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GSSWGraduate School of Social Work

PhD Student Directory

  • Alvarez

    Antonia Alvarez

    Antonia has a BA in interdisciplinary studies from Oberlin College (2000) and an MSW from the University of Michigan (2006). She has almost nine years of post-MSW experience including clinical work with youth and young adults, development and administration of youth programs, research-focused positions and training. She entered the program with three publications (California Journal of Health Promotion, Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session and Health) and one manuscript under review. She has presented numerous times at state, national and international conferences. She is interested in arts, cultural and community-based interventions and how they contribute to the resiliency of youth and young adults, particularly queer and indigenous youth. She relocated to Denver from Hawaii and is working as a graduate assistant with Assistant Professor Ramona Beltrán.
  • Atteberry

    Brittanie Atteberry

    Brittanie has a BS in Human Services from Metropolitan State University of Denver and an MSW from the University of Michigan. Since obtaining her MSW, Brittanie spent more than four years as a Senior Research Analyst with Denver Public Schools where she spearheaded district-wide research projects focusing on equity and opportunity gaps. Before her role at DPS, Brittanie was the director of the Chrysalis Project, a prostitution diversion program in Denver. Brittanie enters the program with 3 publications focused on her study of LGBT college students. She joins the doctoral program to pursue her interests in research on social justice in K-12 settings and among LGBT populations..
  • begun

    Stephanie Begun

    Stephanie is a mixed methods researcher who focuses on reproductive health and decision-making among homeless youth—specifically, how policies and community-based research interventions may work in tandem to positively impact homeless women's reproductive health access and outcomes. Stephanie's goal is to conduct research that enables a broader understanding of this complex topic, while also reflecting a strong commitment to social justice and anti-oppressive practice.
  • Erin Boyce

    Erin Boyce

    Erin is investigating social work practices related to direct, indirect and secondary trauma among those exposed to childhood sexual abuse disclosures.

  • Hagit Brandes

    Hagit Brandes

    Hagit is investigating the efficacy of animal-assisted intervention use in aggression reduction.
  • Daphne Brydon

    Daphne Brydon

    Daphne, LMSW, LMFT, has a M.S. in Marital and Family Therapy from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a MSW from the University of Michigan. Daphne is licensed in the state of Michigan and provides supervision for limited license practitioners across clinical and macro practices. In the seven years since completing her master's degree, Daphne has worked as a family therapist in private practice and as a clinical social worker in the Emergency Department at the U of M hospital. She has also served as a project coordinator on several research projects at the University of Michigan focused on evaluating the implementation and sustainability of mental health interventions within community agencies in Michigan. Most recently, Daphne was the project manager for a NIMH-funded R01 multi-site randomized control trial that tests the effectiveness of an intervention for unemployed persons with social anxiety. Daphne has presented her work at numerous local and national conferences and has taught several graduate courses in social work clinical practice and policy. Daphne is interested in interventions with vulnerable youth and their families involved in complex social service systems.
  • massey

    Katie Massey Combs

    Katie has a BA in social work from Auburn University, an MSW from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and an MPH from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Katie has worked as a research assistant, technical officer, women’s reproductive health counselor and field instructor prior to her current position as the research director for the Second Nature Wilderness Program. She is interested in outcome research and program evaluation with a focus on at-risk youth, reproductive health and Spanish-speaking populations. Katie entered the program with three publications (Journal of Experiential Education, Journal of Residential Treatment with Children and Youth, and The Journal of the American Dental Association) and two additional manuscripts under review. She has presented at numerous state and national conferences. Katie lives in Boulder and will be working as a graduate assistant with Professor Heather Taussig, Associate Dean for Research.
  • dechants

    Jonah DeChants

    Jonah has a BS in political science and French from Kalamazoo College and an MS in social policy from the University of Pennsylvania. In the two years since completing his master’s degree, Jonah has worked as a policy associate focused on housing issues and homelessness, and as a program manager for a project addressing issues of youth homelessness. Jonah has one forthcoming publication in The LGBTQ Policy Journal at the Harvard Kennedy School, and he has given numerous presentations at state and national conferences. Jonah is primarily interested in issues of youth homelessness, child welfare-involved youth, and LGBTQ youth and young adults. Jonah relocated to Denver from Philadelphia and is working as a graduate assistant with Associate Professor Kim Bender.
  • Eric DesMarais

