Ph.D. Program Doctoral Student Profiles
Featured Student Profiles
Keela Johnson received both her BS in Sociology and MCR (Master’s in Conflict Resolution) from Portland State University. Her current research interest focuses on intercultural race dialogues and their effectiveness, emphasizing the trauma of sharing the oppressed being with the dominant culture, affinity group work and basic education around the social construct and history of the American society. As an advocate for racial and social equity, Keela has worked for 10+ years creating and facilitating workshops, trainings and dialogues for organizations. She is currently interning with the Independent Police Review of Portland implementing a program she designed based on a needs assessment dialogue format for disenfranchised communities, as well as holding the position of the Dialogue Coordinator/Specialist at Resolutions Northwest of Portland. She has also worked the past 4 years with the Portland State University Studies Department as a mentor who specializes in social awareness and advancing racial and social justice. During her free time, Keela enjoys spending time with her two Jack Russel Terriers, reading and watching scary movies. Email Keela Johnson
Marin Henderson-Posther received her MSW in clinical social work from New York University and is a Ph.D. Student at Portland State University. She has had the opportunity to practice social work throughout the country, including in New York City, the greater Washington D.C. area, and Los Angeles. Through this work she has had the privilege of training in the areas ofmilitary social work, homelessness, poverty, domestic violence, and crisis intervention with an emphasis on suicidality. She has a deep interest in mental health, particularly focusing on how the accumulation of poverty-related stress impacts mental health difficulties. Sheis also a certified yoga teacher and a lifelong artist. Email Marin Henderson-Posther
More Student ProfilesJeffrey Asprocolas received his BA from Rutgers University, Livingston College in 1999 and his MSW from Rutgers University School of Social Work in 2003. During his time in the program, he has worked as a research assistant at the Regional Research Institute evaluating youth mentoring programs. He has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Portland State University’s Social Work Program teaching research, evaluation, and data analysis. He has an extensive child welfare background working for Los Angeles County in California and the State of Washington, and gained experience in providing family reunification services, permanency planning, adoption home studies, and investigations of child abuse and neglect. Jeffrey's research interests include issues related to youth aging out of foster care, evaluation of child welfare systems, and child welfare staff retention. During his free time, Jeffrey enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and snowboarding. Email Jeffrey Asprocolas
Abby Bandurraga has an MSW from Portland State University. She has partnered for over five years with Native American organizations in an effort to counter top-down research by working with Native communities to develop cultural- and community-based measures that demonstrate the effectiveness of culturally based interventions. Her interests include indigenous frameworks of well-being for American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth and emerging AI/AN adults, human trafficking, and adolescent sexuality. She has co-authored several articles on Community Based Participatory Research with urban Native communities and has an encyclopedia entry in the Sage Encyclopedia of Street Crime in America on sexual street violence. Email Abby Bandurraga
Ryan Elizabeth Bender, MSW is currently a PhD Student in the School of Social Work at Portland State University. Ms. Bender has a long history working with community based organizations addressing educational and health care inequalities. Her research centers around social determinants of health, emphasizing family-centered diabetes care management and family dynamics as well as community based participatory approaches developing community leadership and self-efficacy. She is a member of the Community Partnership for Health and Equity (CPHE), which supports community-driven research projects investigating the problems and priorities neighborhoods affected by health inequities and serious health conditions. Recently, Ms. Bender was appointed to the PSU Family Resource Center Advisory Board which provides program guidance for students with families and supports their unique needs towards educational success. Email Ryan Bender
Jared Israel Best grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah and moved to Portland in 2006 on a whim after dropping out of college for the second time. Jared began his studies at the University of Utah in 2001 as a theater major, eventually finishing nine years later with a degree in Psychology from Portland State University in 2010. Jared returned to PSU in 2013 as a combined MSW/PhD student and completed his coursework and MSW in June of 2016. During his time in the program, Jared has worked as a research assistant on multiple projects at the Regional Research Institute and also as an instructor in the Child and Family Studies program. Jared has continued part time employment in the community working with homeless and runaway youth as well as youth in juvenile justice and foster care systems. Jared hopes to continue serving disenfranchised youth through research and education. Jared is passionate about feminisms, radical social work, social justice, anti-oppressive practice, and transforming pedagogy and educational spaces. During his free time, Jared enjoys sleeping and eating food. Email Jared Israel Best
Danica Love Brown completed an undergraduate degree in human services and addiction studies at Metropolitan State College of Denver and a master’s degree in social work at Colorado State University. Danica has practice experience working in mental health, substance abuse, and school social work settings, with a focus on working with socio-economic and ethnically diverse communities. She also has served as an adjunct faculty member at Metropolitan State College of Denver. Danica is licensed in the state of Colorado as a certified addiction counselor III. Her area of research focuses on understanding how the worldview of Indigenous peoples can contribute to the development of behavioral health interventions and programs addressing historical trauma and health disparitites with Native American populations and in the development of Decolonized and Indigenous research methodologies. Danica’s postdoctoral goal is to engage in policy or program development practice and research with Native American populations while continuing to teach as an adjunct faculty member. She is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and loves dogs. Email Danica Love Brown
