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).

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.

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

Publications

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. https://doi.org/10.1086/714830

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).

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.