    Eric DesMarais

    Eric is interested in international social work with a focus on the development of transnational networks and their effects on human security, human trafficking, migration and development.
  • Rebecca Durbahn

    Rebecca Durbahn

    Rebecca is studying innovative interventions for children and adolescents with a history of trauma and mental health, particularly the impact of innovative interventions on symptoms of PTSD.
  • Jordan Farrar

    Jordan Farrar

    Jordan's research focuses on the international community, specifically Africa. Her primary research investigates the effect of armed conflict on youth and the utilization of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration strategies when intervening at the individual level. Other research interests focus on the effect of armed conflict on community and the family, as well as the use of a resilience perspective when analyzing and proposing community-based interventions.
  • Jie Feng

    Jie Feng

    Jie's research focuses on multicultural-community practice, particularly women's issues and empowerment, as well as international program development and management, and social work administration.
  • Lin Jiang

    Lin Jiang

    Lin's research interest is gerontology, especially comparing Chinese and American older adults' online activities/computer-based communication (i.e., voice chat, IM, 3D online games, emails, Facebook, YouTube and blogs). Specific examples include online social support and communication among senior citizens, civic engagement and older adults seeking online health information.
  • Shanna Katz Kattari

    Shanna Katz Kattari

    Shanna is a mixed methods researcher focused on understanding how power, privilege and oppression  marginalize, exclude, and discriminate against people regarding their identities/expressions. Her work currently centers on ability/disability  and ableism, as well as transgender/gender variant identities and transphobia, all using an intersectional lens. She is also interested in examining sexuality in marginalized communities, particularly LGBTQ individuals & people with disabilities.
  • kennedy

    Heather Kennedy

    Heather has a BA in English from the University of Northern Colorado and an MPH focusing on community and behavioral health from the University of Colorado. Since completing her MPH, Heather has worked as a senior professional research assistant at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado where she has overseen process and outcome evaluations, coordinated various research studies, and developed and facilitated a youth advisory board. She is interested in youth engagement in leadership and decision-making processes, youth civic engagement and youth organizing. Heather has four publications (Arts & Health, The Arts in Psychotherapy (2) and The Journal of Pediatric Health Care),and she has given numerous presentations at state and national conferences. Heather currently lives in the Denver metropolitan area and is working as a graduate assistant with Assistant Professor Yoli Anyon.
  • Songmin Kim

    Songmin Kim

    Songmin is investigating how evidence-based social work interventions can include spirituality, particularly in community social work practice.
  • Susanne Klawetter

    Susanne Klawetter

    Susanne Klawetter,LCSW, is interested in examining social determinants of maternal and child health disparities. Topics of interest include intergenerational health patterns, gendered oppression, the application of a life course perspective in research and practice, and qualitative or mixed-methods approaches to engaging in community-based participatory research with marginalized women and children as it relates to health.
  • Lisa Langenderfer

    Lisa Langenderfer-Magruder

    Lisa's research focuses on intimate partner violence, including partner violence among high-risk youth and perpetrator intervention.

  • McCune

    Sarah McCune

    Sarah holds a BA in International Studies and an MA in International Development from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Prior to her studies at GSSW, she worked with CARE, the Center for International Development, and the World Bank in the field of global health. Sarah’s research is focused on the community- and individual-level factors that contribute to toxic stress and allostatic load and on associated mental and physical health outcomes. She is also interested in intervention research.
  • Amber McDonald

    Amber McDonald

    Amber is interested in trauma-informed interventions for children who are victims of, and/or witnesses to, crime.  She is interested in researching and evaluating systems responses and forensic social work practices.

  • Ann Obermann

    Ann Obermann

    Ann's research focuses on the organizational health of human service organizations and how this directly effects client outcomes and their quality of services. In addition, she is looking at direct and or vicarious trauma's effect on an organization, its employees and those it serves.
  • Ashley O'Connor

    Ashley O'Connor

    Ashley's research interests include community and occupational reintegration of returning veterans, including animal-assisted psychiatric rehabilitation.
  • Jennifer Pearson

    Jennifer Pearson

    Jennifer's research interests include ethical standards for animal-assisted interventions, psychopathologies of the human-animal bond, and the intersection of animal welfare, human health and the environment.
  • Jon Phillips

