Erin Willer

Erin Willer

Associate Professor

What I do

Associate Professor
Director of Departmental Development
Faculty Director, Wellness Living & Learning Community

Specialization(s)

compassion, creative arts, empathy, Gender and Women's Studies, grief and loss, health communication, infertility, interpersonal and family communication, social aggression

Professional Biography

Dr. Erin Willer is an artist/researcher/teacher whose scholarship engages narrative, art, and embodied methodologies in order to harbor sense-making, empathy, compassion, community-building, and health in the face of difficult life experiences, including grief and loss. Dr. Willer's research has focused on social aggression among girls and women, as well as infertility and perinatal loss. She has lead narrative and arts-based workshops for those in elementary school through retirement. She is the founder of The Scraps of the Heart Project, a community-based research collective dedicated to empowering families and educating communities about baby loss through story and creative arts. Dr. Willer teaches several community-engaged courses at DU—Communicating Grief and Loss, Visual Narratives of Women's Health, Communicating Empathy and Compassion, and Running as Feminist Embodiment—partnering with organizations such as Colorado Pregnancy and Newborn Loss Support, Girls on the Run of the Rockies, lululemon, and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.

Degree(s)

  • Ph.D., Communication Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2009
  • MS, Communication, Illinois State University, 2006
  • BS, Speech Communication Education, Illinois State University, 2001

Professional Affiliations

  • National Communication Association
  • Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Alliance
  • Western States Communication Association

Media Sources

Research

Dr. Erin Willer is an artist/researcher/teacher whose scholarship engages narrative, art, and embodied methodologies in order to harbor sense-making, empathy, compassion, community-building, and health in the face of difficult life experiences, including grief and loss. Dr. Willer's research has focused on social aggression among girls and women, as well as infertility and perinatal loss. She has lead narrative and arts-based workshops for those in elementary school through retirement. For example, she is the founder of The Scraps of the Heart Project, a community-based research collective dedicated to empowering families and educating communities about baby loss through story and creative arts. Dr. Willer also has served as the Artist in Residence at Montessori Academy of Colorado where she and elementary students collaborated on an empathy and compassion-based line of greeting cards called "Something to Say" designed for children going through difficult life events.

Featured Publications

Willer, E. K., & Willer, M. J. (2019). The heARTist part: Turning the point of mothering toward 100%. Health Communication. Health Communication, 34, 1069-1073.
Willer, E. K., Droser, V., Hoyt, K., Hunniecutt, J., Krebs, E., Johnson, J., & Castaneda, N. (2018). A visual narrative analysis of children’s baby loss remembrance drawings. Journal of Family Communication, 18, 153-169.
Willer, E. K. (2014). Health-care provider compassionate love and women’s infertility stressors. Communication Monographs.
Willer, E. K. (2012). Drawing light(ning) from the clouds of social aggression: A visual narrative analysis of girls’ metaphors. . Qualitative Communication Research, 1, 347-383.

Performances

Willer, E. K. (2017). The He(ARTery) of Pregnancy and Baby Loss. The Scraps of the Heart Project and Service Learning Students in Communicating Empathy and Compassion and Museums and Public Culture. University of Denver Museum of Anthropology.

Presentations

Willer, E. K. (2019). Keynote Address- At a loss for/words: Narrating the heA/R/T of grief. . Great Plains Undergraduate Communication Research Summit. University of South Dakota.
Willer, E. K. (2019). Empathy. Mixed Taste. Denver Center for the Performing Arts: Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Off Center.

Awards

  • Service-Learning Faculty of the Year Award, University of Denver, Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning
  • Outstanding New Teacher Award, Central States Communication Association