knowledge transfer and participation between researchers, community members and policymakers,” she said.

First’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Integrated Heat Health Information System and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Dr. Aaron Thompson, professor and director of the School of Social Work, said he’s excited to welcome First and her family back to Columbia. He described her as a compassionate human and trusted colleague who will make positive contributions to the culture of the college and student education while conducting advanced and novel research.

“We all know from experience that Jen cares about this community and will get directly involved in confronting challenges and generating solutions alongside others,” Thompson said. “This value above all else distinguishes our faculty and the MU School of Social Work from other social work degree programs.”

First said she looks forward to partnering with faculty across the Mizzou research community, including strategic partnerships with the School of Natural Resources, the Materials Science & Engineering Institute and the Disaster and Community Crisis Center.

“Dr. First will bring tremendous opportunities and collaborations to our students and faculty by engaging in meaningful research with partners from Geography, Climatology, Agriculture and NextGen Precision Health as well as others across MU’s research community,” Thompson said.

Featured in this post

Aaron Thompson

Aaron M. Thompson

Director and Professor, School of Social Work