Poco D. Kernsmith

Dr. Poco D. Kernsmith is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Social Welfare. Dr. Kernsmith has integrated practice and research experience in the development and implementation of several federally funded research and intervention projects, focusing on the etiology and prevention of perpetration of violence by youth among peers, in families, and in intimate relationships. These projects include a longitudinal study on the modifiable protective factors to prevent intimate partner and sexual violence perpetration, and the development and evaluation of school-based violence prevention programs in university and middle school settings. Dr. Kernsmith is currently studying how school policies can help create inclusive, trauma-informed environments to prevent and respond to violence or threats of violence in middle and high schools.

Dr. Kernsmith’s research has been funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Justice, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and the Michigan State Policy Center. Dr. Kernsmith’s additional research areas include inclusive and comprehensive sexual health education, water justice, collective trauma, and community-based strategies to prevent hate-motivated violence and domestic terrorism. Dr. Kernsmith has also volunteered with the American Civil Liberties Union to support efforts related to reform of the criminal legal system.

Dr. Kernsmith has primarily taught classes in research methods at the BSW, MSW, and PhD levels, as well as courses related to violence prevention and intervention. As the PhD program director at two universities, Dr. Kernsmith engaged in efforts to assess structural barriers to student success and engaged in systems change to promote equity and inclusion in the academic system. Dr. Kernsmith is engaged in ongoing research to assess disparities in mentorship of doctoral students.

Sicong (Summer) Sun

Sicong “Summer” Sun (they/them) is an Assistant Professor of Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Born and raised in China, Dr. Sun is a first-generation immigrant and a nonbinary queer scholar. They hold a Ph.D. in Social Work and a Master of Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis. Before joining UCLA, Dr. Sun was a faculty member at the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare.

Dr. Sun is broadly interested in race, ethnicity, and immigration, poverty and inequality, social determinants of health, and health equity. As an applied interdisciplinary researcher, their scholarship centers on conceptual and empirical understanding of the intersections of racism, poverty, and health. Central to Dr. Sun’s work is investigating how racial/ethnic inequities in asset holding and financial capability—rooted in historical and contemporary structural racism—serve as upstream social determinants that fundamentally shape the downstream determinants of health and wellbeing across the lifespan. Their recent project examines racial/ethnic differences in the relationship between wealth and health. Dr. Sun’s research aims to inform social policies and programs to advance racial, socioeconomic, and health equity in the U.S. and global contexts.

Dr. Sun’s research has been published in multidisciplinary journals, including the Annual Review of Public Health, SSM-Population Health, Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, Children and Youth Services Review, and Journal of Family and Economic Issues. Among other awards, they have received the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award from the Society for Social Work Research and the Jane Aron Fellowship from the National Association of Social Workers Foundation.

Selected publications:

Sun, S., Chiang, C. J., & Hudson, D. (2024). Racial/Ethnic Differences in the Association Between Parental Wealth and Child Behavioral Problems. Children and Youth Services Review.

Sun, S. (2023). Racial/Ethnic Heterogeneity in Parental Wealth and Substance Use from Adolescence to Young Adulthood. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.

Sun, S. (2023). Building Financial Capability and Assets to Reduce Poverty and Health Disparities: Race/Ethnicity Matters. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 1-20.

Sun, S. , Lee, H., & Hudson, D. (2023). Racial/Ethnic Differences in the Relationship Between Wealth and Health Across Young Adulthood. SSM – Population Health.

Ansong, D., Okumu, M., Huang, J., Sun, S., Huseynli, A., Chowa, G., Ssewamala, F., Sherraden M.S. & Sherraden, M. (2023). Financial Capability and Asset Building: Innovations in Social Protection and Development in Handbook on Social Protection and Social Development in the Global South Edited by Patel, L., Plagerson S., & Chinyoka I.

Chen, Y. C., & Sun, S. (2023). Gender Differences in the Relationship between Financial Capability and Health in Later Life: Evidence from Hong Kong. Innovation in Aging, igad072.

Sun, S. & Chen, Y. C. (2022). Is financial capability a determinant of health? Theory and evidence. Journal of Family and Economic Issues.

Sun, S. Chen, Y. C., Ansong, D., Huang, J., & Sherraden, M.S. (2022). Household financial capability and economic hardship: An empirical examination of the financial capability theory. Journal of Family and Economic Issues.

