Students and Young Professionals On the Move at SRA

What do up-and-coming risk analysts do for fun? Amanda Boyd, one of the organizing members of the Student/Young Professionals group of the Society for Risk Analysis, is currently “in the North” – the north of North America, that is – examining the roles that trust in decision maker actions plays in risk communication with Indigenous populations in Canada.

The study that she is involved with compares and contrasts factors underlying trust as it operates in risk communication contexts among the three different Canadian Indigenous groups, including the Métis, First Nations, and Inuit populations. 

Who are the Métis, someone not from Canada might ask? Métis – like Amanda herself – are people who trace their descent to both European and Indigenous roots.

But Amanda’s focus in this work is on another group. “In this study, our group is examining trust in decision-makers among Inuit populations in the Canadian Arctic,” Amanda explains. Her work is guided by one of three principle investigators, Chris Furgal from Trent University. The other investigators are Cindy Jardine from the University of Alberta, who is working with First Nations people in the Northwest Territories, and the overall project lead, Michelle Driedger from the University of Manitoba, who is looking at this issue among the Métis population in the province of Manitoba.

Boyd’s work exemplifies the exciting opportunities available to SRA graduate students and postdocs. Her interaction with Furgal, Driedger and Jardine began when she was a master’s student.

The current Student/Young Professional (SYP) group at the Society for Risk Analysis started in 2011 as an ad-hoc committee. After that, according to Rachel Davidson, now a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Delaware, “The intent was to institutionalize the group and give it a voice on the Council.”

Means to implement this involved making a student member part of the annual meeting planning committee and adding other activities to support them (including subsidies for workshop participation and career fair activities  - as well as instituting a mixer especially for students and young professionals).

Chris Clarke, currently an assistant professor of communication specializing in science communication at George Mason University, got involved because his undergraduate advisor at Rutgers, Caron Chess, thought it a great opportunity for him to present his research for the first time as an undergrad. 

“She was right!” Clarke commented. Not to mention that “the locations were also fantastic – Palm Springs in 2004, Orlando in 2005, and San Antonio in 2007,” he added.

“SRA is unique for its blend of academics, industry, and government researchers.  It’s great to hear both theory-driven and practice-oriented research talks,” according to Clarke. “Over the years, I’ve also made numerous friends and colleagues there.”

Boyd concurs: “At SRA you meet people from industry, academia and government who work in a number of disciplines. How often do you find a conference where you meet people doing, for example, decision analysis, risk communication, policy, and risk assessment?”

Speaking of new members, Mahalia Miller, who is a PhD Candidate in Civil Engineering with a Ph.D. Minor in Computer Science at Stanford, is completely new to SRA and looks forward to attending her first meeting this December.

“As I near my Ph.D. graduation,” Miller adds, “I hope to gain a broader exposure to possible future career opportunities by personally connecting with risk professionals and preeminent researchers,” she adds.

Another  new member, Robert Canales, confirmed that involvement in SRA helped him to establish connections with like-minded researchers, scientists, and professionals, as well as informed him of the state-of-the-art in the field and made clear how he could contribute the field of risk analysis.

Davidson added, “Students are the next generation, so to ensure the future of the risk profession, we need to be sure we are training, mentoring, and supporting them effectively.”  Well said!


                                                                                          Susanna Priest, Ph.D.

                                                                                          SRA News Editor