Meet our PhD students
Tanya Bailey (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a doctoral student interested in Animal-Assisted Interactions (AAI), with specific emphasis in codifying the therapeutic relationship between animals and people to help support mental health. She is also interested in Care Farming practices in European models of health care. She received her BS in Human Development and Family Studies from Indiana University and her MSW from Washington University, where she created her own independent focus in AAI. She then spent 20+ years developing a nonprofit business providing AAI for youth, families, groups and community organizations, and is skilled at partnering with horses, dogs, chickens and other species in AAI delivery. She is the Animal-Assisted Interactions Program Coordinator at Boynton Health, University of Minnesota, and co-developed and leads the University's PAWS program. Her research examines the role of animals as social connectors for human beings, and her advisor is Dr. Helen Kivnick.
Will Carlson (email@example.com) is interested in community-based methods of support and intervention for communities affected by mass-trauma and political violence. After obtaining his BS in Psychology from the University of Minnesota, he worked for the Institute of Child Development on a longitudinal research project in northern Uganda. He then spent five years working for the Human Capital Research Collaborative on the Midwestern Expansion of the Chicago Longitudinal Study. After earning his MSW from the University of Minnesota, he worked as a mental health practitioner at an integrated community health clinic in St. Paul. Will currently works as a research assistant for Dr. Patricia Shannon helping to develop and evaluate improved tools and training for providers who work with refugee communities throughout Minnesota. His academic advisors are Dr. Lynette Renner and Dr. Mimi Choy-Brown.
Molly Driessen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a doctoral student interested in issues pertaining to sexual violence on college campuses, gender-based violence, and trauma. She received her BA in Public and Community Service with a minor in Political Science from Providence College. She obtained her MSW from the Catholic University of America, in Washington, DC, focusing on both clinical and macro studies of sexual violence, domestic violence, and trauma. She has various clinical and macro practice experiences in settings that have included child welfare, mental health, domestic and sexual violence, schools, and trauma-informed yoga. Molly is an adjunct instructor at the University of St. Thomas School of Social Work and the University of St. Catherine's School of Social Work. Molly currently works as a Research Assistant with Dr. Helen Kivnick and Dr. Lynette Renner.
Rebecca Donaldson (email@example.com) received her BS in Animal Science from the University of Minnesota and her MSW from the University of South Dakota. After receiving her MSW, she worked in settings including clinical practice with youth and families involved in the juvenile justice system, community engagement with various stakeholders to address racial disparities observed in the juvenile justice system, students affected by family incarceration, and neurodevelopmental disorders. Rebecca has engaged with youth work for over 10 years, including out of school programs, individual and group therapy, and educational groups. Her current research interests include reducing racial disparities and youth involvement in the juvenile justice system, and health disparities. Rebecca currently works as a research assistant with Dr. Amy Krentzman and Dr. Jeffrey Waid. Rebecca’s advisor is Dr. Lynette Renner.
Shelby Flanagan (firstname.lastname@example.org) received a BA in Psychology and English with minors in Statistics and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies from the University of Minnesota Morris in 2017, and co-authored a paper titled “Asexual-identified adults: Interactions with health care practitioners” with their undergraduate advisor. In 2019 Shelby graduated with a MS in Clinical Psychology from Eastern Michigan University, where they worked with their adivsor on research related to microaggressions against asexual individuals and social perception of women based on sexual orientation. For the next year, Shelby worked as a research coordinator and research assistant at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Medical School. Shelby’s research interests are in health equity, and efforts toward cultural competence in health care for gender and sexual minorities, as well as other vulnerable groups. Shelby will be working as a GA with their advisor, Dr. Joseph Merighi.
Jamie Fischer (email@example.com) received her BA in Psychology from Metropolitan State University, and her MSW from the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. Jamie has clinical experience with co-occurring disorders, assertive community treatment (ACT), and early intervention services for those experiencing first-episode or early psychosis. She has gained research experience through her employment and graduate research assistant activities at the Minnesota Center for Chemical and Mental Health (MNCAMH). Jamie is interested in focusing her doctoral studies and research activities on improving transdiagnostic assessment and interventions for people with complex clinical pictures receiving services in community mental health settings, specifically for people in the early phases of psychosis and for those at risk of experiencing psychosis. Jamie is also interested in studying the use of measurement-based care practices in community mental health settings to enhance the delivery of individualized and strengths-based interventions, as well as to improve overall evaluation of clinical practice.
