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.

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 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.