Global Sustainability Initiative at Purdue

Engaging Local Communities on Environmental Risks

Purdue University Center for the Environment Workshop
May 28, 2015
9:00 am — 4:00pm

Issue Brief

For a copy of the Issue Brief - Engaging Local Communities on Environmental Risk – click here.


One of the core challenges in dealing with environmental health risks is building effective working relationships between environmental professionals and local communities facing those risks. As local communities face new and more complex environmental threats from a variety of sources, this challenge is becoming more difficult. As part of its mission to better connect environmental science with public and community stakeholders, Purdue University’s Center for the Environment sponsored a one-¬‐day workshop to address this critical issue.

The workshop sessions focused on effective risk communication and working collaboratively with local communities in addressing environmental health risks. The speakers considered a range of strategies for effectively communicating complex information about environmental health risks between local communities and public agency staff, private contractors, and environmental scientists. The Speakers also discussed new models for partnerships with local stakeholders on addressing specific environmental health threats. Each panel included short presentations by each panelist, and 60 minutes of moderated discussion. The workshop provided substantial opportunities for audience questions and answers with the speakers.

Videos from the Workshop

Speaker Bios

William Kinsella

William Kinsella is Professor of Communication at North Carolina State University, where he directed the interdisciplinary program on Science, Technology, and Society from 2009-2014. His research and teaching address the overlapping areas of organizational communication, environmental and energy communication, rhetoric of science and technology, and rhetoric of public policy. He has served with the citizen advisory board for the U.S. Department of Energy's Hanford nuclear cleanup site in Washington state, and during 2010 he was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar at the Institute for Nuclear Energy and Energy Systems at the University of Stuttgart, Germany. His work on nuclear energy communication has encompassed the areas of nuclear fusion, environmental cleanup across the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, and commercial nuclear energy in U.S. and global contexts.

Robin Dodson, Sc.D.

Robin Dodson, Sc.D., is a research scientist at Silent Spring Institute, a nonprofit scientific research organization that focuses on the environment and health. Her research centers on developing novel residential exposure measurement methods for epidemiological studies and analyzing household chemical exposure data. She manages exposure studies focused on flame retardants and green subsidized housing and leads the Institute’s product testing research. She also holds an appointment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as a visiting scientist and as a lecturer at Brandeis University.

Anna Goodman Hoover

Anna Goodman Hoover, a University of Kentucky College of Public Health research assistant professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health, studies participatory communication processes to support evidence-based decisions for public health, preparedness, and public planning. She serves as communications director and research translation co-lead for the NIH-funded University of Kentucky Superfund Research Center and as deputy director of the National Coordinating Center for Public Health Services and Systems Research, a national program office of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Indra Frank, MD, MPH

Indra Frank, M.D. and MPH, serves as the Environmental Health project director for the Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana’s largest environmental education and advocacy organization. Dr. Frank coordinates HEC’s work with local communities reviewing environmental exposures and their links to health. She is also the Indiana representative for the Great Lakes Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit. After practicing as a board certified pathologist, she shifted her career to environmental health in 2004 and has since worked in environmental health programs, education and policy with Indiana-based nonprofit organizations including Improving Kids’ Environment, the Health by Design Coalition, and the Indiana Environmental Health Summit. She teaches environmental health and environmental toxicology at the IU Fairbanks School of Public Health as an adjunct member of the faculty.

Kelly G. Pennell, PhD, PE

Kelly G. Pennell, Ph.D. and PE, is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Kentucky. Her research interests include the fate and transport of environmental contaminants, water treatment processes, and environmental systems modeling. Drawing from all of her current and previous experience, her research is situated at the interface of research, policy and practice. From 2005 until 2010 she was the state agencies liaison for Brown University’s Superfund Research Program. From 2010 until 2013, she was an assistant professor in the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. She has been a licensed professional engineer (PE) since 2001.

Laura Senier

Laura Senier is an assistant professor in Sociology and Anthropology and Health Sciences at Northeastern University. Her research interests include the sociology of medicine and public health, community environmental health, and environmental justice. She is Principal Investigator on an NIH Mentored Research Scientist Award to study how political barriers hinder research translation, or the effort to migrate scientific discoveries into clinical and public health practice. Previously, she has studied how the search for genetic predictors for common diseases, such as cardiovascular disease or cancer, has drawn scientists away from searching for social and environmental causes of health inequalities, such as poverty or environmental pollution. Her research shows how dominant paradigms of disease causation close off alternative ways of conceptualizing risk, directing attention to certain kinds of interventions, privileging lifestyle or behavior modification, for example, over environmental regulation.

Kim Ferraro

Kim Ferraro is the Hoosier Environmental Council’s Senior Staff Attorney. Kim comes to HEC from the Legal Environmental Aid Foundation (LEAF), the state’s only not-for-profit legal aid services organization focused on the environment. Kim served as the executive director of LEAF from its founding until its merger with HEC in Dec. 2011. As LEAF’s ED and continuing as HEC’s lead counsel, Kim has achieved several legal victories that have helped communities impacted by industrial pollution, factory farm waste, reckless residential development, and coal ash contamination. Kim’s honors include “Up and Coming Lawyer” by Indiana Lawyer, “Legal Advocate of the Year” by HEC, and the Dean W. Kohlhoff Memorial Award for Excellence in Environmental Law, among others.

Wayne and Barbara Stutsman

Wayne and Barbara Stutsman are representatives of the Baugo North Neighborhood Group which officially organized as a result of the community’s environmental, health, and legal issues involving VIM Recycling, Inc., Elkhart, IN. Mr. Stutsman is the co-spokesperson for the group. He was employed at Miles Laboratories/Bayer Corporation, Elkhart, IN as a Journeyman Electrician for 36 years until retirement in 2003. He is a U.S. Air Force Veteran. Mrs Stutsman, a retired administrative assistant for CTS Corp., Elkhart, has utilized her professional knowledge to provide countless hours of research and organizational expertise to document and help communicate the environmental issues in their community.