Laura Garlock (firstname.lastname@example.org ) received her BA in Romance Languages and Literature from Carleton College and her MSW from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After earning her MSW, she coordinated a refugee mental health program at the UNC School of Social Work for three years. She then worked as a Program Manager at a St. Paul nonprofit serving unaccompanied immigrant children and immigrant survivors of human trafficking. Her research interests center around culturally relevant trauma healing modalities for immigrant populations, including Narrative Exposure Therapy. Laura works as a Research Assistant with her advisor, Dr. Patricia Shannon.
Dave Glesner (email@example.com) has worked most of his professional life in child welfare. He worked in child protection for St. Louis County for 39 years as a family social worker and a social service supervisor. In his time as the supervisor of the Indian Child Welfare Unit, he has developed working relationships with Minnesota tribes. Dave’s interest is in researching strengths of native communities and advocating for resources to assist families to remain strong and thrive. He was a member of the Duluth area Interagency Family Sexual Abuse Treatment Project and facilitated treatment groups. His previous research has included use of psychotropic medication with foster children and the experiences and issues of foster children while in care. He also has used SSIS data to compile reports and measures for administrators and other researchers. He earned his MSW at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Karen Goodenough, (firstname.lastname@example.org) MSW, LGSW, is Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers, MN Chapter (NASW-MN). She received her BSW from St. Olaf College and MSW from Augsburg College, with a focus on Program Development, Policy and Administration. Karen has a diverse direct practice skill set including numerous years working in youth development and education, family support and case management, child welfare, corrections, and domestic violence. Following her MSW, Karen worked for 12 years as a director for a non-profit agency, honing her macro practice skills in leadership, administration, supervision, program development, policy, fundraising, and evaluation. Karen served as a non-profit consultant for 4 years, and for 10 years has been an adjunct faculty in MSW programs across the state, including the University of Minnesota, Augsburg College, the University of St. Thomas/St. Catherine, St. Cloud State University, and St. Olaf College. Her research interests include: social workers' utilization of associations; the role of social workers in philanthropy; collective impact; and international learning. Her adviser is Dr. Ross VeLure Roholt.
Belle Khuu (email@example.com) received her BS in sociology, BA in philosophy and psychology with a minor in Asian American studies at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2003. After graduation, she worked as a clinical research coordinator for the University of Minnesota Department of Psychiatry Schizophrenia Program. Belle completed her MSW in mental health practice and MPH in community health education with a minor in prevention science. Belle is now a doctoral student in the School of Social Work. Belle is a research assistant for Richard M. Lee, PhD and Hee Yun Lee, PhD. Her social work program advisor is Hee Yun Lee, PhD. Belle’s overall research interest is cultural adaption and implementation of mental health promotion initiatives among Southeast Asian Americans. Her other research interests include: acculturation and acculturative stress among ethnic minorities, impact of ethnic identity on mental health outcomes, and social determinants of mental health disparities including health utilization behaviors.
Jessica Mendel (firstname.lastname@example.org) was born and raised in Chicago IL. Her undergraduate degree is in English literature from Beloit College. She then went on to receive her master’s degree in special education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While teaching, she noticed disparities in educational performance and emotional well-being among her students of color. This led Jessica to return to graduate school to pursue her MSW at the University of Cincinnati in 2013, and gain more insight into how to engage meaningfully with historically oppressed communities.
Jessica worked as a clinician in community mental health for four years, before accepting a position as assistant professor at Buena Vista University. Jessica fell in love with teaching at BVU, and this drove her to attain her PhD. At the University of Minnesota, her focus is the examination of white fragility and ownership of privilege. Her advisor is Dr. Joseph Merighi, and she is working with Dr. Jessica Toft on her study of Neolibralism and its impacts on social work practice, and with Dr. Amy Krentzman on her study of alcohol recovery in rural communities.
Ndilimeke Nashandi (email@example.com) has 14 years of experience in the academic sector and four years in the civil sector. She worked to address social disparities among young men and women; in HIV and AIDS workforce development, and in managing the Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanism in Namibia. She taught social change strategies and case management and research in the undergraduate Social Work program at the University of Namibia. She received a BSW from the University of Namibia; a bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Namibia University of Science and Technology, and a master's degree in Development Studies from the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. She is a research assistant in the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. Ndilimeke’s overall research interests include culturally responsive social services; systems strengthening in child welfare and HIV and AIDS, and educational disparities for young girls and street children. She currently works as a research assistant with Dr. Wendy Haight, who is also her advisor.