Hyuny Clark-Shim was born and raised in Paju-Si, South Korea, and moved to Portland, OR in 2007. She received her MS and BA in Psychology from Portland State University in 2014 and 2010. She currently works on evaluation of youth mentoring programs at the Regional Research Institute for Human Services (RRI). Her previous work includes collaboration with the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation and Quartz Valley Indian Reservation on community participatory research to promote the wellbeing of youths and families. Hyuny’s research interest is an intersection of epistemologies and equity for Indigenous and immigrant populations. Her extra-curricular activities include Critical Consciousness Study Group (CCSG) and Advancement of Interdisciplinary Methodology for Social Science (AIMS2). E-mail Hyuny Clark-Shim
Kevin Cherry is a PhD student in Social Work and Social Research at Portland State University. He received his BSW from Harding University in 2008 and his MA in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago in 2011. Kevin’s professional experiences have centered around: the prevention and intervention of men’s violence against women; research on issues related to LGBT health, HIV prevention, and the intersections of poverty and race/ethnicity among marginalized communities in Oregon; and the promotion and monitoring of ethical academic research through work with Institutional Review Boards. His academic interests include social work ethics, the history and philosophy of the social work profession, radical and critical traditions within social work, contemporary political and social theory, and the historical and contemporary relationship between social work and the state. His most recent work explores the American crises of neoliberal capitalism and liberal democracy and the resulting implications for organized progressive politics in American social work. Email Kevin Cherry
Beckie Child received her MSW from Portland State University and is Ph.D. Candidate at PSU's School of Social Work. Her research interests include health literacy, the lived experiences of people diagnosed with mental illness, mental health policy and advocacy. Beckie has been involved in research that explored the barriers of people with disabilities reporting interpersonal violence to law enforcement and research studies on recovery from mental illness to name a few. Beckie has been a mental health advocate for more than 15 years at the local, state and federal levels working with individuals and their family members to help people obtain services that work for them. Beckie has been a Board member of Disability Rights Oregon and serves on the PAIMI (pronounced pa-mi) which advocates for people with psychiatric disabilities in institutions and the community. and the Oregon State Hospital Advisory Board. She is also the former executive director of Mental Health America of Oregon. Her personal interests include music, listening to audio books, and cats. Email Beckie Child
Adrienne Croskey has an MSW from Portland State University and is currently a PhD student in the School of Social Work and Social Research program at Portland State University. Adrienne has a strong history working alongside research-based projects that support and mentor at-risk youth populations by offering coaching, evaluation assistance, designing measures and curriculum, data collection, management and analysis. Adrienne was lead developer for peer related services at a community based mental health agency while also offering research consultation to peer support projects. She holds a strong social justice and trauma informed perspective with a growing professional area of expertise around program design, development, implementation and evaluation. She resides on various advisory boards that support youth populations and continues to offer training and consultation around peer support services by collaborating with community agencies currently integrating peers into their workforce. Adrienne’s other areas of interests include issues related to youth aging out of foster care, multi-ethnic identity development in adolescents, cultural responsiveness within the child welfare system, anti-oppressive practice and trauma informed research, and the intersection of race, gender and privilege. Adrienne has been a mental health advocate for youth in foster care, youth of color and has been active in the emerging adult with lived experience movement. Email Adrienne Croskey
Maria Carolina Gonzalez-Prats completed her military service in 2004 (enlisted soldier in the Army Reserves and active-duty Army officer). She has focused her research and advocacy work on supporting veterans and their families’ efforts in access to resources, on the dynamic challenges of veterans transitioning from military to civilian life, and on social justice matters. Carolina has served as a consultant on a broad range of projects; and has various leadership experiences in the public, corporate and non-profit sector. These experiences and her passion for community development and adult education inspired Carolina to pursue the Masters of Psychology in Organization Development from Sonoma State University (2006). Her Master’s thesis, “The Transition of the Military Leader into the Civilian Workforce," addressed the enablers and barriers that veterans face upon reintegration into the civilian workforce. Carolina will be focusing her doctoral research on exploring the impact of gender exclusionary policies on the rates of military sexual trauma (MST). Email Maria Carolina Gonzales-Prats
Leigh Grover obtained Bachelor degrees in both psychology and law and justice at Central Washington University in 2003. In 2010, she completed a Masters degree in Social Work and a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology at Portland State University. Leigh’s clinical practice has been focused in acute care hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. Working as a medical social worker has influenced her research interests towards healthcare and the immigrant population. More specifically, she is interested in healthcare and mental health services among the Latino immigrant population, integrated health care for rural communities and determinates of mental health and healthcare disparities. In her spare time, Leigh enjoys travel, dancing and writing.
