2023 Commencement

Class of 2023 PhD, DSW, MSW and MSN

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Fall 2023 Late Deadline: Full-Time - June 9

Suzanne Wenzel

Richard M. and Ann L. Thor Professor in Urban Social Development and Associate Dean for Research

Interdisciplinary researcher, specializing in the health-related needs of vulnerable populations.

Media Contact
Suzanne Wenzel
Email:  swenzel@usc.edu
Phone:  +1 213.740.0819
Rank:  Tenure Track Faculty
Department:  Adult Mental Health and Wellness

Suzanne Wenzel

Richard M. and Ann L. Thor Professor in Urban Social Development and Associate Dean for Research

Interdisciplinary researcher, specializing in the health-related needs of vulnerable populations.

Media Contact


Suzanne Wenzel has devoted much of her career to interdisciplinary research that seeks to understand and address health-related needs of vulnerable populations, particularly individuals experiencing homelessness in urban communities. Wenzel has served as the principal investigator on ten grants from the National Institutes of Health. Funding for these projects from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse has totaled more than $15 million. Her research involving homeless persons has included an investigation of the social context of risk for substance use and HIV/AIDS among homeless men, women and youth; examination of the relationship of trauma to substance use and HIV/AIDS risk among women; and adaption of evidence-based programs to address HIV risk, victimization by violence, and post-traumatic stress among women. She is investigating the process of transitioning to permanent supportive housing among individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, and associated changes in personal relationships, behavioral health and risks, health service use, and quality of life. She organized a Los Angeles County-wide forum on the topic of integrated care and housing for homeless persons, and has participated in several regional and national efforts to prevent and end homelessness. Wenzel has also conducted research on substance abuse treatment quality, and organizational linkages among treatment courts for drug-involved offenders and community-based providers of behavioral health services. After completing her doctoral studies in community psychology, Wenzel was awarded a National Institute of Mental Health post-doctoral fellowship in the Rutgers/Princeton program in mental health research. Prior to her appointment at USC in 2009, she was a senior behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, Calif., and was responsible for research quality assurance in the RAND Health program. To reference the work of Suzanne Wenzel online, we ask that you directly quote their work where possible and attribute it to "Suzanne Wenzel, a faculty at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work” (LINK: https://dworakpeck.usc.edu)



Rutgers/Princeton Program in Mental Health Research and UCLA Department of Sociology

Postdoctoral Fellowship 1993

University of Texas at Austin

PhD 1990

Texas State University

BA 1985

Area of Expertise

  • Substance abuse treatment
  • sexual risk behavior and risk reduction
  • Victimization and violence against women
  • Homelessness and homeless women
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Drug and alcohol abuse

Industry Experience

  • Program Development
  • Education/Learning
  • Health Care - Services
  • Health Care - Facilities
  • Health and Wellness
  • Health Care - Providers
  • Research
  • Public Policy
  • Leadership

Research Interest

  • Behavioral Health
  • Health
  • Homelessness
  • Substance Abuse


Leadership Institute Award
Awarded by the University of Southern California, Higher Education Resource Services (HERS)
Fellow, American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare
Fellow, Association for Psychological Science
Fellow, Western Psychological Association

Articles & Publications

Perez Jolles, M., Rivera, D., Jacobs, G., Thomas, K., Schneiderman, J., & Wenzel, S. (2021). Views on health activation and support services among formerly homeless adults living in permanent supportive housing in the United States. Health and Social Care in the Community. https://doi.org/10.1111/hsc.13384

La Motte-Kerr, W., Henwood, B., Rhoades, H., Rice, E., & Wenzel, S.  (2020).  Exploring the association of community integration with mental health among formerly homeless individuals living in permanent supportive housing. American Journal of Community Psychology. DOI 10.1002/ajcp.12459

Cox, R., Lahey, J., Rhoades, H., Henwood, B., & Wenzel, S. (2020). Does the timing of incarceration impact the timing and duration of homelessness? Evidence from the “Transitions to Housing Study.” Justice Quarterly. DOI: 10.1080/07418825.2019.1709883


Guerrero, E., Henwood, B., & Wenzel, S.L. (2014).  Service integration to reduce homelessness in Los Angeles County:  Multiple stakeholder perspectives. Human Services Organization Management, Leadership & Governance, 38(1), 44-54.


Research Focus

Pilot Test of an Adapted, Evidence-Based HIV Sexual Risk Reduction Intervention for Homeless Women
HIV Risk Behavior and Access to Services: What Predicts HIV Testing among Heterosexually Active Homeless Men?
The HIV Risk Reduction Needs of Homeless Women in Los Angeles

Research Grants

HIV Risk, Drug Use, Social Networks: Homeless Persons Transitioned to Housing
National Institute on Drug Abuse $2,668,735

As local, state, and federal officials continue to invest in permanent supportive housing to address issues of chronic homelessness, mental health, and substance use, research is needed to explore how the transition to housing affects homeless individuals. Using a socioecological model and a longitudinal design, this study will examine HIV risk and prevention behaviors in a sample of chronically homeless, predominately African American men and women as they transition to housing. Evidence from a pilot project has suggested that the transition process may increase rather than decrease certain risk behaviors over time. The specific aims of the study are to examine changes in those risk behaviors, how the social networks of housed individuals change over time, and how the transition to permanent supportive housing affects drug use and mental health symptoms. The research team also plans to assess whether and how housing providers promote HIV prevention and will use findings to inform specific strategies to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Interviews will be conducted with approximately 405 individuals receiving housing before the transition and at 3, 6, and 12 months after entering housing. Researchers will also interview supervisory employees and conduct focus groups with frontline staff members of housing providers.

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