Sid P. Jordan

Sid Jordan’s interdisciplinary research examines social inequity in health care and the law, particularly for survivors of gender-based violence, and integrates community and macro practice. Sid’s dissertation builds on a participatory action research project led by and for transgender community organizers in Los Angeles to better understand and address gender, racial, and economic inequities in health and access to health services. His study investigates how participants work to define, practice, and reimagine “transgender health care” in a period of increased social recognition, political uncertainty, and pervasive inequality.

Sid has published on the inclusion of transgender people in federal antiviolence policy and on juvenile justice policies and practices, with a focus on LGBTQ youth and institutional violence. His research and writing have appeared in the peer-reviewed journals Violence Against Women, the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, and Youth Justice, and in research reports published by the Williams Institute and the Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center. He has presented his work at the annual meetings of the Society for Social Work and Research, the American Public Health Association, and the National Transgender Health Summit, as well as a range of professional and public venues, including Los Angeles City Hall and the national Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit.

Sid’s research and teaching draws from his training in law and the social sciences, his practice experience in community development and antiviolence organizations, and his participation in social justice movements. He has advanced training in qualitative methods, legal analysis, and participatory research. He has worked with several research teams and non-profit organizations committed to community-based research and the translation of research into practice.

Sid previously led a national demonstration project to increase access to services for LGBTQ survivors of domestic and sexual violence. He started his social work career as a peer outreach worker for homeless youth and, for nearly two decades, has provided training and consultation to youth-serving and social service agencies. Sid earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Victoria and an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Political Science from the University of Washington.

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).

SELECTED BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS

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

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

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

Lei Chen is a fourth-year doctoral student of Social Welfare. Her research interests include health and aging policy, cross-cultural studies, older adults’ social support and psychological well-being, immigrant’s access to health care, and mixed methods. 

Lei is a graduate student researcher at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. She is currently involved in two mixed-method projects: The Research on ImmiGrant HealTh and State policy (RIGHTS) Study and the Use of Long-Term Services and Supports in California (LTSS). The RIGHTS study examines how California’s immigrant policy environment influences access to health care by identifying how the state’s cross-sectional policies shape Asian and Latino immigrants’ daily lives. The LTSS study aims to address the need for data that assesses the use of and demand for long-term services and supports (LTSS) in California. She is doing data analysis for these two projects and working on several papers related to cross-cultural researchers’ positionality in immigrant health studies, law enforcement and public charge, and social support for Asian and Latino immigrants.

Apart from being an academic, Lei has assisted the policy-making process of the Master Planning on Aging in California, which will serve as a blueprint that can be used by state government, local communities, private organizations and philanthropy to build environments that promote an age-friendly California. She is the author of the recent policy paper (Solving the Economic Security Gap for California’s Older Adults) for the California Commission on Aging to examine the trends in population growth, diversity, and the economic inequity experienced by many older adults in California.

Before joining the Ph.D. program at UCLA, she worked as 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: melaniesonsteng.com

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.

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.