subcategory for PhD students of the various Luskin programs

Javier Garcia-Perez

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.


The Collectivist: Volume One, a journal from Penn SP2.

Jianchao Lai

Advisor: Prof. Todd Franke, UCLA

Jianchao Lai is a second year Ph.D. student in the Department of Social Welfare of the Luskin School of Public Affairs. She received a Bachelor’s of Social Work from Nanjing University and Master’s of Social Work from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Upon completing her undergraduate and graduate programs, she worked at various government agencies, non-profit organizations, and community agencies related to the early childhood development and prevention of adverse childhood experiences. Her current research uses exploratory mixed methods design to investigate the unique factors of the Asian American population with regard to case reporting and substantiation of child maltreatment incidents.


  • Adam Smith Fellowship (2017-2018), Mercatus Center, $5000
  • Graduate Summer Research Mentorship (Summer 2017), UCLA, $6000
  • Graduate Summer Research Mentorship (Summer 2018), UCLA, $6000

Research Interests:

  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Asian Americans
  • Racial/ethnical differences in child welfare resources and outcomes
  • Challenges among Asian American children and families
  • Qualitative and quantitative social research methodology

Kristen Brock-Petroshius

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:

Brenda Morales

Brenda Morales is a second year doctoral student in the Department of Social Welfare at UCLA. She obtained her BA and MSW in Social Work from California State University, Los Angeles. She previously was part of the University of Michigan/CSULA Social Work Bridges to the PhD Program where she analyzed secondary data of health care disparities among U.S. immigrant populations. Currently, she is a recipient of the UCLA Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellowship. Her research interests include immigrant health, immigration policy, and discrimination and anti-immigrant sentiment, with an emphasis on undocumented Latino immigrants.

Lei Chen

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.

Kwan Jin Yao

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

Melanie Sonsteng-Person

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:

Jennifer A. Ray

Jennifer Ray is currently a second year student in the social welfare doctoral program at the University of California, Los Angeles. Jennifer also completed her BA in Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles and received her MSW from the University of Southern California. Prior to joining the social welfare program, Jennifer worked as a clinician at Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services providing community mental health services to high-risk children and families in Los Angeles County. Jennifer is interested in research on non-resident father involvement and interventions aimed at reducing behavior problems among young children in African American families.

Brenda A. Tully

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.

Hannah King

Hannah is a doctoral student of transportation planning at UCLA. Prior to coming to UCLA, she spent several years in sea level rise and economic development planning at the state of Florida. Her current research interests center on active transportation, GIS, and transportation financing. She is being advised by Dr. Brian Taylor.

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