    Jon Phillips

    Jon’s  research focuses on organizational culture in child welfare and how it relates to outcomes as defined by state and federal governments. He hopes to expand the concept of organizational culture by applying it to the child welfare system as a whole. In addition, he is interested in identifying and addressing the challenges of inter-agency cooperation within the child welfare system.
  • Mark Plassmeyer

    Mark Plassmeyer

    Mark is interested in investigating any effect that the change in Colorado’s policies regarding marijuana will have on incarceration rates in Colorado’s jails and prisons, particularly for minority populations in both adult and juvenile settings. He is also interested in what kind of financial impact the legalization of recreational marijuana will have on Colorado’s ability to provide public services, and whether the policy shift will produce any financial benefits to the populations, communities and/or neighborhoods that have historically experienced high rates of arrest and incarceration for marijuana-related offenses.
  • Ceema Samimi-Luu

    Ceema Samimi

    Ceema has a BA in Political Science from the University of Colorado Denver, a MSW from Columbia University, and a Master of Public Administration from the City University of New York John Jay College. Since completing the MSW six years ago, Ceema has worked as a forensic social worker for the Legal Aid Society and, more recently, as a social worker with the Center for Urban Community Services and Padres & Jovenes Unidos. Ceema has taught several courses as an Adjunct Faculty in micro, macro and evaluation practice at GSSW, Metro State, and Columbia University. Ceema has presented her work nationally and internationally and published research on social justice and nonprofits. Ceema joins the doctoral program with an interest in restorative justice, positive youth development and risk and resilience among system-involved youth.
  • Nick Schau

    Nick Schau

    Nick is examining how social structures and institutions impact the expression and onset of severe mental illness, the intersection of marginalized identities and severe mental illness, and the psychosocial impact of mental illness on family members.
  • sparks

    Jessica Sparks

    Jessica has a BA in sociology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, an MSW from Washington University in St. Louis and an MS in conservation medicine from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Her post-MSW work experience includes victim advocacy, support assistance for individuals with autism, clinical social work, forensic interviews, crisis intervention counseling and grant writing. She currently has one publication pending and has presented at a number of national conferences. Her research focus is on conservation social work, biodiversity, social ecological justice and the One Health paradigm. She relocated to Denver from Boston and is working as a graduate assistant with Professor and American Humane Endowed Chair Andreas Rechkemmer.
  • Rachel Speer

    Rachel Speer

    Rachel has a BA in Spanish from the University of Colorado and a MSW from the University of Denver. After gaining her MSW, Rachel worked in a variety of clinical settings with children, adolescents, adults and families. Her experiences include direct practice, training, clinical supervision, program management, and consultation. Rachel has presented her work on LGBT mental health at local conferences and has two papers under review focused on experiences of discrimination and mental health outcomes of transgender individuals. She has taught several courses around theory, group intervention and power, privilege and oppression for the University of Denver's GSSW and School of Professional Psychology. Rachel's research interest focuses on transgender health and parenting, health disparities among families of color, and mental health.
  • Jason St. Mary

    Jason St. Mary

    Jason is interested in exploring the effects of colonialism/imperialism and capitalism/consumerism on indigenous cultures and underdeveloped countries, resulting in historical constructs of extreme forms of oppression and exploitation, and also in the transmission of intergenerational trauma. He is concerned with examining the international ramifications of global social work, exploring economic, political and community impact, and the movements of youth development, income generation, sustainability, health care reform and education in addressing access to resources such as housing, mental and physical health, nutrition, employment and safety concerns.

  • Jennifer Wilson

    Jennifer Wilson 

    Jennifer has a BA in Art History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a MSW from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an International Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Denver. Her recent work with The Action Center, a locally-based nonprofit, and Jefferson County Public Schools has centered around issues of homelessness and housing stability. She has also worked overseas in Thailand, South Africa, South Korea and the UK in practice, research, and advocacy roles. These experiences inform her research interest in international social work, specifically conceptualization and application within the discipline; measuring impacts and outcomes of this work; and exploring social issues, such as homelessness, as well as innovative responses, such as social impact bonds, within a globalized context and with a cross-cultural lens.

  • Jessica Lo

    Jessica Yang

    Jessica is studying child welfare and experiences of children in foster care and their identity development. Additionally, Lo has in interest in trauma and adult life outcomes, LGBT issues and the relationship between sexuality and religion.