Big Research. Little Tools.

"Reno encouraged me to find my tribes"

Ashley hennefer“Harnessing the power of open data and power tools”

What I love about Reno is the abundance of open space where history has already left its mark. It’s space begging to be filled but it’s not without its quirks. I grew up in the Bay Area where there isn’t much space left to claim. Then I moved to the Carson Valley, where the space was taken for granted. I found a happy medium in Reno, where I found space to investigate and explore the uncharted, much like Nevada’s early explorers.

I came to Reno looking for a chance to view Nevada from a bird’s eye view. I graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2010 with a mind itching to start researching, and soon found myself back on campus embarking on a journey toward my PhD. But then I found myself floating, aloft in academia, looking to be grounded in Northern Nevada’s research scene.

Except that it didn’t exist. At least not in the way I was looking for. I wanted street research, data driven by the citizens involved in Reno’s incredible maker movement. I wanted to know what Nevadans want and how we can make our vision for Reno’s future come to life. I wanted an open forum for insightful ideas and an outlet to answer complex questions. I wanted information and tools to be in the hands of the people.

So I founded Tribe, which stands for “The Research Institute for Better Environments.” It’s also an homage to Reno’s many unique subcultures. And through Tribe, I helped co-found the Northern Nevada Tool Library to support those who need better access to the tools and resources to participate in those subcultures.

Reno offers me a chance to conduct meaningful research on what matters most to Nevadans. Reno encouraged me to find my tribes. And for a researcher like me, this city–ever-changing and moving quickly into the future–is the perfect variable.

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