Good in a crisis

MU doctoral candidate studies how people recover from traumatic events.

Picture of Jennifer First working with children at the Boys and Girls Club.

Jennifer First helps work with people to recover from traumatic events. Recently she conducted a workshop on resilience with youth at Boys and Girls Club of Columbia.

It’s safe to assume that Jennifer First would be a good person to have around in a crisis. She is the disaster mental health program manager for the Disaster and Community Crisis Center at the

University of Missouri. She also is a licensed social worker and a doctoral candidate in the MU School of Social Work.

“After finishing my bachelor’s degree in religious studies, I worked in a variety of social service agencies with individuals experiencing crisis such as homelessness, violence and natural disasters,” First said. “I was inspired watching individuals and families persevere and demonstrate resilience despite extremely stressful and traumatic events.”

This led her to pursue a graduate degree in the field of social work. First’s research has primarily focused on assessing risk and resilience factors in communities that have experienced trauma or crisis. She recently led a study that found survivors of natural disasters have the potential to experience positive changes or growth in addition to the stress they experience.

First grew up in St. Louis and attended Judson University in Elgin, Illinois, for her undergraduate degree. She decided on Mizzou for graduate school because of the outstanding faculty and focus on addressing social injustice and inequalities in practice, research and policy areas.

First plans to finish her doctoral program in May 2019.

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