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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.
  • 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.

  • Samantha Brown

    Samantha Brown

    Samantha is interested in research that evaluates outcomes for children exposed to traumatic experiences and the impact this might have on social, emotional, and developmental functioning. Her research interests also include child resiliency, particularly factors that mediate the relationship between child maltreatment and the development of trauma-related symptomology.

  • dechants

    Jonathan 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.
  • Badiah Haffejee

    Badiah Haffejee

    Badiah's research interest is in the intersection of immigration policy, particularly as it relates to refugee women in the United States. Other interests include community development-specifically toward the empowerment of refugee women and youth in urban communities. Her current research investigates African refugee student outcomes in an after school program, specifically looking at culturally responsive social work practices, as it applies to a collectivist-oriented culture.
  • Ashley Hanna

    Ashley Hanna

    Ashley is investigating the intersection of social work and various immigration issues. Her research interests include: 1) the effects of anti-immigrant policies and practices on the well-being of unauthorized immigrants, persons in mixed-status families, and the larger Latino community; 2) the effect of stigmatization on unauthorized immigrants and their families; and 3) the stress experienced by mixed-status Latino families due to the constant threat of detainment and/or deportation of unauthorized family members.
  • 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.
  • Chris Knoepke

    Chris Knoepke

    Chris' research interests include quality-of-life issues in cardiac care, particularly interventions that reduce anxiety provoked by health interventions.
  • Lisa Langenderfer

    Lisa Langenderfer-Magruder

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

  • massey

    Katie Massey

    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.

  • McCune

    Sarah McCune

    Sarah has a BA in international studies and an MA in international development, both from the University of Denver. Since completing her MA, she has worked as a research analyst, field research consultant, project coordinator and research assistant. She currently works for The World Bank on the Liberia Health Task Team and Health Results Innovation Trust Fund. Sarah currently has seven publications in BMC Infectious Diseases and The Journal of International and Global Studies, as well as three feature articles and one technical report for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. She is interested in the social and contextual determinants of mental health and risk behaviors, positive youth development and interventions that address disparities in outcomes. She relocated to the Denver area from Washington, DC, and is working as a graduate assistant with Assistant Professor Anamika Barman-Adhikari.

  • 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.
  • Stephanie Lechuga Pena

    Stephanie Lechuga Peña

    Stephanie is researching parent engagement and academic achievement for Mexican American/Chicano/a students. She focuses on intervention research to engage families and build community cohesion to improve their health, the health of their children, and the performance of their children's schools.

  • 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.
  • Abha Rai

    Abha Rai

    Abha is assessing impact across diverse sectors by administering both qualitative and quantitative checks across interventions that are being proposed and executed. Abha aims to standardize the implementation of interventions based on certain common findings that are beneficial to a particular sector and can be implemented across problems that are similar in nature. The ultimate aim is to avoid a multiplicity of research specific to a particular sector and creation of a repository of interventions that can be implemented in similar settings. 
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Darren Whitfield

    Darren Whitfield

    Darren is identifying and understanding critical health needs for gay men in the United States, particularly how systems of oppression influence health outcomes for gay men of color. Currently his work focuses on the psychosocial and cultural factors that may play a role in the disparity of HIV infection for young black gay and bisexual men
  • 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.