Sun, S. Huang, J, Hudson, D., Sherraden, M. (2021) Cash transfers and health. Annual Review of Public Health

Tozan, Y., Capasso, A., Sun, S., Neilands, T. B., Damulira, C., Namuwonge F., Nakigozi G., Bahar, O. S., Nabunya, P. Mellins, C. Mckay M. M., & Ssewamala, F. M. (2021). Effects and cost-effectiveness evaluation of a family economic empowerment intervention to increase ARV Adherence among HIV+ adolescents in Uganda. Journal of the International AIDS Society.

Ssewamala, F.M., Wang, J. S. H., Brathwaite, R., Sun, S., Mayo-Wilson, L.J., Neilands, T.B., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2021) Impact of a Family Economic Intervention on Health functioning of Adolescents Impacted by HIV/AIDS: A 5-year Randomized Controlled Trial in Uganda. American Journal of Public Health

Sun, S., Nabunya, P., Byansi, W., Bahar, O. S., Damulira, C., Neilands, T. B., Guo, S., Namuwonge, F. & Ssewamala, F. M. (2020). Access and utilization of financial services among poor HIV-impacted children and families in Uganda. Children and Youth Services Review, 104730.

Tozan, Y., Sun, S., Capasso, A., Wang, J. S. H., Neilands, T. B., Bahar, O. S., Damulira, C. & Ssewamala, F. M. (2019). Evaluation of a savings-led family-based economic empowerment intervention for AIDS-affected adolescents in Uganda: A four-year follow-up on efficacy and cost-effectiveness. PLOS ONE 14(12).


Courses of instruction in the program: Foundations of Social Welfare Policy; HBSE: Theoretical Perspectives in Social Work and Social Welfare

For full list of publications please visit their page at:

Google scholar: ‪Sicong (Summer) Sun – ‪Google Scholar

Research Gate: Sicong Sun (researchgate.net)

Connect with them on X: @drsummersun

Bianca D.M. Wilson

Bianca D.M. Wilson, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Welfare at the Luskin School of Public Affairs and an affiliate faculty member of the California Center for Population Research at UCLA. Her research explores the relationships between culture, oppression, and health. Dr. Wilson examines LGBTQ economic instabilities and involvement with systems of care and criminalization, with a focus on the ways racialization, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression play a role in creating disproportionality and disparities.

Notably, she was the lead investigator on the first study to establish population estimates of how many LGBTQ youth are in foster care and has led similar work in juvenile criminalization. Similarly, she has led the largest qualitative study of the life and needs of LGBTQ people experiencing economic insecurity. Acknowledging the impact of this work, she was awarded the Distinguished Contribution to Public Policy Award by the American Psychological Association Division 44 (Society for the Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity). Underlying her substantive works on LGBTQ, health, system involvement and economic security is her attention to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE) data collection and data policy. She has conducted SOGIE measurement research among youth and adults and continues to work with local, state and federal government efforts on increasing and improving LGBTQ inclusive data collection. She served on the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) Consensus Panel on the Measurement of Sex, Gender and Sexual Orientation- a report commissioned by the National Institutes of Health in the interest of informing data policy and practices in federal data collection. She is currently serving as a scientific committee member of NASEM’s Assessment of NIH Research on Women’s Health consensus study.

She was previously a Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy at the UCLA School of Law, and before that an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at California State University, Long Beach. Dr. Wilson earned a Ph.D. in Psychology from the Community and Prevention Research program at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) with a minor in Statistics, Methods, and Measurement, and received postdoctoral training at the UCSF Institute for Health Policy Studies and the UCSF Lesbian Health and Research Center through an Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ) postdoctoral fellowship.

Yeon Jae Hwang

Yeon Jae Hwang is an incoming first-year doctoral student in the Department of Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and her Master of Social Welfare from Yonsei University, South Korea.

As a queer person of color, she continuously sought ways to support and empower marginalized people’s voices during her undergraduate, mostly spending days on the street demonstrating and fostering ties with other advocates in the South Korean community. The number one question that opened her journey to academia was, ‘how does one not conventionally categorized survive in such a heteronormative and conservative society?’

Thus, her main objective as a social welfare student in her master’s was to initiate discourse in Korean academia by highlighting the marginalized groups’ existence and revealing the discriminatory reality they face via quantitative and qualitative research. Now she is engaged and actively participating in various research teams and projects, especially regarding LGBTQ+ research.

