Ph.D. Program Doctoral Student Profiles


 Jeffrey 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

Ryan Elizabeth Bender, MSW, 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.  --> Curriculum Vitae  ->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. --> Curriculum Vitae  ->Email Jared Israel Best


Nazan Cetin earned an MSW degree from New Mexico Highlands University. Her interests include mental health, trauma informed practice, teens who have survived a life threatening disease and health disparities. Prior to social work practice, Nazan worked in film documentary and has a deep interest in film and media as mechanisms for social justice. Nazan enjoys spending time with family and volunteering in her community.
--> Curriculum Vita    -->Email Nazan Cetin


Kevin Cherry received a BSW from Harding University in 2008 and an MA in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago in 2011. He has taught extensively in the MSW program at Portland State University, including courses on macro theory, social welfare history and policy, and research. His interests focus broadly on the social, political and economic contexts within which the profession of social work operates. Topics of recent exploration include radical and critical traditions within social work, contemporary social and political theory, and neoliberal transformations of the American welfare state. To this end his dissertation examines Pay for Success - a new, innovative financing mechanism for social services that sits at the intersections of finance capital, public policy, and the welfare state. --> Curriculum Vitae  -> Email Kevin Cherry


Beckie Child received her MSW from Portland State University. 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


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).  --> Curriculum Vitae 
 --> Email Hyuny Clark-Shim

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).
--> Curriculum Vitae 
->Email Maria Carolina Gonzales-Prats

Anita Gooding received an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Women, Gender & Sexuality from Trinity College. Most recently, she has worked as a Field Director at a PA state university. Anita has spent most of her career in the sexual health field and her experience spans across micro and macro levels of practice. Anita's work experience includes community outreach and organizing, development and marketing, treatment education for folks living with HIV/AIDS as well as outpatient therapy for LGBTQIA-identified persons. Her research interests include gender and sexuality, field education and HIV/AIDS. -->  Curriculum Vitae -> Email Anita Gooding

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.
-->Curriculum Vitae   ->Email Leigh Grover

Marin Henderson-Posther received her MSW in clinical social work from New York 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 of military 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. She is also a certified yoga teacher and a lifelong artist. ->Email Marin Henderson-Posther


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. ->Email Jesse Homan

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. --> Curriculum Vitae   
->Email Keela Johnson

Nicole Lauzus is a social worker from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and has worked in the child welfare field since 2007. She is passionate about empowering our most marginalized and vulnerable populations to have a voice and the ability to have all their needs met. Nicole most recently was a supervisor for 8 years at a nonprofit organization helping parents reunify with their children placed in the foster care system. Her previous employment includes working with children and families experiencing homelessness and providing treatment in a residential setting to juvenile sexual offenders. She completed her BA in Political Science at La Salle University in Philadelphia and earned her MSW from the University of New England. In pursuing her doctoral degree in Social Work and Social Research at Portland State University, Nicole looks forward to focusing on research related to poverty, trauma, and child welfare.  --> Curriculum Vitae  -> Email Nicole Lauzus

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

Rhen Miles 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 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. ->Email Kelly Myers

Steph Ng Ping Cheung received her MSW from Portland State University and her BSW from Warren Wilson College, NC. Most of her professional career has been involved in the anti-violence field, primarily serving survivors of domestic/sexual violence in a variety of contexts. Before entering the PhD Program, Steph coordinated Portland's LGBTQ Program at Bradley Angle - the city's only LGBTQ specific program from LGBTQ survivors of domestic violence. Steph's research interests include supporting and lifting up culturally specific programming, reducing barriers to accessing resources for targeted survivor communities, and identity based practice. --> Email Steph Ng Ping Cheung


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


Meghan Perry received a Masters in Public Administration with a focus on Sustainable Social Policy from Portland State University and a BA in Journalism Communication Studies from University of Oregon.  Her research interests are in youth-adult partnerships, cooperative learning, civic engagement and participatory democracy.  Meghan’s experiences growing up in a rural community in the Columbia River Gorge shape her interests in supporting access and engagement for all young people.  Most recently Meghan worked as a Youth Advisor at Education Northwest providing coaching and training to youth development organizations engaged in continuous, quality improvement efforts.  Meghan has spent a decade immersed in the youth mentoring movement from a mentor herself, to program coordinator, and later technical assistance provider.  She is conversant in both the literature and practical application of growth promoting relationships. Meghan has developed and facilitated training curriculum on supportive youth and adult relationships for organizations like MENTOR the National Mentoring Partnership, the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Oregon Department of Human Services, GEAR UP at Portland Public Schools, and the Portland Metro STEM Partnership.  In her spare time Meghan enjoys spending time with her family outdoors in and around the Pacific Northwest. --> Curriculum Vitae  -> Email Meghan Perry

   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 Pruitt

Laura Rodriguez received a BSW from Florida Atlantic University in 2002 and an MSW in Community Organizing, Planning, Policy and Administration from Boston College in 2004.  Laura is first generation Cuban-American. The experience of having immigrant parents (and family members) and being characterized as an “other” within the dominant culture led her to pursue work within social justice.     
Laura’s direct experience includes service coordination, supervision, program management, full-scale program direction and management, and systems analysis. She has had the privilege of working with multiple populations, including run-away homeless youth, homebound elderly, and children/youth with special health care needs, in addition to spending several years in the reproductive health field. Laura’s interest and dissertation will focus on improving health care systems’ ability to provide equitable services to children and/or youth who have special needs and one or more intersecting marginalized identities. In her free time, Laura likes hiking with her wife and their dog, and is obsessed with watching foreign detective dramas. --> Email Laura Rodriguez