Jesse Homan, LPC received his BA from Columbia College Chicago and worked as a motion picture grip for 7 years. He decided to return to school to become a counselor and received his MS in Rehabilitation Counseling from PSU in 2008. Since completing his masters Jesse has focused his career on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. He currently works at the Portland DBT Institute where he is a therapist, supervisor, and trainer. In addition to working at PDBTI, Jesse also works for the New York State Office of Child and Family Services, and is one of three DBT trainers and consultants helping implement DBT in the juvenile correctional system. Jesse also works DBT adherence coder for the Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics at the University of Washington, and Linehan Board of Certification. His research area of interest is using technology to help disseminate evidenced based treatments.
Sarah Lazzari received her BA in Sociology with a Criminal Justice Minor from University of Washington in 2010, and then received her MS in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Portland State University in 2012. After working for Girl Scouts Beyond Bars, Sarah became increasingly interested in better understanding how families are impacted by periods of incarceration. Currently, Sarah is the Chair of the Research Committee for Oregon Department of Corrections. Sarah is also teaching at WSU Vancouver, and in the Social Work and Criminology and Criminal Justice Departments at PSU. Sarah's research interests are focused on how an individual’s community/family/support networks are impacted by periods of incarceration. She is beginning to utilize more mixed methods approaches, and attempts to provide research opportunities for currently incarcerated individuals. Email Sarah Lazzari
Sandy Leotti received her BA from Prescott College in 2002 and her MSW from the University of Montana in 2006. Her practice experience includes community mental health, violence education and prevention, community case management for adults and children with disabilities and long term illnesses, clinical practice with youth, and leadership development. Sandy’s research interests include the criminalization of women, reproductive justice, disability, and feminist methodologies. She is also interested in anti-oppressive practice and social work education with a specific focus on the infusion of critical and feminist theories in education and practice. Email Sandy Leotti
Martha Jean McCormack received her BS degree from the University of Oregon in 1974 and her MS degree in Counseling Psychology from Central Washington University in 1984. She entered the PSU PhD program in 2011 after a 25 year work history in publicly-funded children’s mental health services in Oregon and Washington states. Over the span of that work, Martha held a variety of roles, including therapist, clinical supervisor, program manager, consultant, and administrator. For the five years prior to starting her doctoral program, Martha supervised a team of facilitators and family partners in a SAMHSA-funded early childhood Wraparound project in Portland, Oregon. Her professional areas of expertise are systems of care, community-based treatment of trauma, team-based planning, and program design and evaluation. She held a graduate fellowship position with Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest for two years, in connection with The PSU Center for Interdisciplinary Mentoring Research. While in that position, she conducted a qualitative study on the experiences and perceptions of parents of youth with mental health needs who were in long-term mentoring relationships. Her research areas of study are families raising children with mental health needs and mentoring. Email Martha Jean McCormack
Lindsay Merritt received both her BSW and MSW from the School of Social Work at Portland State University. Her practice career includes extensive work with children, youth, and adults with developmental disabilities, substance use, and/or mental health challenges in day program and residential treatment settings. Since arriving at the School of Social Work, Lindsay has taken every opportunity to learn everything she can about research and evaluation at the Regional Research Institute (RRI). Today, she is a Research Associate and the Co-Investigator on two Tribal Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (TMIECHV) evaluations for two reservation-based American Indian communities. Her interests in research and evaluation include: Anti-oppressive, community-based participatory, and trauma-informed research and evaluation, privilege and postionality, and advancing social justice, equity, and self-determination. Email Lindsay Merritt
Rhen Miles is a doctoral candidate at Portland State University's School of Social Work. Rhen utilizes community-based research and evaluation methods to elevate youth and family voice in school and community based youth development programs. Rhen's dissertation work is on youth experiences of inclusion, participation, and influence in an organization wanting to integrate participatory methods into programming as an avenue toward equitable practices and outcomes. Rhen regularly works with school and community-based organizations in Portland and teaches at PSU's School of Social Work. Rhen's work has also included a prevalence study on food insecurity at PSU's SSW, which will be published in the Journal on Social Work Education. Email Rhen Miles
