As an educator and parent whose son survived the shootings at Columbine High School, Carolyn Lunsford Mears decided to pursue doctoral work in order to research and share what happens to families and communities after a school shooting. Her dissertation, Experiences of Columbine Parents: Finding a Way to Tomorrow (2005), received the Outstanding Qualitative Dissertation of the Year Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA), for its insights into the inside of tragedy as well as for her approach to narrative inquiry. AERA described her unique method as an “innovative and distinctive new approach to qualitative research” and encouraged Dr. Mears to publish on the process that she had employed for the Columbine investigation. Her award winning book Interviewing for Education and Social Science Research: The Gateway Approach (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, 2015) was followed by research into the ongoing effects of rampage shootings.
Extending her Columbine study, Dr. Mears investigated experiences of educators whose communities had suffered traumatic loss. The resulting volume, Reclaiming School in the Aftermath of Trauma: Advice Based on Experience (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), captures the inside of school and university communities, including Gulf Coast Louisiana devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Lower Manhattan areas immediately impacted by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Virginia Tech, Jokela, Finland, and elsewhere. It was written with practitioners and the public in mind, as a way to share what helped and what impeded recovery following a traumatic event. Reclaiming School received the prestigious Colorado Book of the Year Award for anthology from the Colorado Center for the Humanities, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Dr. Mears has published numerous articles and presented to a variety of audiences across the U.S., England, and Australia, on such topics as trauma response and recovery, crisis preparedness and response, leadership in times of crisis, and interventions in traumatized communities. She has been named as a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts and is internationally known for her work in support of communities, schools, and families affected by traumatic events. Currently, she serves a Research Fellow in the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education; a Fellow of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust; Alliance Member of the National Centre for Therapeutic Residential and Foster Care in the UK; Executive Director of the Tesoro Cultural Center, and other organizations.