Sid P. Jordan

Sid Jordan (he/they) is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Social Welfare and a graduate student researcher with the UCLA Center for the Study of Women. His research responds to the epistemic and political assault on transgender lives and ideas, and examines collective organizing and survival strategies related to health care, healing, and safety among transgender people and social movements. His work also examines the changing politics and administration of public safety programs, with a focus on reducing structural exclusions and mitigating the harms of state intervention on LGBTQ survivors of domestic and sexual violence.


Much of Sid’s research utilizes participatory processes and takes shape in partnerships with organizations working to advance gender, racial, economic, and health justice in policy and practice. Sid’s dissertation, Compelling Care, builds on his work with a participatory action research initiative with transgender activists in Los Angeles and theorizes the institutional and community change-making practices of transgender health care. This work has been supported by the University of California President’s Dissertation Year Fellowship for Research Diversity.


Sid’s scholarship and teaching are informed by his academic training in law and politics, a decade of experience working with community organizations, and his longtime participation in social movements. Sid has worked on several interdisciplinary teams with scholars and community organizers through the UCLA Center for the Study of Women; the UCLA Labor Center; the Hub for Health Intervention, Policy, and Practice; and the University of California Sentencing Project. His writing has appeared in Violence Against Women, the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, AIDS Education and Behavior, Youth Justice, and in institutional and community publications.


Prior to graduate school, Sid developed and delivered social justice-related curricula and training for community-based organizations. He is a first-generation university student with a degree in law from the University of Victoria (Canada).

Dominique A. Mikell

Dominique Mikell Montgomery obtained her BA in Philosophy with Honors from the Graduate School of Education from Stanford University and her AM degree from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. She worked as a Stoneleigh Emerging Leader Fellow at Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia as an extended foster care implementation researcher. Dominique’s research interests include the experiences of individuals and families impacted by the child welfare system, Black studies, state-violence and participatory and interpretive research methods.

Rachel Wells

Rachel Wells’ research examines assumptions about poverty that shape social services and the role of community-based organizations (CBOs). Her research focuses on frontline work with community members as a key site situated within a CBO’s mission, funding requirements, and poverty policy. Through an ethnography of CBOs that combine community organizing with service provision, Rachel’s dissertation looks at whether and how CBOs can challenge dominant narratives of poverty through this combination of services and organizing. As ideas of poverty shape different aspects of social welfare, from policy to implementation to community organizing, her research helps to understand critical moments when ideas of poverty change or are maintained and the consequences of these ideas for anti-poverty programs and program implementation.


Rachel specializes in qualitative research, specifically at the organizational level. Her prior research on nonprofit organizations has been published in Voluntas: International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations (as first author) and Human Services Organization: Management, Leadership, & Governance and her research as part of a team focusing on youth civic engagement has been published in Children and Youth Services Review. She has also presented her research at multiple conferences, including Society for Social Work Research and Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Organizations.


Prior to her doctoral program, Rachel gained practice experience in macro social work, through work as a program manager with a Detroit public health non-profit and volunteering with grassroots community organizations in Detroit. These experiences with case management, human services program design, and grassroots community efforts helped her to identify challenges with service delivery and have influenced her interests in and commitment to both social work research and teaching.


Rachel continues to be involved with community organizations through her research and integrates this knowledge of community-based efforts into her teaching. Rachel has taught at the graduate level and undergraduate level, including Social Work policy and research courses. Through a year-long teaching fellowship, she designed and taught her own seminar, titled Aging and Social Justice in Los Angeles, drawing from her background in social policy, urban planning and community organizing. Additionally, she holds an MSW and MUP from the University of Michigan (2009).

Courtney Demko

Courtney Demko’s research focuses on caregiver health and well-being. She is particularly interested in Alzheimer’s caregivers and young adult caregiver burden. Courtney’s dissertation uses national survey data and focuses on the multidimensional factors associated with caregiver burden among young adult caregivers from the millennial population. This research is of particular importance given the increase of the older adult population in the U.S. and will demonstrate to policymakers and program planners the unique needs of an overlooked population.

Courtney has training and experience in both quantitative and qualitative methodologies and has used her research skills on several grant-funded research projects at UCLA. She is a member of the Latino Economic Security (LES) team at UCLA which researches the economic impact of a nation growing older and more diverse. Courtney served as the Project Director for the team’s latest project which included conducting focus groups and surveying older white conservative adults in Orange County, CA looking at their attitudes and beliefs towards immigration and immigration policy. She has published in peer-reviewed journals such as The Journal of the American Society on Aging and book chapters on topics related to aging and diversity.

As part of Courtney’s doctoral training, she has also acquired management and administrative experience as the Assistant Director for the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA’s Department of Social Welfare and Public Policy. Courtney’s expertise includes writing grants for leading foundations.