Miriam Miranda-Diaz was born in Mexico and moved to Oregon at a young age. She earned her BA in Psychology and the Master of Social Work Degree from Portland State University. Miriam has been project coordinator and a research assistant on the Study to Analyze Relationships (STAR) project at the Regional Research Institute; she is currently an embedded researcher at a local school district where she is helping the district develop a mentoring program. Miriam has a wealth of practice experience working with youth, adults, and families in education, the judicial system, and in non-profit organizations. This experience provided her with knowledge and skills in: formal/informal mentoring, mental health, chemical dependency, and community-based research. Her research interests include volunteerism and mentoring relationships, social work with Latin@s, animal (equine) assisted interventions, and quantitative methodologies. Miriam enjoys spending time with her family and riding horses. Email Miriam Miranda-Díaz
Kelly Myers, a PhD Student in the School of Social Work & Social Research at Portland State University, completed her BA in Social Work from the Catholic University of America (CUA), in Washington, DC in 2004. Kelly then returned to CUA after a year of volunteer work in Phoenix, AZ to complete her MSW in 2006, where she focused on a combined clinical and macro concentration. Upon finishing her MSW, Kelly had the opportunity to work in mental health, addiction, and homeless services in Washington, DC for several years. In 2008, Kelly relocated to Oahu, Hawai’i, where she became a LCSW, then a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC). She continued in the fields of mental health and addiction, and began developing a special interest in trauma work, and also in the role that culture can play in recovery and healing. Following this interest, Kelly attended University College Cork (UCC), part of the National University of Ireland, where she earned an MA in Irish Studies: Identities and Representations in 2016. Kelly graduated from UCC with First Class Honours for her dissertation: Finding Power in Shame: Exploring the Use of Medieval Irish Narratives in Modern Trauma Treatments to Address Issues of Shame, Humiliation, and Overcoming Dishonour. Her research interests lie in how cultural and personal traumas may influence identity formation and subsequently affect mental health, addiction, and other areas of social functioning. In conjunction with that, she is also interested in how culture can positively inform personal identity, resiliency, and recovery from trauma and other hardships.
Elizabeth "Lisa" Norton is a member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians where she has lived and worked for over 20 years. She has worked and volunteered in a variety of capacities for the Siletz Tribe, including Tribal Court, TANF, Child Welfare, Enrollment, Mental Health Research, and Small Business Development. She has been a sexual assault advocate for over five years, both on and off the reservation. She received her MSW from Portland State University, and is working on her Ph.D. in Social Work and Research. Her research interests include community-based, participatory action research. She also is looking at ways to reduce secondary trauma, as a result of sexual assault, in Indian Country. She currently serves as adjunct faculty at Portland State University’s Social Work Program, and a Sexual Assault Advocate Trainer for the Oregon Sexual Assault Taskforce and the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board. Email Elizabeth "Lisa" Norton
Molly Oberweiser Kennedy received her B.A. in Social Work in 1999 from the College of Saint Benedict, and in 2009 earned her M.Ed. with a focus on Youth Development and Leadership from the University of Minnesota. Her professional experience has been working with youth and families across a variety of settings including alternative schools, community mental health, and residential and juvenile corrections placements. Most recently she worked as a Wraparound Care Coordinator for Washington County Mental Health. Her research interests include youth development, adolescent mental health, the effects of intergenerational trauma, Wraparound and Systems of Care. Email Molly Oberweiser Kennedy
Meg Panichelli completed her BA in Women's & Gender Studies in 2005 and her MSW in 2010, both from West Chester University of PA. Her primary interests revolve around feminist teaching and research methodologies. Prior to starting school she taught sexual violence prevention education in Santa Fe, New Mexico and coordinated a harm reduction program for sex workers and drug users in Philadelphia, PA. As a white, queer, femme, and feminist she enters teaching and research through the lens of these identities, work experiences, education, and life experiences in which she believes weave together, and cannot be separated or unattached to professional and academic work. Her interests in research, activism, and teaching include: Anti-oppressive social work practice and research, critical feminisms, intersections of sexuality and drug use, sex work and academia, examining privilege in sex work and sex worker activism, intimate partner violence and sexual violence in queer and transgender communities, intersections of privilege, and teaching about sexuality and consent. Email Meg Panichelli
