PhD Student Directory

Michelle Asbill

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 7, Phone: (217) 244-3682, Email:

  • Michelle Asbill earned her MSW from the University of Wisconsin Madison and previously earned a BSW from Azusa Pacific University.  The focus and specialization of both degrees was health and aging.  After completing her MSW, Michelle was employed in Bulgaria in the NGO sector and worked on various social projects.   Prior to entering the PhD program, Michelle earned a MA in European Union Studies from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  Her current research interests include medical and trauma social work and sexual exploitation both in Europe and the US.  Michelle’s dissertation explores social and cognitive processes and mechanisms conditioning Bulgarian human traffickers to engage in sexual exploitation.


Kyle Bennett

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 24, Phone: (217) 265-5227, Email:

  • Kyle earned his MSW from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, IA, and previously earned his B.A. in International Studies from the University of Illinois with minors in Spanish and Anthropology. His research focuses on the social determinants of health, and specifically how multidimensional poverty impacts substance use prevention, intervention, and outcomes among emerging adult and Latinx migrant populations. His practice experience involves clinical work with adolescents, emerging adults, and families in outpatient, school, and residential settings.


Carrie Bosch

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2026-Station 6, 
Phone: (217) 244-6578, 

  • Carrie Bosch earned her MSW from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and previously earned a B.S from Bradley University with a double major in Social Work and Sociology. Carrie’s research interests center on the service systems utilized by homeless families, as well as broader policy responses to poverty and housing insecurity. Her current research focuses on the usage of federal safety net programs by families who are homeless and insecurely-housed.


Seth Boughton

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 17, Email:

  • Seth Boughton earned his MSW from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and previously earned his B.A. in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a recently published scholar in domestic child trafficking. His research interests focus on intra- and international aspects of human sex trafficking policy, prosecution measures, and survivor interventions. He serves as a research mentor to a team of graduate students interested in domestic anti-trafficking interventions. He is currently exploring the potential utilization of large multi-database analysis to construct instruments to inform stakeholders regarding prosecutorial strategies at the domestic, regional, and transnational levels. His ongoing practice work includes work as a contract ICG specialist and previously as a SASS Specialist serving as a mobile evaluator and clinician for persons under age 21 presenting with suicidal or homicidal ideation or intent.


Thi Thanh Tuyen Bui

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 19, Phone: (217) 265-5227

  • Tuyen Thi Thanh Bui earned her MSW from Washington University in Saint Louis, MO. Previously she earned her B.A. in German Linguistics from Vietnam National University-HoChiMinh City and B.A. in Foreign Trade from University of Economics-HoChiMinh City, Vietnam. Her past experience includes direct practice with children and youth with difficult circumstances, and teaching social work practice at College of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University-HoChiMinh City. Her research focuses on global child rights, homeless children, students with disabilities, and gender issues.  

Shinwoo Choi

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 1, 

  • Shinwoo has a bachelor’s degree (BA) in Psychology from McGill University, Canada and master’s of science in Social Work (MSSW) from Columbia University.  Shinwoo’s current research interests are on the effects of perceived racial discrimination –including racial microaggressions– on Asian immigrants’ psychological well-being and their coping strategies. In the future, she wants to further investigate the role of racial/ethnic identity as a coping factor and also explore the gendered racial microaggressions among Asian male and female students. Shinwoo is also interested in mezzo-level social work practice in order to decrease the incidence of racial discrimination and promote diversity in given settings such as schools, university campus, and/or work places.


Jordan Davis

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2035, 
Phone: (217) 305-3096, 

  • Jordan Davis is a 5th year doctoral candidate in the School of Social work at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Jordan received his bachelors of science degree in 2007 from Auburn University in Biology and his master’s degree in 2009 from Syracuse University. He has received the Ernie Gullerud Dissertation award and has been names a Fahs-Beck Scholar. Jordan has recently received a $100,000 National Institute of Health (National Institute of Drug Abuse) R36 Dissertation grant to investigate the effectiveness of mindfulness based relapse prevention among marginalized young adults. He has also chaired a featured symposium at the Research Society on Alcoholism Conference. Jordan’s primary line of research is dedicated to understanding the mechanisms of change for substance use disorder treatments for under privileged adolescents and young adults. Specifically, he is interested in how victimization and early childhood adversity effect treatment outcomes as well as physiology (e.g. stress and inflammation markers). Jordan has a second line of research on developmental trajectories from adolescence through emerging adulthood – investigating the mechanisms that lead to initiation and escalation of use. This research line includes focusing on behavioral trait and state-like constructs as well as non-behavioral aspects of development.