Sam Settelmeyer grew up in Cottage Grove, Oregon, and got his B.S. in Physics and M.S. in Education at Oregon State University. Sam then moved to Roseburg, Oregon, where he was a Math and Science Teacher in an Alternative Education Program within Roseburg High School. While Sam loved the work he was able to do with students, he found his mind wondering to consider questions about the overarching structure of public education, the skills and struggles that his students had, and many other things that one does not have time to address while also teaching. This motivated him to look into continuing education options, and ultimately end up in the Social Work and Social Research Program. Sam hopes to continue being directly involved with students while also analyzing different educational structures, how to foster the inherent capacity of youth, reforming and supporting teacher education programs, as well as many other areas that he has not thought of yet. He is currently exploring the implications of Systems Science and Appreciative Inquiry in this endeavor. Sam also loves to be outside, run, spend time with family, and be part of his local community. 
--> Curriculum Vitae - -> Email Samuel Settelmeyer

Josh Simon received his BSW from Central Michigan University and his MSW from Michigan State University. For several years, he served as a Case Manager for a public mental health agency serving children and adults. In 2015, he began working for Camp Korey in Washington state, a year-round camp for children living with serious medical conditions and their families. During his time there, Josh oversaw the development of several programs and initiatives to serve more young people and family members, eventually serving as the Camp Director. As a member of SeriousFun Children's Network, a worldwide network of sister camps and programs, Josh has had the opportunity to consult internationally for camps serving children with HIV/AIDS. He was also selected from candidates across the globe to be a SeriousFun Leadership Fellow in 2017. His experience working with young people with serious health challenges greatly inspired him to return for his PhD. His research interests include psychosocial interventions for youth with chronic illnesses, mentoring and social networks, youth development and transitions into adulthood, and health inequalities.
--> Email Josh Simon

Lisha Shrestha is a native of Nepal with extensive education and international experience in conflict resolution, community engagement and advocacy. She holds a Masters in Conflict Resolution from Portland State University and a Masters in Human and Natural Resource Studies from Kathmandu University. She has researched and authored chapters on conflict, peace and dialogue, land conflict, migration, food and human security. She is a trained facilitator on intergroup dialogue, a certified mediator and has developed culturally specific training manuals.  Her research based article on "Inclusive Land Policy and Human Security in Post Conflict Situation” was supported by Swiss National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR North-South). Lisha designed and implemented a rural entrepreneurial collaborative project in Nepal in 2009. For past 6 years, she has been actively involved with immigrant and refugee communities through her work as Case Manager at IRCO and New Portlander Commission, City of Portland. She has designed curriculum, facilitated workshops and initiated community gardening, ASL classes for refugee communities. Prior to joining the program, Lisha was Civic Engagement Coordinator at Elders in Action, focusing her work with diverse elders engagement and advocacy. She is interested to study refugee civic integration and how it affects their overall wellbeing and living conditions.  Lisha was awarded PSU’s President’s Diversity Award in 2015. She is also a recipient of 2017 Spirit of Portland, Community Leader of the Year Award.   --> Curriculum Vitae  --> Email Lisha Shrestha

Emily Li-wen Wang grew up in the midwest 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. ->Email Emily Wang

Eunbyeor Yang received her MSW from Ewha Women's University (EWU) in South Korea in 2015. She has worked as a research assistant on multiple projects at the Institute for Social Welfare Research of EWU in many different colleges. She has participated in research projects surveying, conducting economic test, interviewing children in foster care, and analyzing quantitative/qualitative data. In one of the projects, Eunbyeor conducted a survey distributed to hundreds of youth in foster care throughout South Korea for 2 years, and interviewed some of them regarding their thinking/views/perspectives about the survey. At that time, she became interested in children in out-of-home care systems and the social stereotypes and stigma they experienced. In terms of stigma, she has started studying delinquency theories. After graduate the school, Eunbyeor worked as a researcher at Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, and participated in policy reports on community social service investment. After that, she worked as a social worker planning, implementing, and evaluating family programs. 

Eunbyeor's research interests include issues related to youth delinquency and crime; juvenile justice; impact of stigma and stereotypes to youth; resilience of vulnerable children; children in poverty; children in foster care system; aging out of foster care.  --> Curriculum Vitae  -> Email Eunbyeor Yang 

Katie Winters is a research strategist and evaluation practitioner with expertise in a holistic range of quantitative and qualitative social research methodologies. The projects she has been involved in include community development collaboratives, maternal child health programs and partnerships, state school readiness initiatives, and programs focused on education, the arts, and environmental sustainability. In addition to her dissertation focused on sibling violence in the context of child welfare, Katie currently manages programs and evaluation for The Library Foundation. She received a B.A. in Psychology and English Literature from the University of Colorado and completed an M.A. in Program Evaluation and Organizational Behavior at Claremont Graduate University. Her research interests include violence prevention, evaluation theory and methods, sibling relationships, and the application of systems thinking in the social sciences. She was the 2017 President of the Oregon Program Evaluators Network.   ->Email Katie Winters