Melissa Villarreal

Natural Hazards Center

Contact Info

Melissa received her PhD at the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder from the Department of Sociology. Her work primarily centers around the post-disaster recovery trajectories of vulnerable populations, though she has led and contributed to several different projects throughout the years. She has worked on projects looking at women’s experiences during and after disaster, structural vulnerability and reproductive health access for Mexican-origin women, and parental notification and access to abortion among minors. In addition to her own research endeavors, Melissa is a research assistant at the Natural Hazards Center at CU Boulder, working on several research projects concerning the enhancement of the ethical quality of disaster research, the increase of diversity in the hazards and disaster field, and the reduction of post-disaster vulnerabilities for marginalized communities. 

Her dissertation was an intersectional, multi-level analysis of Mexican-origin women and their post-disaster recovery trajectories in the context of cumulative disaster impacts. This project was based in Houston, Texas and focused on recovery from Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in 2017. Melissa was awarded the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP) in 2019, giving her a full three years of funding to conduct her work in Houston. In 2021, Melissa was awarded the American Sociological Association (ASA) Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (DDRIG) to continue this project. She also received other accolades––including the CU Boulder’s Center to Advance Research and Teaching in the Social Sciences (CARTSS) Graduate Student Award, CU Boulder’s Beverly Sears Graduate Student Award, and several other small grants from CU Boulder’s Department of Sociology and Institute of Behavioral Science––in support of this research. In 2021, she was selected to be a Kinder Scholar for Rice University’s Kinder Scholar Program. The Kinder Scholar Program, located in Houston, selects researchers, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students who conduct high quality research in the area. She was also a 2021 Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management Equity & Inclusion Fellow.

Melissa is a William Averette Anderson Fund (BAF) Fellow, which is dedicated to advancing the success of minority professionals in the hazards and disasters field. As a BAF Fellow, she has attended, participated in, and helped to organize professional development workshops and webinars. She has held several leadership positions in the BAF Student Executive Board, taking responsibility for planning and moderating webinars, drafting and disseminating the BAF newsletter, and organizing and coordinating the BAF’s annual fundraiser.