Jacob Goffnett

Office Location: Suite 2080, 
Phone: (217) 265-0632, 

  • Jacob’s research focuses on the phenomenology of shame among sexual and gender minority youth. Specifically, he is interested in shame’s influence over identity development and well-being, as well as, ways to counteract the deleterious effects of shame, such as empathy, validation, connection and critical consciousness. Jacob’s practice has been with juvenile justice and child welfare involved youth, and survivors of trauma.


Sung-wan Kang

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2026-Station 2, 
Phone: (217) 265-5227, Email:

  • Sung-wan Kang earned his MSW from the Ohio State University. Prior to joining the PhD program, he worked as a clinical social worker with an adult day health care center in California, where he provided supportive counseling to older adults with a variety of emotional problems. He also worked with caregivers to discuss day care participants’ physical, mental, and emotional challenges. His current research examines the impact of cognitive impairment on health behaviors among older adults and whether the association of cognitive impairment and health behaviors varies by living arrangements.


Hyun Jung Kim

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 12, Email:

  • Hyun Jung Kim’s research interest is related to the socio-economic-political-cultural resources impacting on livelihood of international women migrant workers from Asian countries. She uses gender as an analytical concept to examine how gender system influence the causes, flows and consequences of women migrants’ livelihood which should be comprehended beyond of economic stability: empowering female migrants not only employment and economic benefits but also liberation from existing cultural and societal constraints.  First, understanding how gender system intersects with different social categories governing and diversifying the realities of the migration flow. Second, analyzing matrix of the relationships, including but not limited to the state, the employer-employee relationship, community and the general population, especially projected through the media. It is to intervene current social programs and policies, to propose protective policy, and to contribute to expansion of socio-economic-political inclusion.  Hyun Jung received her MSW from Washington University in St. Louis and Philosophy from Tata Institute of Social Sciences.


Carol Lee

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 13, 

  • Carol’s research interest includes health inequality, mental health, disabilities, and health care in the context of minority population. It is her aspiration to specifically work with distressed communities and marginalized individuals with special needs. She will focus on scientific and social networks as they pertain to collaborative research. Her practice has been with Asian immigrants, people with developmental disabilities as well as families residing in distressed communities. She earned her MSW from the University of Chicago and is a Licensed Social Worker in Illinois. Currently she is an active member of the Newark Community Collaborative Board (NCCB) involved in Community Wise Optimization Project.

Ching-Hsuan Lin

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2080U & 2014-Station 11, 

  • Ching-Hsuan’s research interests focus on exploring social support systems among vulnerable families, including kinship care families, racial minority and immigrant families, and families with child maltreatment experience. His current research specifically focuses on examining the direct and moderating effects of social support on child well-being outcomes among informal kinship families.


Ashley Long

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 10, Email:

  • Ashley Long received her A.M. from the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration in 2007. Prior to entering a doctoral program she worked in the field of social work; most notably spending eight years doing community development, program evaluation and collaboration building. Her current research interests focus on the rapidly growing Collective Impact model of collaboration and cross-sector community partnerships. Additionally, she is interested in the professionalization of Corporate Social Responsibility and its impact and role on social purpose efforts.


Emily Lux

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2026-Station 3, 
Phone: (217) 300-2655, 

  • Emily’s research interests concern the effects of trauma on child testimony in child-welfare involved youth. Her research focuses on deviations in forensic interviewing protocol in regards to accommodating the neurobiological impact of trauma on a child’s ability to articulate. She is using a qualitative approach to further understand non- and partial disclosure in forensic interviewing.


Tumani Malinga

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 22, Email:

  • Tumani Malinga received her Master in Social Work (MSW) from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City. Post MSW, she worked with disadvantaged populations in Botswana where she did needs assessments and advocated for their rights and needs, specifically low income women.  It was on this premise that she developed interest in doing research exploring the psychosocial pathways which low income single mothers in Botswana experience, to better understand life trajectories that expose them to chains of risk.


Lenore Matthew

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 8, 
Phone: (217) 244-9884, 

  • Lenore Matthew’s practice and research focus on international social work, community development, and program evaluation. Lenore is particularly interested in inclusive economic growth in the Global South, and how economic development programs and policies affect the underprivileged. Since 2011, Lenore has been the Social Work Project Manager of the Guatemala Clean Water Initiative, a collaboration between the UIUC Department of Civil Engineering and the Wuqu’ Kawoq Maya Health Alliance, which works to bring potable water to Maya communities in Guatemala in culturally competent ways. Lenore worked for several years with non-government organizations in Argentina and Peru, and has conducted research in Brazil, Argentina, and Guatemala. She is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.

