Donte Boyd

Donte Boyd is currently a third-year Ph.D. a student in the Department of Social Welfare at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Before entering the program Donte Boyd received his Masters in Social Work (MSW) from Washington University in Saint Louis. In entering the Ph.D. program at UCLA, Donte has received the Eugene V. Cota Robles fellowship for four years, which is awarded to exceptional applicants who also advance the Regents’ goals for diversification of the academy. As a continuing graduate student at UCLA in the Department of Social Welfare, he received two Summer Graduate Research Mentorship (6,000$) awards in academic years of 2015-16, and 2016-17.  His research examines the social context of Black adolescents, more specifically, in how the family and school context impacts HIV prevention. His research examines how the role of the family (e.g parent/sibling support, communication e.g.) and other important persons in Black males adolescents lives predict HIV prevention (HIV testing, condoms etc.).  Secondly, he’s interested in how the school context of Black male adolescents impacts sexual health behaviors including HIV testing. More specifically, how does racial discrimination, sense of belonging, and school safety impact HIV testing and knowledge in this context. Overall, my research utilizes an ecological approach to understand how family and school experiences, and contextual factors interact with one another to shape positive Health behaviors and HIV prevention.

Melanie Sonsteng-Person

Melanie’s research is interdisciplinary and centers on preventing violence and trauma within the systems of education, criminal justice, and social welfare. Her qualitative case study dissertation examines how teachers and staff perceive, are impacted by, and respond to the manifestation of trauma derived from community violence exposure. It aims to transform school-wide policies and programs that seek to mitigate the impacts of exposure to community violence. Melanie’s research has been published in the journals of Interpersonal Violence, Youth & Society, and Criminal Justice and Behavior, and she has presented her findings at peer-reviewed conferences such as CSWE, SSWR, The National Center for School Mental Health Conference, and the American Educational Research Conference.   

Melanie’s other ongoing research projects study the structural causes and impact of violence and trauma to design effective school and community-based interventions and training programs. She uses qualitative, mixed-methods, and participatory methods. Melanie is a strong proponent of participatory research methods and has expertise in PhotoVoice research methodology. She uses this methodology with various topics lead by different communities to create counter narratives and increase empathy through perspective taking. 

Prior to coming to UCLA, Melanie worked in Boston, Brooklyn, and Detroit in the fields of violence prevention and education. Her research is informed by her experience as a 7th Grade Science Teacher in Brooklyn and as a Certified Trauma Practitioner in Detroit where she worked with students exposed to violence.You can engage with Melanie’s work here:

Jennifer A. Ray

Jennifer Ray is currently a fifth-year doctoral student in the Social Welfare program at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Her scholarship centers on childhood adversity, family relations, and interventions aimed at reducing behavior problems among young children in African American families.

Jennifer’s current work examines the associations between and among adverse experiences in early childhood, nonresident father involvement, and child behavior problems in socially and economically disadvantaged African American families.

Prior to joining the Social Welfare program at UCLA, Jennifer worked as a clinician providing community mental health services to high-risk children and families in Los Angeles county. She has also worked on community-based research with the UCLA Social Justice Partnership and the UCLA Labor Center.

Jennifer completed her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles and received her MSW from the University of Southern California.

Martin Gilens

Martin Gilens is Chair of the Department of Public Policy. He also is a Professor of Public Policy, Political Science, and Social Welfare at UCLA. His research examines representation, public opinion, and mass media, especially in relation to inequality and public policy. Professor Gilens is the author of Affluence & Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America, and Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media and the Politics of Antipoverty Policy, and coauthor (with Benjamin I. Page) of Democracy in America?: What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do about It. He has published widely on political inequality, mass media, race, gender, and welfare politics. He earned a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and has held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and the Russell Sage Foundation. Professor Gilens is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and taught at Yale and Princeton universities before joining the Luskin School at UCLA in 2018. 

Click here for more information about Professor Gilens and his work.

Click here to make an appointment with Professor Gilens.

Brenda A. Tully

Brenda A. Tully’s research focuses on housing security during the transition to adulthood, with a specific interest in young people exiting the foster care system. She draws on the life course perspective and social and economic capital theories to examine how young people navigate housing and how social and economic conditions and public policies influence housing outcomes. Brenda is particularly interested in how structural racism and heterosexism influence housing outcomes for Black and LGBTQ young people exiting care and how familial ties relate to housing pathways. Given the housing crisis, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, in the U.S., Brenda’s research identifies multi-level factors related to housing (in)security. With her work, Brenda seeks to inform housing and foster care policies to redress societal inequities and honor family relationships so that youth experience improved housing security during their transition to adulthood.

Brenda has received research funding through the UCLA Graduate Research Mentorship and Graduate Summer Research Mentorship programs and the Franklin D. Gilliam Social Award, and fellowship funding from the Meyer and Rene Luskin Fellowship and UCLA Faculty Women’s Club Scholarship. She has presented her research at annual meetings of the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR), the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and an international social science conference at the University of Transylvania, Romania. She contributed to team projects published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Social Work (2020) and the American Journal of Public Health (2015).

