2022 Commencement

Visit our commencement page for links to 2022 ceremony recordings.

USC PhD students

PhD Current Student Bios

2022 Doctoral Candidates Seeking Academic Appointment

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.

Eunhye Ahn, MSW
Professional and research interests: using big data to identify and approach issues around child maltreatment; improving child protection system and child risk assessment using administrative data; improving and managing administrative data system in the social sector.

Ronna Bañada, LCSW, MSW

Professional and research interests: immigrant experiences across the lifespan, with a focus on undocumented immigrants, including Asian American youth and families; Immigration status impact on health, mental health, and educational experiences in K-12 and higher education; and Filipinx health, mental health, and identity formation.

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; sexually abused children and adolescents; the role of parenting and cultural environment as contextual factors shaping adolescent well-being; trauma treatment; use of policy to advance social justice; mindfulness-based interventions, dating violence among youth and young adults; community and school based intervention for youth; alternative treatments.

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.

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.

Jiaming Liang, MA
Professional and research interests: psychological needs of the elderly and their effects on the aging process; Alzheimer’s disease and associated dementias assessing the effectiveness of prevention of cognitive impairment; methodological approaches and health disparities.

Ruotong Liu, MPP

Professional and research interests: health outcomes among the dyads of older adults and their caregivers; caregiving to people with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias; caregivers' self-care through mobile technology; methodological approaches and health disparities.

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.

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; reproductive health; racial and ethnic minority groups.

Abigail Palmer Molina, LCSW, MA

Professional and research interests: early childhood (prenatal to age five), maternal mental health and parenting, family support and family-focused interventions for marginalized families, health equity, Latinx families, intervention development, mixed methods, and implementation science. Abigail is committed to community-engaged research and currently partners with children’s mental health services, Head Start, and home visiting programs, both locally and nationally.

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.

Dean Rivera, MSW

Professional and research interests: substance abuse, mental health, criminogenic needs and dynamic risk factors of forensic populations with substance use disorders, cultural and gender risk and responsivity, homelessness and permanent supportive housing, translational and applied social work science.

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 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, LGBTQ+ homeless youth, adolescent development, social networks, and socio-spatial relations. Dissertation, funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health, called "Understanding emotional regulation and mood in the real-world context of homelessness through the use of geographic ecological momentary assessment."

Yi-Hsuan Tung, MSW

Professional and research interests: home care workforce development and training for diverse ethnic groups; activity engagement, late-life well-being, and resilience; technology acceptance and applications for older adults, people with disabilities, and their families.

Kexin Yu, MSW

Professional and research interests: focuses on social connectedness and cognitive health in later life. She is interested in understanding the potential pathways through which loneliness and social isolation affect older people's cognitive functioning. Her long-term career goals involve identifying intervention mechanisms and developing behavioral health interventions to alleviate social isolation and prevent cognitive decline using technological platforms.

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.