Her research interests center on sexual minorities subjected to social discrimination and systematic oppression due to their multiple intersecting identities- including stigmas, prejudice, and microaggression. Her views focus on the systems in which such groups are placed by exploring the forces and powers within diverse levels of context.

Jianan Li

Jianan Li (she/her) is an incoming first-year doctoral student in the Department of Social Welfare of the Luskin School of Public Affairs. She received her Bachelor of Law in Social Work from Southwest Petroleum University and her Master of Social Work concentrating in Policy Practice and Aging from Columbia University. She has practiced fieldwork in a variety of settings including schools, communities, social work service centers, and government departments. The practical experience has led her to conduct research projects among different populations and to focus more on the aging population, especially on improving the well-being of disadvantaged older adults.

During her master’s degree, Jianan interned at the New York City Department for the Aging. There, she participated in several pilot research projects focused on older adults, working on exploring ways to improve older adults’ mental health by mitigating the stigma attached to mental health services among professionals and older adults. She also worked as a research assistant at the Columbia Population Research Center, where she contributed to interviews and data analysis for the New York City Longitudinal Survey of Wellbeing, a longitudinal research project dedicated to tracking economic and social well-being in New York City.

Her areas of interest include examining the factors affecting the quality of life of older adults with long-term care needs in different settings to improve the current care system, and understanding the effects of productive engagement in later life to enhance the health and well-being of older adults.

Hillary Peregrina

Hillary Nicole Peregrina, MA, MSW (she/her/hers) is an incoming first-year doctoral student committed to addressing mental health and psychosocial development among BIPOC children and adolescents, with a particular focus on the Filipino American community. She obtained her Master of Arts in Social Work (Clinical Concentration) from the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. She also previously earned a Master of Arts in Asian American Studies from San Francisco State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Loyola Marymount University.

Prior to entering the field of Social Work, she taught Ethnic Studies courses at San Francisco State University and San Francisco Unified School District through Pin@y Educational Partnerships. Her social work experience encompasses a range of youth development roles including administrative non-profit research and program evaluation and counseling services for children and adolescents ages 8-18.

Her central research questions focus on the impact of racial discrimination and critical racial consciousness on various developmental outcomes including mental health, ethnic/racial identity, family processes, civic engagement, and racial solidarity. She hopes to explore how contextual factors including discrimination, family and/or school ethnic-racial socialization, im/migration, diaspora, and other social determinants impact the formation of critical racial consciousness. She has previously published on various public health issues that impact Asian American communities across the lifespan including family social support, psychosocial wellness, type 2 diabetes and breast cancer among older Asian Americans, and civic engagement among emerging young adults. Her research interests are an interdisciplinary blend of her experience in Social Work and Ethnic Studies. Ultimately, she hopes to use various forms of research to advocate for health equity, translate findings into public policy recommendations, and inform clinical and community-based interventions.

Selected Publications: 

Peregrina, H. N., Maglalang, D. D., Hwang, J., & Yoo, G. J. (2023). A qualitative exploration of the continuum of help-seeking among Asian American breast cancer survivors. Social work in health care, 1–14. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/00981389.2023.2244012 

Peregrina, H. N., Yoo, G. J., Villanueva, C., Bayog, M. L. G., Doan, T., & Bender, M. S. (2022). Tiwala, Gaining Trust to Recruit Filipino American Families: CARE-T2D Study. Ethnicity & disease32(1), 49–60. https://doi.org/10.18865/ed.32.1.49

Maglalang, D. D., Peregrina, H. N., Yoo, G. J., & Le, M. N. (2021). Centering Ethnic Studies in Health Education: Lessons From Teaching an Asian American Community Health Course. Health education & behavior : the official publication of the Society for Public Health Education48(3), 371–375. https://doi.org/10.1177/10901981211009737  

Susan Lares-Nakaoka

Dr. Susan Lares-Nakaoka is the Director of Field Education in the Department of Social Welfare in the Luskin School of Public Affairs.  As a third generation Japanese American/Chicana, her family’s World War II incarceration informs her teaching, scholarship and commitment to racial justice. She credits her UCLA undergraduate internship in a gang diversion program at Nickerson Gardens in Watts for sparking her career in social work.

