Meet our PhD students

Tanya Bailey

Tanya Bailey

Tanya Bailey (tanya@umn.edu) 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.

Tina Barr

Tina Barr

Tina Barr (tinabarr@umn.edu) received her BA in sociology and rhetoric and communication studies from the University of Virginia, and her MSW from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her professional experiences in social work and public health include direct practice with youth in the juvenile justice system and children in foster care, family and intimate partner homicide surveillance, intimate partner fatality review consultation, and project management. Tina is currently studying the post-release experiences of exonerees. Her advisor is Dr. Elizabeth Lightfoot.

Raiza Beltran

Raiza Beltran

Raiza Beltran (belt0013@umn.edu) received her BA in Journalism at the University of Minnesota and interned at the Center for Investigative Journalism in San Francisco, California. After witnessing and reporting on the economic, social and health inequities experienced by communities of color in the United States, Raiza pursued an MPH at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health under the Community Health Promotion track. Raiza was the Community Impact Manager at Neighborhood House, a social service agency in St. Paul's West Side prior to entering the PhD program at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. Now in her fourth year and a PhD candidate with a PhD minor in epidemiology, Raiza is working on her mixed methods doctoral dissertation examining how religious and gender ideology influences contraceptive behavior among young unmarried Filipino women. Raiza is currently a pre-doctoral fellow, funded by a grant from Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH), at the University of Minnesota-Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health. She also works as a research assistant for Dr. Patricia Shannon evaluating the mental health screening and referral processes for newly arrived refugees in Minnesota. Her advisor is Dr. Elizabeth Lightfoot.

Molly Calhoun

Molly Calhoun

Molly Calhoun (calho079@umn.edu) received her BA in Psychology from Colorado College and her MSW from the University of Denver. Molly has spent over 15 years working in positive youth development programs and community-based practice through out-of-school time work with children, youth and families in both San Francisco, CA, and Denver, CO. Molly’s research interests include the impact of urban restructuring on historically marginalized communities, as well as comprehensive community initiatives that aim to mitigate barriers and promote the well-being of the residents of these communities. Molly's advisor is Dr. Elizabeth Lightfoot, and she is a research assistant for Dr. Jessica Toft and Dr. Brittany Lewis at the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA).

Minhae Cho

Minhae Cho

Minhae Cho (choxx384@umn.edu) received her BA and Master's degrees in Child Welfare from the Sookmyung Women’s University, South Korea. She completed her MSW at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She has worked as the secretary-general at an adoption organization to promote domestic adoption in South Korea and to challenge long held prejudice and negative perceptions of adoption there. Based on her work and academic experiences, her research interests are the well-being of vulnerable children and families, especially how society responds to these families with social change. Her advisor is Dr. Wendy Haight.

Molly Driessen

Molly Driessen

Molly Driessen (dries032@umn.edu) 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

Rebecca Donaldson

Rebecca Donaldson (donal070@umn.edu) 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.

Alex Fink

Alex Fink

Alex Fink (finkx082@umn.edu) received a BA in Cultural Studies and Philosophy from the University of Minnesota and is continuing his education in the dual degree MSW/PhD Social Work program. Alex worked for several years in leadership education at the college level and has returned to that work as a Graduate Assistant in the Undergraduate Leadership Minor program, where he coordinates new instructor development and teaches several undergraduate leadership classes. Alex brings youth work and leadership development orientations to his social work, where he is interested in: youth cultural and political geographies and meaning making, mentoring relationships, and skill/craft/practice development models for social services practitioners. Alex's advisors are Dr. Ross VeLure Roholt and Dr. David Hollister.

Jamie Fischer

Jamie Fischer

Jamie Fischer (fisch948@umn.edu) 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.

David Glesner

David Glesner

Dave Glesner (dglesene@umn.edu) 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

Karen Goodenough

Karen Goodenough, (metz0091@umn.edu) 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

Belle Khu

Belle Khuu (bkhuu@umn.edu) 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

Jessica Mendel

Jessica Mendel (mende428@umn.edu) 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.

Kao Nou L. Moua

Koa Nou L. Moua

Kao Nou L. Moua (thao0264@umn.edu) received her BA in cultural anthropology from the University of Montana-Missoula in 2006. In 2009, she completed her MSW at the University of Montana-Missoula. She has over 10 years of experience working with youth on integrating leadership skills and social justice issues focused on racism, sexism, and homophobia. Her research interests include youth development and empowerment, intergenerational trauma, and Hmong cultural and ethnic identity development. Kao Nou’s advisor is Dr. Ross VeLure Roholt.

Ndilimeke Nashandi

Ndilimeke Nashandi

Ndilimeke Nashandi (nashandi@umn.edu) 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

Katlin Okamoto

Katlin Okamoto (okamo013@umn.ed) 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.

Sook-young Park

Sook-young Park

Sook-young Park (park2363@umn.edu ) 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 mentored a child in institutional care for three years. 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 is interested in family-centered preventive child welfare and the usage of advance care directives. Her advisor is Dr. Wendy Haight and her supervisor is Dr. Kristine Piescher.

Chittaphone Santavasy

Chittaphone Santavasy

Chittaphone Santavasy (sant0175@umn.edu) 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

Ruth Soffer-Elnekave

Ruth Soffer-Elnekave (soffe004@umn.edu) 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.

Cary Waubanascum

Cary Waubanascum

Cary Waubanascum (wauba002@umn.edu) 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

Youngji Yoon

Young Ji Yoon yoonx381@umn.ed) received her BA in Child Welfare Studies and BEc in Economics from Sookmyung Women’s University. She completed her MSW at Yonsei University. During her MSW studies, Young Ji participated in research projects focused on cross-national comparisons of child abuse and domestic violence. She also 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 Korea. Young Ji’s research focuses on improving cancer screening behaviors of minority populations and enhancing the quality of life of cancer survivors. To strengthen her understanding of cancer survivorship, she volunteers at the American Cancer Society in Minneapolis. Young Ji is currently a research assistant for a study that examines the psychosocial adaptation of children in Minnesota public schools, under the direction of Professor Wendy Haight. Her advisor is Dr. Joseph Merighi.

Heejung Yun

Heejung Yun

Heejung Yun (yun020@umn.edu) received her bachelor's degree in Special Education from Dankook University and Masters of Public Policy degree from KDI School of Public Policy and Management, South Korea. She had worked for Korea Labor Institute (KLI) and Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education & Training (KRIVET) as a research assistant during her master's degree program. After receiving her master's degree in Social Work, Heejung worked for the Korea Disabled people’s Development Institute (KODDI) as a deputy manager of job development. Her research interests include social service, education and labor for persons with disabilities to improve their quality of life.

Mingyang Zheng

Mingyang Zheng

Mingyang Zheng (zheng851@umn.edu) 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.