Katlin Okamoto (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a teacher, facilitator, coach, and scholar with a focus on the intersection of youth work and sport. Her current research includes youth transitions and adjustments in relation to college, particularly for student-athletes, and the impact of youth development theories on youth program design and youth experiences. Additionally, Katlin is interested in coaching education, specifically as it pertains to creating team culture's that acknowledge, provide space for, and address larger social issues including social justice and advocacy. Katlin is a practitioner in sport and currently coaches soccer with the Hamline women's soccer program, leads a U12 boys team in the Salvo Club, and works with various age/gender groups in the Minnesota Olympic Development Program. She currently teaches YOST 1001: Seeing Youth, Thinking Youth: Media, Popular Media, and Scholarship and will be teaching Youth Work in Sport, a special topics course she created, in the Spring of 2019. Additionally, Katlin serves as a faculty member in the Smith Summer Science and Engineering Program (SSEP) at Smith College where she teaches the course Anatomy in Motion: An Introduction to Exercise Science for high school girls. Katlin is a research assistant for Dr. Elizabeth Lightfoot and a teaching assistant in the Youth Studies program. She received her BA in Biology with a minor in Asian Studies from Colorado College and an MS in Exercise and Sport Studies from Smith College. Her advisor is Dr. Michael Baizerman.
Jacob Otis (email@example.com) received his BA in Criminology at the University of Minnesota Duluth. During his BA, he studied moral disengagement, Restorative Justice (RJ), and worked with community organizations involved with RJ. Following his BA, he worked for the state of Minnesota in the Family/Civil and Treatment Courts. Currently, he is a dual MSW/PhD student in his second year with a research focus on RJ, specifically within the context of political polarization and child support contempt. Within the School of Social Work, Jake works as a research assistant for his advisors, Dr. Jessica Toft and Dr. Amy Krentzman, and as teaching assistant to Dr. Mark Umbreit. Alongside school, he currently works as a program coordinator and RJ facilitator in River Falls, Wisconsin.
Sook-young Park (firstname.lastname@example.org ) received her bachelor's degree in International Studies from Ewha Womans University in Seoul, South Korea. While earning her master's degree in Social Welfare from Seoul National University in Seoul, South Korea, she studied extensively on quantitative research methods. Her thesis is titled "The Relationship between Academic Stress and Depression among Korean Adolescents—The Moderating Effects of Perceived Self-Efficacy and Parental Support." She completed her practicum at Holt Children’s Services, Inc. in Seoul, South Korea, where she researched for the Social Services Strategy Team’s pilot project helping underprivileged children and children with disabilities, and administrated in teenage single mother projects. She also mentored a child in institutional care for three years. She has worked as a volunteer at Hillsong Africa Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa.
Sook-young has also worked as editor-in-chief of Ewha Womans University’s student English newspaper, as a reporter for Guideposts Korea, as an intern reporter at the Korea Times, and as a consultant at a public relations firm providing assistance to Public Relations officers for the Philippine Department of Tourism and Garuda Indonesia. Sook-young has presented on various topics at Social Work related conferences in Beijing (Renmin University, 2017), Dublin (SWSD2018), and Seoul (Yonsei University, 2017). She is interested in adolescent mental health, advance care directives, and out-of-home placement care for children. Her advisor is Dr. Wendy Haight and her supervisor is Dr. Kristine Piescher.
Chittaphone Santavasy (email@example.com) received her bachelor of Pharmacy degree from the National University of Laos. With a British Chevening scholarship, she completed her Master in Development Studies at the University of East Anglia, UK, in 2001. She was a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow, at the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota from 2005-06. She worked over ten years with Save the Children and UNICEF in the field of Child Protection and Child Rights in Laos. Chittaphone is interested in the development of youth friendly social welfare system, youth policies, positive youth development, and civic youth work. Chittaphone currently works as a Research Assistant to her advisor, Professor Michael Baizerman.
Ruth Soffer-Elnekave (firstname.lastname@example.org) received her BSW and MSW from The Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva, Israel. She worked in the Israeli Foster Care Services since 2005, both as a case worker and a supervisor, with different minority populations, and developed the foster care services in the Bedouin community in the south of Israel. She is very interested in cross-cultural social work, Indigenous practices and social work with communities in areas of political conflict. Ruth wishes to create substantial knowledge that will have impact on the social work profession and on the welfare services that are being delivered to these populations. She currently works as a research assistant with her advisor, Professor Wendy Haight.
Johara Suleiman (email@example.com), LICSW, received her BA in Psychology at Carleton College in 2012, and her MSW at Salem State University in 2016. Through her career she has worked with youth and adults ranging from 4-years-old to 75-years-old in school, hospital, home, and community settings as an individual, couples, and family therapist. Johara plans to focus her research on child welfare and the intersecting impact of the child welfare system’s Islamophobia, xenophobia, and racism on Muslim BIPOC families living in the United States. Johara’s advisor is Dr. Liz Lightfoot.