Courtney also has several years of teaching experience. She has assisted in teaching both master’s and undergraduate courses at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs Department of Social Welfare. These include classes in Social Work Research Methods, Social Work Policy and Diversity and Aging. She’s also served as a Guest Lecturer at UCLA’s Department of Social Welfare including topics on Caregiving and Public Policy. Prior to entering the doctoral program, Courtney acquired training leading support groups and providing one-on-one counseling with homeless women at the Downtown Women’s Center on Skid Row in Los Angeles. She also gained experience providing care consultations and co-facilitating support groups for early-stage Alzheimer’s patients and their family caregivers at the Alzheimer’s Association in Los Angeles.

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


The Politics of Aging in a Majority-Minority Nation and Later-Life Social Support and Service Provision in Diverse and Vulnerable Populations.

Javier Garcia-Perez

Javier Garcia-Perez is a Doctoral Candidate in the department of Social Welfare in the Luskin School of Public Affairs. Broadly, Javier’s research interests include LGBTQ+ Latinx mental health, LGBTQ+ Latinx experiences, Latinx mental health, identity-based trauma and mental health, trauma, LGBTQ+ mental health, intersectionality, multiple minority identity and inequities.

His dissertation work—Viviendo en la Intersección: Queer Femme Latinx Individuals Experience Living at the Intersection of Identities—seeks to better understand the lived realities of Queer Femme Latinx at the intersection of their multiple identities and the reality of their daily experiences.

Prior to UCLA, Javier obtained his BA in Chicana/Chicano Studies from the University of California, Davis and completed his MA in Sociocultural Anthropology from Columbia University. He received a dual MSW/MS in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2). Previously, he served as the program director for an ExpandED learning Time program working to achieve educational equity for low-income and marginalized middle school students in Harlem, New York. Javier has served as a member in the Doctoral Student Committee for the Society of Social Work and Research (SSWR) and as the doctoral representative for the Social Welfare department Doctoral Committee.

Currently, Javier is working on projects around mental health disparities, inequities, multiple minority identities, and identity-based trauma with specific focus on the LGBTQ+ Latinx community.

Twitter: @GarciaPerezJavi


Abrams, L. S., Garcia-Perez, J., Brock-Petroshius, K., & Applegarth, D. M. (2021). Racism, Colorblindness, and Social Work Education: An Exploratory Study of California MSW Student Beliefs and Experiences. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, 714830.

Garcia-Perez, J. (2020) Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer + Latinx youth mental health disparities: A systematic review, Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 32:4, 440-478, DOI: 10.1080/10538720.2020.1764896

Garcia-Perez, J. (2016). The Fear of Writing: How White Supremacy Normalized My Cognitive Distortions. Collectivist Journal Volume OneSchool of Social Policy & Practice, University of Pennsylvania.

Jianchao Lai

Jianchao Lai is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Social Welfare of the Luskin School of Public Affairs. She received her Bachelor of Social Work from Nanjing University and Master of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interests focus on examining the underreporting and service outcomes of child maltreatment and gender-based violence in Asian American communities. Through her research and advocacy effort, she aims to promote adequate and effective services for Asian American children and families and to raise public awareness of such issues in the Asian communities.

The model minority myth has largely obscured Asian Americans’ lived experiences, often causing their needs to be disregarded by the general public. Given the concern of understudied problems in the Asian communities, Jianchao conducted multiple mix-method research projects, using quantitative datasets in both local and national scales and qualitative interviews, to examine the unique risk and protective actors in Asian communities concerning the underreporting and service inadequacy of child maltreatment and sexual violence incidents. Her projects were funded by various grants such as the UCLA Racial and Social Justice Grant, Pearl Wang Fellowship, Institutional Courage Research Grant.

Upon completing her undergraduate and graduate programs, she practiced at various government agencies, non-profit organizations, and community agencies related to early childhood development and prevention of adverse childhood experiences such as the Wisconsin Children’s Trust Fund and Center for Community and Non-Profit Studies. During her doctoral program at UCLA, she collaborated with interdisciplinary teams in both quantitative and qualitative research projects. One of her current projects is in collaboration with the Center on Children, Families and the Law (CCFL) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to evaluate the Alternative Response program outcomes using longitudinal state-wide child protective services case files. She is also co-organizing a funded transmedia project with a team of public health researchers and filmmakers to raise public awareness of sexual violence against Asian college students during the COVID-19.

As the Asian population has been gaining attention in the states and internationally, the demand for culturally appropriate services for this population will only increase. Dedicated to filling the significant gaps about this population and child welfare services, she is motivated to further expand her current research agenda to seek an applicable and effective service model for the Asian population globally.

Ph.D. expected in 2022.

Brenda Morales

Brenda Morales is currently a fifth year doctoral student in the Department of Social Welfare at the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA. Her research interests include investigating risk factors that contribute to disparities in health care and mental health among undocumented Latino immigrants and their children.

She is currently a recipient of the Eugene V. Cota-Robles four-year fellowship, one of the most prestigious fellowships awarded by UCLA. Her research at UCLA has mainly focused on examining the mental health needs of Latino immigrants. One of her studies examined the fear of deportation and psychological wellbeing of immigrants, through the use of field research in a predominantly Hispanic community. Her research projects at UCLA have been funded through two Summer Graduate Research Mentorship ($6,000) awards in 2016-17 and 2017-18. Brenda is a graduate student researcher at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR), where she is involved in qualitative data analysis for the Center’s Research on Immigrant Health and State Policy (RIGHTS) project, which examines how state-level policies impact Chinese and Mexican immigrants’ access to health care and health status.

