Julia Lesnick

Julia is a first year MSW-PhD student. Her research focuses on understanding how mental and behavioral health services can be individualized to best support the unique experiences and resilience of young people in foster care, the carceral system, and struggling with their mental health. The goal of her work is to expand service accessibility, prevent systems entry, improve quality of life in systems, and strengthen youth resilience for re-entry, recovery, and the transition to adulthood. Her specific areas of inquiry include equitable access to information about service approaches, autonomy to self-determine and revise one’s own service plan, the role of supportive relationships on engagement in services, and youth participation and leadership in systems advocacy and social service decision making.

Prior to UCLA, Julia graduated from Cornell University in 2018 with her B.S. in Human Development and a minor in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. At Cornell, her scholarship focused on research-practice partnerships, and adolescent relationships and mental health. She also worked with Cornell Cooperative Extension to develop trauma-informed care training for afterschool programs, and taught in a degree program for incarcerated students. After graduating, she worked at NYC’s child welfare and juvenile justice agency, and at a community-based service provider on the evaluation and quality improvement of youth leadership and mental health programs.

Livier Gutiérrez

Prior to entering the doctoral program at the University of California, Los Angeles, Livier worked on applied research and direct-service work to make community violence prevention services more responsive to girls. She served as the director of programs at Alliance for Girls, the nation’s largest alliance of girl-serving organizations, as the director of violence prevention at Enlace Chicago, a community-based organization serving La Villita (a.k.a., Chicago’s Little Village community); and a researcher at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, a national applied research non-profit and policy organization.  

Livier earned her master’s degree in social work with a concentration in violence prevention from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and bachelor’s degree in sociology and social welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. Livier’s undergraduate research explored the ideology, structure, and recruitment strategies of The Minutemen, a militant xenophobic organization (a.k.a., a gang). As a master’s student, Livier’s thesis was an applied research project that explored girls’ involvement and association with youth-led street organizations (a.k.a., gangs) and resulted in a violence-prevention program for girls. Through community work, Livier has seen how school, family, and other systems take key aspects of a girls’ identity—like race, immigration status, sexual orientation, and gender identity—to impose social and economic constraints on them. Despite the constraints placed on them, Livier has also seen how girls use their power to make systems safer for themselves and others. Livier is interested in leveraging mixed methods, with a focus on action research, and theory to highlight the experiences and stories of girls, especially their ability to change their ecology and improve safety for themselves and others. In doing so, Livier hopes to advance social work’s violence prevention theory, methods, and practice.  

Jianchao Lai

Jianchao Lai is a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Social Welfare at the Luskin School of Public Affairs. She received her Bachelor of Social Work from Nanjing University and Masters of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interests focus on examining the underreporting and service outcomes of child maltreatment among Asian American communities.

During her doctoral program at UCLA, she gained experience in both quantitative and qualitative research studies. Her primary work focuses on undermining the model minority myth and investigating how this population’s social problems are often overlooked by the public due to this stereotype, especially child maltreatment incidence among Asian communities. Her independent mixed-method research study, which was funded by the Pearl Wang Fellowship, utilizes a national-scale child case file archive and grounded theory interviews to examine the unique social and cultural factors of the Asian American population that contribute to the underreporting of child maltreatment and service adequacy of child maltreatment incidents. In addition, she is also involved in a collaborative research project with the Center on Children, Families and the Law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln evaluating the Alternative Response program using longitudinal state-wide child protective service case files.

Upon completing her undergraduate and MSW program, she worked at various government agencies, non-profits, and community centers such as the Wisconsin Children’s Trust Fund and Center for Community and Non-Profit Studies. Her work focused on early childhood development and prevention of adverse childhood experiences.

As the Asian population is gaining attention in the United States and internationally, the demand for culturally appropriate services for this population is expected to increase. However, the dearth of empirical research on child maltreatment among Asian communities remains striking.  Lai’s scholarly research aims to fill significant research gaps about this population and to promote adequate and effective services for marginalized children. She plans to expand her current research agenda to seek an applicable and effective child protective services model for Asian populations globally in the future.

 

Fellowships & Awards

  • Pearl Wang Fellowship (2019-2020), Asian American Studies Center
  • Adam Smith Fellowship (2017-2018), Mercatus Center
  • Graduate Summer Research Mentorship (Summer 2017), UCLA
  • Graduate Summer Research Mentorship (Summer 2018), UCLA