Kenneth (Kenny) Turck (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a doctoral student interested in the intersections of gardening/farming, foods, and the creative arts and children’s mental health, human development, neuroscience, and applied theory in practice. Kenny received his BA in Psychology from St. John’s University (Collegeville) and his MSW from St. Cloud State University and has worked in children’s mental health for over 30 years. Kenny is the creator of the children’s mental health application DIRT GROUP, a resiliency and trauma-informed children’s mental health application rooted in social and emotional learning, in the context of a gardening, farming, foods, and creative arts project. Kenny is the founder and President of Crow River Family Services, LLC and founder and Executive Director of the non-profit DIRT GROUP Global. Kenny’s advisors are Dr. Wendy Haight and Dr. Jeffrey Waid.
Cary Waubanascum (email@example.com) is originally from the Land of the Menominee Nation (Wisconsin) and a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, Wakeny^ta (Turtle Clan), with ancestral roots in the Menominee, Forest County Potawatomi, and Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Nations of Wisconsin. She is a wife and Aknulha to a son, daughter, and five nephews. After earning her bachelor’s degree from Alverno College and MSW from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, she spent ten years working as a social worker with Indigenous families and communities in areas of community corrections, transitional housing, suicide prevention, reentry, and strategic planning in tribal justice systems. She is currently a fourth-year doctoral student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Mni Sota Makoce, on the Land of the Dakota. Her research is focused on Indigenous and decolonizing social work education under the advisement of Dr. Katie Johnston-Goodstar. She is currently examining Indigenous child welfare through her research assistantship with Dr. Wendy Haight.
Young Ji Yoon
Young Ji Yoon (firstname.lastname@example.org) received her BA in Child Welfare Studies and BEc in Economics from Sookmyung Women’s University. She completed her MSW at Yonsei University. As part of her practice training, Young Ji volunteered in a community child center and completed internships in a social welfare center, a geriatric hospital, and in the Korean National Council on Social Welfare in South Korea.
Since 2016, Young Ji has worked on research projects that investigated cancer screening among Korean immigrants and informed the development of culturally relevant community interventions. She has also volunteered at the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Minneapolis. Through these experiences, she was trained to navigate cultural differences, address health disparities, and advocate for members of underserved minority groups who lack opportunities to protect their health due to language difficulties, financial challenges, or undocumented status. Her dissertation will investigate the depression trajectories and health behaviors of people with chronic diseases, especially people of color, using national data from the Health and Retirement Study in the United States.
Young Ji has served as an instructor of record for SW8841: Social Work Research Methods, and as a co-instructor for SW5913: Working with Immigrant Populations. She is a research assistant for a study on educational disparities in Minnesota public schools that uses statewide data from Minn-LInK, which is housed at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare. The Principal Investigator of this project is Dr. Wendy Haight. Young Ji is a recipient of 2020-2021 Leadership in Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity (LEID) Fellowship. Her advisor is Dr. Joseph Merighi.
Heejung Yun (email@example.com) is a third-year doctoral student in Social Work at the University of Minnesota. She received her undergraduate degree in Special Education from Dankook University in 2015 and a master’s in Public Policy from KDI School of Public Policy and Management in 2017. She worked for Korea Labor Institute (KLI) and Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education & Training (KRIVET) as a research assistant for 2 years. After earning her master’s degree, Heejung worked for the Korea Disabled People’s Development Institute (KODDI) as a deputy manager of job development. In 2011, she started volunteering as a Sunday school teacher for children with disabilities. This experience motivated her to the Special Education major and, later, her Public Policy masters. Through her studies and practical experience with students and their families, she realized that policy and social service are important for social integration and self-realization for people with disabilities, so she decided to pursue a PhD in Social Work. Her research interests include social service, education, and labor for persons with disabilities to improve their quality of life. Her current work focuses on financial abuse, caregiving during the COVID-19 pandemic, self-directed services, and the special education system. Her advisor is Dr. Elizabeth Lightfoot.
Mingyang Zheng (firstname.lastname@example.org) received his BA in business administration from Beijing Normal University-Zhuhai in 2011 and his MSW from Boston University in 2013. After completing his MSW, he worked as a case manager in a community-housing agency in New York. He also worked as a social worker in China with older adults and children with disabilities. Mingyang is primarily interested in evaluating the sustainability and the effectiveness of social welfare, housing, and health policies in order to promote better long-term care options for older adults. Mingyang is a recipient of the 2016-17 CEHD Graduate Student Fellowship and the David and Georgiana Hollister Fellowship. His advisor is Dr. Elizabeth Lightfoot.