PhD Current Student Bios
The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work is pleased to share the background and key research interests of some of our PhD students. Click on a name to view that student's biographical sketch.
Ronna Bañada, LCSW, MSW
Professional and research interests: (Im)migrant experiences with a focus on undocumented APIDA communities; impacts of immigration status on mental health, health, and educational experiences; and Filipinx mental health and identity formation.
John Bunyi, MFT
Professional and research interests: the application of mental health technologies for increasing access to and effectiveness of mental health care for historically marginalized populations; Reducing barriers to mental health care for immigrant populations; Filipinx mental health; Leveraging big data in mental health care; Dissemination and implementation of innovative mental health treatment delivery; and mental health treatment for those with disabilities.
Olivia Canning, BA
Professional and research interests: the utilization of community-based participatory research and mindfulness-based interventions for survivors of sexual assault and within restorative justice contexts.
Adriane Clomax, MSW
Professional and research interests: economic justice, social policy, corporate social responsibility, and social entrepreneurship.
Jessenia De Leon, BS
Professional and research interests: adolescent welfare; juvenile justice; organizational sustainability; organizational capacity; nonprofit organizations; dissemination & implementation science; mental health programs; global mental health; financial stability for nonprofits; staff capability & retention.
Graham DiGuiseppi, ScM
Professional and research interests: prevention and treatment of substance use disorders in vulnerable youth and young adults. He has received a pre-doctoral dissertation award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to investigate relationships between homelessness and substance use among emerging adults in treatment.
Maiya Hotchkiss, BA
Professional and research interests: health and safety disparities, particularly among trans and gender nonconforming (TGNC) individuals; interpersonal and structural violence; violence prevention and treatment; community-facilitated evidence-based interventions; community-based participatory research (CBPR) methods.
Olga Koumoundouros, MFA
Professional and research interests: utilization of evidenced-based policies for violence prevention, intersecting kinds of violence, intersecting kinds of coping, participatory action research, survivor centered voice, trauma informed research models, mixed methods photo voice, health disparity, trauma informed public schools, juvenile justice, community-based environmental justice, engagement as healing practice, community equity, housing justice, low-income communities, guaranteed basic income programs
Wichada La Motte-Kerr, MPH
Professional and research interests: health and wellbeing for persons experiencing homelessness including substance use, sexual risk behaviors, violence and trauma experiences, and the association of social support and networks with these outcomes.
Woo Jung Lee, MA
Professional and research interests: individual and environmental risk and protective factors surrounding adolescent mental health in a developmental trajectory; impact of poverty on youth and later outcomes from a life course perspective; the role of parenting and cultural environment as contextual factors shaping adolescent well-being; internalizing and externalizing behavior, brain functions, emotions as mechanisms and outcomes; race and culture and inequality as context, immigrant experience; and policy, prevention/intervention.
Beatrice Martinez, MSW
Professional and research interests: community-based participatory research; recruitment science; health disparities; older adults; mental health; health outcomes; chronic conditions; socio-cultural values and its effect on behavioral health and treatment adherence.
Leticia Morales, MSW
Professional and research interests:
Rory P. O'Brien, MSW, MPH (they/them)
Professional and Research Interests: studies associations between policy, minority stress, and LGBTQ youth health in the hopes of informing and supporting policy change efforts to close health disparities burdening LGBTQ youth.
Lucinda Okine, MSW
Professional and research interests: child and family welfare; childhood adversity; maltreatment; mental health; substance abuse and behavioral health; parenting; at-risk and vulnerable families; family-based interventions; racial and ethnic minority groups.
Juyoung Park, MSG
Professional and research interests: minority aging, social isolation and loneliness among older ethnic minority adults, health disparities among older adults associated with socioeconomic factors.
Laura Petry, MSW
Professional and research interests: homelessness and housing instability among youth and young adults, housing policy and urban planning, housing intervention models, Continuums of Care, coordinated entry systems, social and inter-organizational networks, spatial analysis and critical GIS, community-based participatory research.
Jose Reyes, MSW
Professional and research interests: health policy development and analysis; structural evolvement of health and human service organizations; strategic community collaborations to increase systemic efficiency and effectiveness; organizational governance and leadership; health workforce development and diversity; cultural and linguistically appropriate services.
Shaddy Saba, LSW, MA
Professional and research interests: etiology and treatment of substance use disorders, mental health and chronic pain conditions; interpersonal neurobiology, attachment, and developmental trauma; mindfulness-based interventions; marginalized groups such as homeless individuals and military veterans; integrated care models; and technology and behavioral healthcare.
Erika Salinas, MSW
Professional and research interests: tribal child welfare; communication and collaboration efforts between traditional and tribal governments regarding the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA); compliance with ICWA; strength and resilience within tribal communities; the historical and current effects of Federal Indian policies; cultural approaches to intervention and prevention programs; and inter-generational trauma within tribal communities.
Leslie Schnyder, MSW
Professional and research interests: workplace diversity and inclusion; inclusion policy-practice and means-ends decoupling; retention, engagement, productivity, and wellness of underrepresented, historically excluded, and marginalized identity groups in workplace settings; employee voice; pandemic health safety behaviors within diverse communities.
Sara Semborski, LCSW, MSW
Professional and research interests: homelessness, housing models and homeless service delivery, the experience of homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth, socio-spatial relations as it relates to behavioral health, and quantitative methods for intensive longitudinal data. Her dissertation, funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health, is called "Understanding emotional regulation and mood in the real-world context of homelessness through the use of geographic ecological momentary assessment." Post-doctorate she would like to work on a multi-disciplinary team to inform policy with long-term hopes of improving our social safety nets and eliminating homelessness.
Yi-Hsuan Tung, MSW
Professional and research interests: home care workforce development and training for diverse ethnic groups; caregiver training: activity engagement, late-life well-being, and resilience; technology acceptance and applications for older adults, people with disabilities, and their families.
Corinne Zachry, MA
Professional and research interests: understanding risk and protective factors for trauma-related mental health disparities in LGBTQ+ individuals, contributions of social policies to mental health disparities for individuals with multiple marginalized identities, community-based intervention research to alleviate exposure to chronic stressors, promotion of LGBTQ+ health equity.