Dr. Lares-Nakaoka’s research and writing focuses on the intersection of race and community development, critical race pedagogy and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. She is lead author on a forthcoming book, “Critical Race Theory in Social Work,” and editor of an upcoming special issue of the Journal of Community Practice on race and social justice entitled, “Necessary Interventions: “Racing” Community Practice.”

As a critical race scholar, Dr. Lares-Nakaoka is co-founder and co-director of the Critical Race Scholars in Social Work (CRSSW) collective. CRSSW, a network of over 300 individuals, advances race scholarship in social work through a schedule of regular events and a bi-annual conference focusing on applying critical race theory within social work research, writing, education and practice.

Dr. Lares-Nakaoka spent over 12 years providing social services and program development for low-income residents across the country, including positions with the Housing Authority, City of Los Angeles, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Venice Community Housing. Her experiences as Director of Field Education at CSU Dominguez Hills, the first MSW program with a critical race theory perspective, was foundational to her approach to social work pedagogy. Prior to coming to UCLA, she was an Assistant Professor at the University of Hawaii, CSU Sacramento and CSU Long Beach.

Academic mentors/advisors

Dr. Melvin Oliver, Yuji Ichioka, Dr. Harry H.L. Kitano, Dr. Mitchell T. Maki, Dr. Daniel Solorzano, and Dr. Lois Takahashi. Special gratitude goes to her beloved doctoral advisor, Dr. Leobardo Estrada.

Selected Community-based Research Projects

Photovoice project on the impacts of transit-oriented development in Little Tokyo

Case Studies of community development organizations: Little Tokyo Service Center (Los Angeles), Chinatown Community Development Center (San Francisco) , InterIm Community Development Association (Seattle) and Hoʻokuaʻāina (Kailua, HI)

Oral histories of Japanese American women activists, descendants of the Sacramento River Delta, and World War II Nisei Cadet Nurses.

Recent Publications

Nakaoka, S., Aldana, A. and Ortiz, L. (2023). “Dismantling Whiteness in Ways of Knowing.” In Social Work, White Supremacy, and Racial Justice. Oxford University Press.


Aldana, A., Nakaoka, S., Vazquez, N. and Ortiz, L. (2023). “Fifteen Years of Critical Race Theory in Social Work Education: What We’ve Learned.”  In Social Work, White Supremacy, and Racial Justice. Oxford University Press.


Ortiz, L. and Nakaoka, S. (2023). Critical Race Theory in Social Work.  Social Work Encyclopedia. Oxford Research Encyclopedias.


Maglalang, D.D., Sangalang, C.C., Mitchell, F.M., Lechuga-Peña, S., & Nakaoka, S.J. (2021). “The Movement for Ethnic Studies: A Tool of Resistance and Self-Determination for Social Work Education.” Journal of Social Work Education.


Nakaoka, S., Ka‘opua, L., and Ono, M. (2019). “He Ala Kuikui Lima Kanaka: The Journey Towards Indigenizing a School of Social Work.” Intersectionalities: A Global Journal of Social Work Analysis, Research, Polity, and Practice. 7 (1).


Agres, B., Dillard, A., Enos, K., Kakesako, B., Kekauoha, B., Nakaoka, S. and Umemoto, K. (2019). “Sustaining University-Community Partnerships in Indigenous Communities: Five Lessons from Papakōlea.”  AAPI Nexus. 16 (1&2).


Nakaoka, S., Ortiz, L. and Garcia, Betty.  (2019). “Intentionally Weaving Critical Race Theory in an MSW Program at a Hispanic Serving Institution.”   Urban Social Work.

Tatiana Londoño

Dr. Tatiana Londoño is a first-generation Latina born in Colombia and raised in Miami, Florida. Dr. Londoño graduated from Vassar College with a B.A. in Neuroscience and Behavior and from The University of Texas at Austin with an M.S.S.W. and then her Ph.D. Throughout her career, she has received funding from various sources such as OLLI NOVA Diversity Scholarship, St. David’s Foundation, Integrated Behavioral Health Scholars Program, and QuestBridge.

Tatiana Londoño’s scholarship focuses on the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of Latine/x immigrant youth and their families, with an emphasis on the experiences and impact of migration. Specifically, her work explores how Latine/x immigrant youth and families navigate and adapt to the psychosocial consequences of migration and resettlement. She is particularly interested in how these experiences contribute to various outcomes, such as distress and post-traumatic growth, and how family processes can mitigate some of these outcomes. Her long-term goal is to incorporate her research into brief preventative interventions accessible to Latine/x immigrant populations in the U.S. Her work is published in Family Process, The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Health Psychology, Journal of Adolescent Research, Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, and Social Work in Mental Health. She has also published policy and research briefs with the Children’s Defense Fund and the Center on Immigration and Child Welfare.