Before entering UCLA, she was part of the University of Michigan/CSULA Social Work Bridges to the Doctoral Program, where she analyzed secondary data from the California Health Interview Survey examining health care disparities among immigrant populations. Given the national attention to the concerns of the undocumented and immigrant community in the nation and the crisis and dangers facing families, her research informs the mental health and public policy community about responding to the needs of undocumented and immigrant community to better serve their mental health needs.

Brenda Morales was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She obtained her B.A. in Social Work in 2014 and her Master of Social Work (MSW) in 2016 from California State University, Los Angeles.

Lei Chen

As a trans-disciplinary and cross-cultural researcher, Lei’s research interest focuses on social policy, long-term services and supports, immigrants’ access to health care, aging and technology, and cross-cultural studies. Her dissertation uses a population-level survey to examine the relationships among disability status, financial strain, and health and well-being among people with needs for Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) in California, which also explores disparities among these relationships under the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lei’s research applies both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. She has worked on several grant-funded research projects at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and projects sponsored by the state of California. She is collaborating with researchers at UCLA Human-Centered Computing and Intelligent Sensing Lab (HiLab) with the aim to make technology more inclusive for older adults. Her papers have been published in peer-reviewed journals such as the International Journal of Qualitative Methods and Research on Social Work Practice. She has also presented her research at multiple national conferences, including the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR), the Gerontological Society of America (GSA), American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), Population Association of America (PAA), and American Public Health Association (APHA). She has served as a manuscript reviewer for several peer-reviewed journals.

Apart from being an academic, Lei actively engages in policy-related work at state and national levels. She served as the inaugural Kathy Hyer Summer Policy Intern at the Gerontological Society of America. She assisted the policy-making process of the Master Planning on Aging (MPA) in California and is leading the workstream of selecting LTSS indicators for the MPA Data Dashboard.

Before joining the Ph.D. program at UCLA, she worked as a research assistant for several companies, international organizations, and universities, including McKinsey & Company, Fudan University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Washington University, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

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:

Brenda A. Tully

Brenda’s research examines how social and economic capital influence housing security during the transition to adulthood. Her work addresses the nexus of two interrelated systems that historically and presently perpetuate racial injustice: child welfare and housing. The COVID-19 pandemic and broadened social movement for racial justice have increased awareness across communities about the need for secure, affordable housing designed to strengthen families and neighborhoods. Specifically, Brenda’s research explores housing in/security among young adults moving from foster care into the community. Her focus on housing security using a racial justice lens extends this literature beyond homelessness.

Brenda’s dissertation examines longitudinal data from the Midwest Study to test how participants’ race/ethnicity, family relationships, and economic hardship are associated with housing trajectories and eviction. This research builds on her earlier university-funded study with young adults in Los Angeles examining the ecological contexts surrounding their housing experiences after exiting care, including negotiating living with families of origin. Brenda’s work is essential because young adults exiting care continue to experience insecure housing, despite policies that fund skill-building while youth are still in care and transitional housing programs when they leave care. Further, early data on the current eviction crisis show more significant risks to the housing of Black and Latinx young adults, groups overrepresented among youth aging out of care. The overarching goal of Brenda’s research is to inform housing and foster care policies designed to promote racial equity and honor family relationships so that youth experience improved housing security while transitioning to adulthood. Her research agenda includes studying how economic interventions (e.g., financial development accounts or guaranteed income) may improve housing security for youth exiting care.

Research funding awarded through the UCLA Graduate Research Mentorship, Summer Research Mentorship, Franklin D. Gilliam Social Justice Award, and additional support from the Meyer and Rene Luskin Fellowship and UCLA Faculty Women’s Club Scholarship have financed Brenda’s research. She has presented her work at annual meetings of the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR), Society for the Study of Social Problems, ACUM at the University of Transylvania, Romania, and the European Scientific Association on Residential and Family Care for Children and Adolescents. Team-based articles featuring Brenda’s contributions are published in Children and Youth Services Review (2021), Journal of Child and Adolescent Social Work (2020), and American Journal of Public Health (2015).

Brenda’s teaching draws on her research, social work practice, and supervision of MSW student field work. She has taught MSW courses in human behavior in the social environment (2017), clinical diagnosis (2018, 2020), and social welfare policy (2017, 2018); and an undergraduate course in qualitative research methods (2021). Brenda serves as U.S. doctoral student representative to the International Research Network on Transition to Adulthood from Care. She co-organized the Transition Age Youth Special Interest Group for the 2020 SSWR annual meeting and served on the inaugural Luskin School of Public Affairs Dean’s Doctoral Student Advisory Committee.

For 20 years, Brenda practiced as a licensed clinical social worker in New York City. Her motivation to pursue a PhD derived from 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 a 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 will graduate from UCLA with her PhD in Social Welfare in June 2022.