Brenda practiced as a licensed clinical social worker in New York City for 20 years. Her research and teaching are informed in part by her work at Good Shepherd Services, where she helped launch the Chelsea Foyer, a transitional, supportive housing program for young people aging out of foster care and experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Brenda earned her Master of Social Work degree from Fordham University in New York City and a BA in Speech Communication from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Brenda expects to graduate in June 2022.

Ryan Dougherty

Ryan J. Dougherty’s research explores how political and social systems shape the ways that mental health services are delivered and experienced. Broadly, he aims to understand how governments can most ethically respond to the inequities experienced by people labeled with a serious mental illness, such as poverty, homelessness, and mass incarceration. To do so, Ryan explores ethical dilemmas that emerge in service delivery, particularly between providers and clients, and how broader political discourses shape decision-making in these scenarios. His dissertation examines how coercion in involuntary outpatient commitment is negotiated between treatment providers, the courts, and clients in relation to delivering psychiatric medications.

Ryan does applied research to impact mental health scholarship, policy, and practice. He specializes in qualitative methods and serves as a lead ethnographer for the UCLA Center for Social Medicine and Humanities, an interdisciplinary research team that works in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. He also serves as a qualitative researcher for the Recovery-Oriented Care Collaborative, a practice-based research network that connects researchers and providers to produce research relevant to pressing issues in services. He is particularly interested in interdisciplinary research and draws from theories in sociology, anthropology, and disability and mad studies. Ryan aims to pursue his interests in the philosophy of science and qualitative methodologies to support social workers in addressing complex social problems.

Dave Leon

Dave Leon, LCSW, graduated from USC School of Social Work in 2003, and began his social work career at Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center with a focus on the dirth in social opportunities for people with mental illness, especially young adults. After five years in this position, he worked at UCLA’s Counseling and Psychological Services for four years and close to 10,000 hours in counseling college and graduate students.  An art group he started at Didi Hirsh turned into an art magazine and then a social movement for people living with mental illness, providing a community and a platform from which to speak up about mental health through the arts. Painted Brain is a 501c3 nonprofit that offers a free community arts center in the Pico Robertson area, a thriving tech company and social enterprise, and an art group service operating in dozens of local housing and mental health facilities. Painted Brain is, at its core, an expression of social work principles.

Ayako Miyashita Ochoa

Ayako Miyashita Ochoa is an Assistant Adjunct Professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Department of Social Welfare.  She serves as Associate Director of the Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center which brings the most relevant and timely evidence to bear on California’s efforts to develop and maintain efficient, cost-effective, and accessible programs and services to people living with or at risk for HIV.  Professor Miyashita’s interests focus on HIV-related health disparities at the intersection of race/ethnicity, sexual and gender identity, and migrant status.

Prior to joining the faculty, Professor Miyashita directed the Los Angeles HIV Law and Policy Project, a legal services collaborative dedicated to addressing the unmet legal needs of primarily low-income people living with HIV (“PLWH”) in Los Angeles County.  As a Director in the Clinical and Experiential Learning Department at UCLA School of Law, Professor Miyashita taught courses on the attorney-client relationship, client interviewing and counseling, and HIV law and policy.

Currently, Professor Miyashita serves as Co-Principal Investigator on a study to develop a mobile application to improve treatment adherence among HIV-positive African American young men who have sex with men.  During her time at the Williams Institute, her research included research on the unmet legal needs of low-income people living with HIV and impact on health in addition to HIV criminalization and issues related to privacy and confidentiality for people living with HIV.

In her legal practice, Professor Miyashita focused on providing direct legal services to low-income clients living with HIV in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles.  This included assisting clients in obtaining disability benefits and other supports necessary to live independently.  Her legal expertise runs a broad spectrum of public benefits including income support, health coverage, and other support services necessary for individuals living with disabilities.  Professor Miyashita regularly provides training and education to clients, attorneys, advocates, HIV/AIDS service organizations, and legislative and policymaking bodies throughout the state of California.

Professor Miyashita earned her J.D. from U.C. Berkeley School of Law and was admitted to the State Bar of California in 2009.

Latoya Small

Latoya Small’s scholarship is informed by her work in clinical social work practice and community-based research.

Her research focuses on health disparities, specifically, the intersection of mental health, treatment adherence, and HIV among women and children in the U.S. and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her global research addresses the urgent need for theory-driven, empirically-informed, and sustainable psychosocial HIV treatment approaches for perinatally HIV-infected youth in South Africa.

In the U.S., Dr. Small examines how poverty-related stress, parenting, and mental health interact and relatedly impact adherence in HIV medical services among Black and Latina mothers in urban communities. An extension of her work examining vulnerable youth includes mental health and discrimination among transgender young people.

Dr. Small takes a collaborative approach in her scholarship, recognizing that traditional intra-disciplinary boundaries can impede the development of effective and sustainable research interventions. Her work aims to produce accessible, evidence-informed interventions that bolster youth development and maternal health.