Michele Wong is a first year PhD student in the Department of Social Welfare at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she also completed her M.S. in Public Health with a concentration in Community Health Sciences in June 2017. Prior to pursuing her graduate studies, Michele served as the project coordinator for the African-American Knowledge Optimized for Mindfully Healthy Adolescents (AAKOMA) Project Lab at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC. During this time, she gained experience in community-based participatory research, working with an African-American faith community to pilot test a Faith Based Mental Health Promotion Program (FBMHP) to help reduce mental health stigma and increase treatment engagement. Michele’s research interests examine how structural factors and immigration-related factors influence mental health disparities. She is also interested in applying an intersectional framework to develop sustainable mental health policies, programs and practices. In her free time, Michele enjoy’s traveling, visiting her family in Canada, hiking, cooking, and building community.
subcategory for PhD students of the various Luskin programs
Javier Garcia-Perez is a student in the Social Welfare Ph.D. program. He obtained his BA in Chicana/Chicano Studies from the University of California, Davis. He completed his MA in Sociocultural Anthropology from Columbia University and a dual MSW/MS in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2). He previously served as the program director for an ExpandED learning program working to achieve educational equity for low-income and marginalized middle school students in New York City. Javier’s research interests include queer Latinx community health, identity-based traumatic stress, and qualitative research methodology. He is a Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellow, a fellowship for doctoral students from underrepresented backgrounds. Currently, he is working on a project surveying MSW students of color in the state of California regarding their experiences of racism in the classroom or in the field and its potential impact on their education. This summer, he will also be working on a systematic literature review on the relationship between discrimination and traumatic stress symptoms within queer youth of color populations, supported by the UCLA Graduate Summer Research Mentorship program.
SELECTED BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS
The Collectivist: Volume One, a journal from Penn SP2.
Jianchao Lai is a fourth-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
Kristen Brock-Petroshius is a Doctoral Student in Social Welfare. Her research spans Social Welfare and Political Science and focuses on Race, Ethnicity, & Politics, Political Psychology, and Community Organizing. She uses quantitative and qualitative methods – with a particular focus on field experiments. Her engaged scholarship explores methods to change dominant racial and political attitudes in predominantly white communities within the United States.
Kristen is an affiliate of the UCLA Race, Ethnicity, Politics & Society Lab and Marvin Hoffenberg Fellow in American Politics & Public Policy. She received her BA in Sociology with a minor in Gender Studies from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and her Masters of Social Work (MSW) from the University of California, Los Angeles.
You can learn more about her work here: www.kristenbrockpetroshius.com.
Brenda Morales is currently a fourth 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 is a third-year doctoral student of Social Welfare at Luskin School of Public Affairs, the University of California in Los Angeles. Her research interests include health and aging policy; older adults’ psychological well-being; social support for older adults; cross-cultural studies, and mixed methods. Her current research focuses on examining the impact of the population policy and related policies for older adults’ psychological well-being in rural China.
She is a graduate student researcher at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. She is currently involved in the Research on ImmiGrant HealTh and State policy (RIGHTS) Study, which examines how California’s immigrant policy environment influences access to health care by identifying how the state’s health and welfare, education, labor, and law enforcement policies shape Asian and Latino immigrants’ daily lives.
Before joining the Ph.D. program at UCLA, she was a research assistant for a number of companies, international organizations, and universities, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), McKinsey & Company, Fudan University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and Washington University.
Jin Yao, Kwan is a PhD student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Luskin School of Public Affairs – under the National University of Singapore (NUS)-Overseas Graduate Scholarship – who graduated as valedictorian of the class of 2017 with a Master in Public Policy from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS.
His primary research interest revolves around children and adolescents from low-income families, and in particular on the family structures and family quality associated with positive adolescent and family development. He is also interested in the civic engagement of adolescents and youths as well as the social and public policies governing the non-profit and philanthropy sector in Singapore and in Asia.
You can learn more about his work here https://www.kwanjinyao.com
Melanie Sonsteng-Person is a Doctoral Student in the Department of Social Welfare. She is Social Justice Fellow for the UCLA Institute of American Cultures working for the research and community engagement project “Social Justice and Education in the Community.” Broadly, her research interest focuses on unaddressed trauma symptoms in violence-exposed youth, more specifically her aim is to identify key protective factors that lead to an increase in educational attainment and decrease in criminalization. Her work at UCLA focuses specifically on how schools identify and respond to community violence exposure and trauma exposure. She is currently analyzing survey and interview data she collected to assess teachers’ current level of training on violence and trauma exposure among their students and how this influences their feelings of success and confidence in the classroom. The interviews provide an in-depth understanding of the meaning teachers give to students’ internal and external trauma symptoms displayed in the classroom and how teachers perceive their preparation and coping skills.
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 youth and students exposed to violence.
You can follow Melanie’s work and engage in a safe classroom’s collaborative here: melaniesonsteng.com
Jennifer Ray is currently a fourth-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.
Brenda A. Tully is a 5th year Social Welfare PhD student at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. She 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. Her research examines the experiences of young adults aging out of the foster care system with specific interest in their transition to housing. She is currently analyzing qualitative data she collected in a study investigating housing security and insecurity among young adults formerly in foster care, which was funded by the Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. Social Justice Award. Brenda is the United States doctoral student representative to the International Research Network on Transition to Adulthood from Care, which convenes in Brasov, Romania in October 2019. While in Romania, Brenda will present “So I was trying to adapt”: Developing contextual understanding of foster care alumni housing experiences in Los Angeles to the International Colloquium of Social Sciences and Communication hosted by the University of Transylvania. Prior to matriculation in the PhD program, Brenda worked as a licensed clinical social worker in New York City for 20 years. Her research is informed in part by her experiences 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. The program is designated an Emerging Approach to addressing homelessness among former foster youth by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.