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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..
  • 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.
  • Lisa Colon


    Lisa Colón has a BA in Psychology with a minor in pre-law and an MA in Psychology with Developmental and Psych and Law sub-plans. She is passionate about and has experience in many phases of quantitative research. She has developed and validated both a short scale (female version) and a much more extensive inventory (male and female versions) to measure childhood sexual experiences. The inventory allows for the evaluation of the development of human sexuality through the lens of childhood experiences. She was trained in Wraparound basics and as a Wraparound Family Support Partner through El Paso county DHS, which has helped to inform her research.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tyler Han


    Tyler has BAs in Psychology and Criminology from the University of California, Irvine and an MSW with a concentration in forensic social work from California State University, Los Angeles. She has worked as a therapist, specializing in providing trauma-informed care to children birth to five and their families in underserved communities. Tyler’s research interests include criminal justice/juvenile justice reform and how social inequalities contribute to the disproportionate incarceration of people of color as well as animal-assisted social work and its applications within the criminal justice system.
  • 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.
  • Jessica King


    Jessica has a BA in Psychology from Emory University and an MSW from Boston College. Since completing her MSW, Jessica has worked as an in-home therapist with children and families in low-income neighborhoods in Boston with Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, as well as performed trauma evaluations on children involved in the CPS and foster care system, and worked as a medical social worker at Medical Center of the Rockies. While at Boston College, Jessica was the student leader of the Neuroscience and Social Work group and completed specialized research on traumatic brain injuries and post-trauma. Jessica also has experience in grant-making through The Boston Foundation, helping nonprofits facilitate grants and garner donations. Jessica’s work with families of all ages motivates her research interests in social policy, compassion fatigue, caregiver burden, gerontology, and the economic impacts of caregivers having to leave the workforce due to their caregiving responsibilities.
  • 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.

  • Stephanie Nisle


    Stephanie Nisle has a BA in Psychology from the University of Illinois, and a MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a specialization in Addictions from the University of Denver. Previously, she has worked as a research assistant analyzing the effectiveness of residential substance abuse treatment facilities, and has worked in the clinical mental health field providing group and individual counseling to adults and adolescents with co-morbid disorders. Additionally, she has spent the past eight years teaching and volunteering with at-risk and special needs students in academic settings. Stephanie has presented her work nationally and has published research on substance abuse, multiculturalism, and first generation college students. She joins the doctoral program to pursue her interests in intervention work related to risk, resilience, and empowerment among youth in marginalized communities.

  • 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.
  • Kristi Roybal

    Kristi Roybal

    Kristi has a BA in Psychology from Boston College and a MSW and MA in International Human Rights from the University of Denver. Kristi’s post-MSW experience includes service coordination with residents at an affordable housing community, adult protection casework, and crisis intervention. Most recently, Kristi coordinated early intervention services for infants and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities in Spokane, Washington. Throughout her master’s programs and social work practice, Kristi developed interest in the relationship between the physical environment and health and well-being. She is broadly interested in the social determinants of maternal and child health and hopes to explore how neighborhood conditions impact maternal health, birth outcomes and early childhood development..
  • 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.
  • Jennifer Sedivy


    Jennifer has a BS in Psychology from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and a MSW from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She has worked with children, youth, and families involved with the child welfare system in a variety of capacities, including as a mentor, youth treatment specialist, and state caseworker. While completing her MSW, Jennifer expanded her experience with this population to include applied research and program evaluation at the local, state, and federal levels. She has presented her work on implementation science and treatment fidelity in the area of child welfare research through national conference presentations, guest lecturing, and a number of professional publications. Jennifer's research interests focus on improving child welfare outcomes through evidence-based practice, implementation science, and translation research. She is particularly interested in data driven decision making and the organizational and professional factors that promote or prohibit the adoption and implementation of effective practices.
  • 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 received an MSW from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an International MBA from the University of Denver. Her recent work with The Action Center, a locally-based nonprofit, and Jefferson County Public Schools has centered around homelessness and program management. Jennifer is interested in exploring poverty reduction through social innovation, including social enterprise, basic incomes, design thinking and human-centered design. She is currently working with the Burnes Center on Poverty and Homelessness at GSSW, exploring tiny homes and comprehensive community initiatives.