Dr. Londoño is currently involved in several National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded studies concerning the mental health and psychosocial well-being of Latine/x youth and their families. She is using a mixed-method approach to explore the effects of migration and immigration detention on asylum-seeking children and families from Central America. Specifically, she is analyzing 1) migration trauma exposure and mental health outcomes among immigrant youth; 2) how migration shapes parent-child relationships; and 3) different trajectories of wellbeing among youth in the U.S. resettlement context and environmental contexts (e.g., neighborhood, school, immigration enforcement) that contribute to these trajectories. In addition to this project, she is currently investigating the cultural adaptation and implementation of a parenting intervention that integrates experiences of immigration-related challenges, discrimination, and biculturalism.

Dr. Londoño’s previous research projects include: (1) exploring why adolescent Latinas attempt suicide more than other females;  (2) examining the effects of immigration enforcement on U.S. citizen children of undocumented Mexican parents; (3) investigating service experiences of youth transitioning from child to adult mental health systems; (4) studying depression and suicidality among Mexican-American children and youth; and (5) assessing smoking dependence among Spanish-speaking Latine/x smokers.

Dr. Londoño also engages in needs assessment and evaluation research related to the communities she serves. She led the analysis of a campus-wide survey on assessing the needs of undocumented students at UT Austin and, with the Rooted Collective Task Force, drafted a proposal in support of a center for undocumented students. Dr. Londoño is also evaluating the Mental Health Collaborative at Girasol, a program that serves Texas immigrant children and families and educates service providers working with immigrant populations.

In the community, Dr. Londoño has worked in various settings such as schools, domestic violence agencies, and integrated behavioral health primary care clinics providing counseling, psychoeducation, and case management services to mostly Spanish-speaking families who experienced immigration-related trauma. Tatiana continues to volunteer her time to support immigrant families in detention with their credible fear interviews and orient asylum-seeking families at immigrant resource centers. She is currently the lead consultant on a project with New Mexico State University creating a trauma-informed training series for service providers working with Latine/x immigrant populations. This work is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Professor Londoño teaches the following courses: 211A: Human Behavior in Social Environment.

You can follow Dr. Londoño on Twitter: @TatianaL924

Courtney Demko

Dr. Demko’s research focuses on older adult health and well-being. She is particularly interested in Alzheimer’s caregiver burden. Her research involves using national survey data and focuses on the multidimensional factors associated with caregiver burden among young adult caregivers.

Dr. Demko’s research experience includes both quantitative and qualitative methodologies and she has used her research skills on several grant-funded research projects at UCLA including grants from the Ford Foundation and Archstone Foundation. She was a member of the UCLA Latino Economic Security (LES) team, which researches the economic impact of a nation growing older and more diverse. Dr. Demko served as the Project Director for the team’s latest project which included conducting focus groups and surveying older white conservative adults to understand their attitudes and beliefs toward immigration and immigration policy. She has published her work in peer-reviewed journals such as The Journal of the American Society on Aging.  She also gained administrative and managerial experience as the Assistant Director for the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA’s Department of Social Welfare and Public Policy.

Dr. Demko also has several years of teaching experience. She is currently teaching 211A Human Behavior in the Social Environment and 260A Research Capstone at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs Department of Social Welfare. She has also taught at California State University Los Angeles School of Social Work teaching both graduate and undergraduate Social Work Research Methods and Statistics courses.  Her teaching philosophy includes using a variety of teaching modalities to be inclusive of students’ varying learning styles.

She earned her B.A. in Political Science from Davidson College (2005), and an M.S.W (2013) and PhD (2021) from UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, Department of Social Welfare with a specialization in Gerontology.

Erin Nakamura


M.S.W., University of California, Los Angeles

B.A.. California State University, Long Beach



Katz, L. S., Cojucar, G., Beheshti, S., Nakamura, E., & Murray, M. (2012). Military sexual trauma during deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan: Prevalence, readjustment, and gender differences. Violence and Victims, 27(4), 487–499. https://doi.org/10.1891/0886-6708.27.4.487