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Chico State

Child Development Professor Gains Growing Recognition Addressing Children’s Wildfire Trauma

Lindsey Nenadal sits between two other people at a table talking.
(Jason Halley / University Photographer)

Lindsey Nenadal, professor in Child Development (center) and Courtney Peria (right) work closely with Rashell Brobst (left), CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of North Valley, focusing on long-term support for families that have been impacted by wildfires. (Jason Halley / University Photographer)

Four Chico State faculty members are being celebrated as recipients of the University’s Professional Achievement Honors, which recognize exemplary teacher-scholar achievement on our campus. Honorees are selected by the University’s Faculty Recognition and Support Committee and sponsored by the University Foundation Board of Governors.

Lindsey Nenadal is quickly becoming a national expert in addressing the trauma children face in the aftermath of a wildfire, a topic becoming more relevant by the year.

Her research has focused on the cornerstones of disaster response for organizations that serve children and youth, ways to help after a disaster, and ways to support children both during and after a wildfire. With support from a team at the Boys and Girls Club of the North Valley and a group of Chico State undergraduate students, she spent two years interviewing and learning from community members who worked with children and families during and after the Camp Fire—and then used those insights to craft a handbook for organizations facing a similar crisis. It covers everything from immediate needs and considerations on day one to managing a displaced family’s long-term needs. The playbook generated significant media coverage and has been shared by several nonprofits, including the Boys and Girls Club of the North Valley, the Comfort Kids, and North Net Library System.

After the 2023 Maui wildfires, it began to gain national traction. The California Association of School Psychologists crisis response team asked for permission to circulate her informational sheet and posted it on their website. The California Emergency Team was especially commending of her playbook, and it was shared with the Maui Senate and House office staff as well as at the International Association of Emergency Managers Conference. Nenadal also has presented this work twice at the American Educational Research Association Conference, which brings together thousands of researchers and scholars from across the world.

Meanwhile, her research continues. She is currently the PI and co-PI on two studies focused on supporting children and teens during and after a wildfire and other natural disasters. Working with undergraduate and graduate students to better understand teens’ experiences, the results from one study will be shared in this community and beyond, amplifying survivors’ voices and lending support to those who need it in the future. The other study is a collaboration with faculty from University of Montana, Louisiana State University, and the nonprofit Project:Camp—an organization that does pop-up camps for children and youth after a natural disaster—to study the role and impacts of such activities.

Recognition for her work continues to grow. Nenadal recently received the Early Career Community Engagement award from the University’s Office of Civic Engagement, and she was among a group of colleagues in Child Development and the Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology who were named the inaugural winners of The Bradley Glanville and Kris Zappettini Faculty Research Endowment Fund. The aim of the proposed project is to assess and identify educational needs of teachers and children in Chico State’s service area and beyond to develop new age-appropriate and effective in-person and virtual museum programming and curricula.

In addition to her disaster-related research, Nenadal has also studied teachers’ beliefs about biases based on social class; curriculum development, implementation, and evaluation focused on social issues; and the effects of poverty on children’s development. A lifelong learner, she regularly attends presentations and webinars to continue to build her own knowledge in evolving fields, embracing topics around trauma, biases, and supporting students’ strengths and needs. She is also the faculty advisor for the Child Development Student Association, enthusiastically embracing the opportunity to support students grow as leaders and helping them find ways to support children and families in the community.

“I absolutely love the work I get to do through my teaching, research, and service at Chico State,” she said. “With the support of the Department of Child Development and the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, I am able to collaborate with my students, colleagues, and community members in meaningful ways. Connections are made, relationships are built, and everyone gains something from the experience.”

Nenadal has a BA in liberal studies and a teaching credential from Chico State, and an MA and PhD in education from UCLA. She has been a faculty member at Chico State since 2019.