Andre Pruitt began his doctoral studies at Portland State in 2014. Andre's current research focuses on investigating memory loss among African American elders in the community. A 20+ year social work professional and long-time advocate, Andre has also worked on statewide equal rights initiatives for gay men of color, as well as around issues concerning sexual minority youth, equity in employment, and the expansion of educational opportunities for African Americans. He has served on several community boards and task forces in the Portland metro area. "Doing research in an urban environment like Portland supports my research goals perfectly," Andre says. "And being guided by the diverse expertise of Portland State's School of Social Work faculty, I know I'm getting a rich and rigorous doctoral degree." Email Andre Pruit
Stephanie Sundborg received a BA in Journalism and an MS in Psychology, both from the University of Oregon. Stephanie currently lives in Bend with her husband, three children and lab named Moose. In addition to being a student, she works as the Research Analyst for Deschutes County Health Services, where a primary role is program evaluation for a national childhood wellness program, Project LAUNCH. With a background in early childhood issues, Stephanie plans to pursue research focused on young children experiencing chronic stress due to environmental conditions. Email Stephanie Sundborg
Christine M. Velez Klug received her BA from Bates College in 2002 and her MSW from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo. Her practice experience includes working with adults and children with mental health challenges, medical social work, and non-profit work with immigrant and refugee populations. Christine’s research experience includes qualitative and quantitative methodologies and work with substance-use related program development and evaluation. Her research interests include issues related to reproductive justice and women of color, with a focus on sexual health and the sexual well-being of Latinas. Christine has experience teaching in both BSW & MSW programs here at PSU, including research, micro theory & health policy.
Emily Li-wen Wang grew up in the Mid-West as a second generation Asian American and descendant of traditional Chinese doctors in Taiwan. She received her Master’s in Public Health (MPH) degree from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis-St. Paul and has spent nearly 20 years providing leadership in eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities and advancing health equity for culturally-based communities in Illinois, Minnesota, Idaho and Oregon. Since 2011, she has been privileged to work in one of the most health-reform minded institutions in the U.S. at the Oregon Health Authority’s Office of Equity and Inclusion. She thrives working collaboratively with diverse communities, across disciplines, to develop meaningful research, policies and systemic changes within public institutions which promote family and community health and well-being. Emily is excited for the opportunity through PSU’s School of Social Work and Social Research doctoral program to examine culturally-based mental health for families through a health economics lens.
Nichole (Nick) Winges-Yanez earned both her BSW and MSW from Portland State University. She has worked extensively with individuals labeled with developmental disabilities. She also has experience working with individuals living with HIV/AIDS, adults labeled with developmental disabilities and sexual offending behavior, and queer identified youth. She has recently finished a project talking with queer identified youth across Oregon about their experiences with sexual education in schools. Her research focus involves reframing the current discourse surrounding individuals labeled with an intellectual disability and their sexuality utilizing queer and feminist theories interlaced with disability studies’ literature. She is also interested in both queer and disability activism as it manifests locally, nationally, and internationally. Email Nichole Winges-Yanez
Katie Winters conducts applied research for community-based, state, and national organizations in the areas of early intervention, child maltreatment prevention, and parent education. Katie is part of a team that just launched a Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program evaluation in the state of Oregon. Housed in the School of Social Work's nationally known Regional Research Institute (RRI), this project will examine engagement and retention in evidence-based home visiting programs. MIECHV provides culturally responsive services that can help meet the needs of Oregon's pregnant women, mothers, children, and families. Email Katie Winters