Stephanie Kathan (née Thorne) is a second year Social Welfare PhD student at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Stephanie earned her Master of Science in Social Work with a concentration in Administration and Policy Practice from the University of Texas at Austin and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Sexuality Studies from the University of California at Davis. She has worked with children and families in diverse environments for several years, including providing equine therapy, volunteering at a crisis nursery, providing tutoring services, completing family assessments, and in social work case management. Additionally, Stephanie has experience in developmental psychology research and child welfare research. Before starting at UCLA, Stephanie was a Research Associate at a state-wide Texas child placing agency. Stephanie’s research interests include foster care systems in Los Angeles County. Stephanie is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the Eta Tau chapter of Phi Alpha, the Social Work Honor Society.
subcategory for PhD students of the various Luskin programs
Tam J. Guy is a doctoral student in Urban Planning at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. Tam explores how planners can and should create sustainable places for everyone by researching equity impacts at the intersection of transportation, housing, and green infrastructure.
Tam earned a BSBA in management and leadership from Portland State University while working as an analyst at a securities litigation firm and then completed dual masters degrees, MBA and MCMP, at the University of Utah in Business Administration (with emphases in strategy and innovation) and City + Metropolitan Planning (focused on smart growth, transportation, and urban design).
Michael Applegarth is a third-year PhD student. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from Brigham Young University-Idaho and with his master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from Brigham Young University. Michael’s primary area of interest within the correctional system involves the reentry process and the various challenges that accompany this process. Some of the specific factors of interest include examining how young adults with mental illness and substance use challenges navigate reintegrating into society; as well as, how individuals’ social networks, programing and treatment during incarceration, and system-level factors mitigate successful outcomes during the reentry process. Furthermore, he is interested in how correctional environments and conditions create barriers for individuals to engage in desistance.
Michael’s primary skill set includes quantitative data analysis, but he has also had some experience in qualitative interviewing. Michael worked as a research assistant with Professor Abrams from 2018-2020 on projects addressing MSW students’ responses to racial issues, interviewing individuals who were sentences to life without parole as juveniles, analyzing youths’ detention assessments, and evaluating reentry services of young adults exiting Los Angeles County Jail. Michael is currently serving in an assistantship with the National Institute of Justice as a research assistant contractor for this academic year. Michael has been listed as an author in articles published in the Marquette Law Review, Children and Youth Services Review, Journal of Military Medicine, Military Behavioral Health, and Armed Forces and Society.
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.
Noel Barragan obtained her BS in Natural Science and Spanish from Loyola Marymount University and her MPH from the University of Southern California. She has worked the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health as an evaluator and program manger for chronic disease prevention efforts targeting low-income populations. Noel’s research interests include senior health, social determinants of health, and health policy.
Jason Anthony Plummer’s research is grounded in critical consciousness development and draws from positive youth development, psychological empowerment, social identity development, and social justice theories to understand sociopolitical development among youth of various ethnic groups. A driving question of his research is how and why adolescents and young adults become engaged in political systems as critical actors.
Critical consciousness is the capacity to understand the structural nature of oppressive and social injustices coupled with a desire to take action towards undoing their existence. Mr. Plummer’s research agenda is to document patterns of developmental change in critical consciousness across adolescence and young adulthood and corresponding changes in various forms of engagement. A goal of Mr. Plummer’s research is to identify how relationships and experiences in everyday contexts such as families, schools, and neighborhoods foster growth in critical consciousness and critical participatory behaviors. Further, he is interested in examining mechanisms that explain sociopolitical inequalities and understanding ethnic and cultural differences in youth civic engagement and political behavior. Mr. Plummer also conceptualizes critical consciousness as a worldview that may influence professional conduct within social service and state agencies (mental health, healthcare, and policing). His program of research uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies has both theoretical and applied implications. His research projects have received funding from UCLA’s graduate division and honorable mention status from the Ford Foundation.
Mr. Plummer received his B.A. in psychology from Baruch College, CUNY, and both his master’s in social work and urban planning are from the University of Michigan. He is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Urban Social Work and author of Families in the Urban Environment: Understanding resiliency (Cognella, 2018)
Amelia C. Mueller-Williams is a sixth-year PhD student in the Department of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Broadly, her research interest areas incorporate using systems approaches to understand population health outcomes and the socio-environmental determinants of social inequalities in health/mental health. She is particularly interested in how knowledge generated using a systems approach can inform multi-level prevention efforts. Amelia’s work at UCLA focuses specifically on using population-level data to investigate social determinants of suicide, alcohol-related morbidity and mortality, and how exposures relate to racial/ethnic disparities across the lifespan with an emphasis on American Indian/Alaska Native populations. During her Doctoral education, she has also engaged in teaching and service; she was a PhD student representative to the department for two years and has served as an instructor or teaching assistant for a diverse set of courses at undergraduate and graduate levels.
Before entering the PhD program, Amelia worked doing community-based suicide and substance abuse prevention research with American Indian communities. She received her Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health degrees from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) with concentrations in interpersonal practice and mental health, and health behavior and health education. She completed a double major in Anthropology and Biology at Macalester College (St. Paul, MN). While at UCLA, Amelia has received support from the Luskin School Fellowship, the Graduate Research Mentorship Program, the Graduate Summer Research Program, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Berkeley Workshop on Formal Demography, and the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research’s Summer Program in Quantitative Methods for Social Research.
Michele Wong is a fourth 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.
Javier Garcia-Perez is a Doctoral Student in the department of Social Welfare in the Luskin School of Public Affairs. He is a Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellow, a fellowship for doctoral students from underrepresented backgrounds. Broadly, Javier’s research interests include LGBTQ+ Latinx youth mental health, LGBTQ+ Latinx experiences, Latinx mental health, identity-based trauma and mental health, trauma, LGBTQ+ mental health, intersectionality, youth development, multiple minority identity and inequities. The specific aim of his research is to better understand the lived realities or LGBTQ+ Latinx youth 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, he is working on projects around mental health disparities, inequities, multiple minority identities, and identity-based trauma.
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 One, School of Social Policy & Practice, University of Pennsylvania. https://www.sp2.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Collectivist-SP2-Journal-2016.pdf
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