Joe Minarik

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2052, Phone: (217) 333-9497, Email:

  • Joseph D. Minarik, MSW, MPP, ABD, has extensive experience as a social worker in the field of anti-oppression and social justice training and education. The macro-practice focus of his dissertation is on understanding decision making by expert lobbyists who share information with state legislators. Joe currently serves as an adjunct instructor for SOCW 427 Introduction to Research Methods, where he has employed team-based learning to engage MSW and BSW students in the learning process. He has also taught SOCW 584 Policy Practice and Advocacy. He is currently a coordinator for the Program on Intergroup Relations, as part of the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In that role, he develops and teaches intergroup relations dialogue courses; and hires, trains, and supervises others teaching those courses. He has also developed conceptual models, written on, and trained various groups on issues of privileging and marginalization, including social work faculty, students, and staff on campus. Joe is a member of the Chancellor’s Committee on Access and Accommodation, and his advocacy work focuses on promoting Universal Design for Learning among faculty.


Danielle Perry

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 20, Phone: (217) 244-8377, Email:

  • Danielle’s individual interests are in exploring the role caregivers play on the academic aspirations of Black youth in urban neighborhoods. Specifically, her research has focused on examining the social and cultural factors that contribute to the academic, social, and psychological development of Black youth living in low socioeconomic status neighborhoods.


Maria Pineros

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 4, 
Phone: (217) 244-9884, 

  • Maria Pineros-Leano received her bachelor of science degree in psychology, a MSW, and a Master of Public Health from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on maternal and infant health and early maternal risk and protective factors for child obesity. Maria combines information from social work, psychology, and nutrition to develop a better understanding of the ways in which maternal depression affects the development of child obesity among minority groups. Currently, she is exploring the potential mediating effects of breastfeeding, feeding styles, and feeding practices among Latino families. She recently received a seed grant to investigate feeding patterns among first generation Latina immigrant mothers and their families. Maria aims to translate research into practice by developing culturally tailored interventions that address childhood obesity risk factors among Latino families.

Najat Qushua

  • Najat obtained her BA and MSW at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Social Work. She then completed a specialized training in psychodynamic psychotherapy at the Psychoanalytic Institute in Jerusalem. She worked for more than 15 years in the mental health field, working with groups, individuals, parents, families and children in outpatient, inpatient and court settings. Najat joined the Ph.D. program in Social Work in 2015 at UIUC. Her interests focus on mental health of Arab, conservative women in conditions of trauma, war and displacement, on motherhood, and on integrating collective and individual approaches to treatment. She seeks to understand cultural manifestations of a false and true self can be accessed and addressed in therapeutic interventions.


Oe Jin (Esther) Shin

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 9, Email:

  • Esther received her BA and MA in Social Welfare from the Duksung Women’s University, Korea and worked as a researcher at the Korean Institute for Health and Social Affairs. She also completed her MSW at University of Washington in Seattle and worked as an intern social work researcher at Health Promotion research Center at UW, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research. Her research interests are older adult’s well-being and health, health disparities among older adults, care giving and family support. She expects to sharpen her knowledge and understanding in social policies and older adult populations through the doctoral program at UIUC and work to reduce health disparities among older adults with community based research and interventions.


Gaurav Sinha

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 23, Email:

  • Gaurav has worked on the macro-sociological aspects in the social sector for more than 12 years. He has received numerous opportunities to explore different dimensions of organizations in the social sector. His current research interest stems from his past work experience on incubating new organizational-level systems and processes that ultimately impact the working with the low-income households. He is interested in exploring innovations in the social sector that affect the lives of the low-income families through the lens of organizational sociology. He is fascinated by the multifaceted and amorphous nature of theories in the organizational sociology. Their wide applicability in understanding the society along different dimensions fascinates him and this led him to believe that these theories may form the scientific basis for his work in future.

Eun-Jee Song

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 5, Phone: (217) 244-9884, Email:

  • Eunjee earned her MSW from Yonsei University in S. Korea. Prior to joining the PhD program, she worked as a social worker at the Beautiful Foundation, and she had post-MSW experience as a social policy researcher at the Korean Institute for Health and Social Affairs. Currently, her research focuses on low-income children’s well-being and health behavior. Specifically, she is interested in examining the impact of child arrangements on child well-being and health behavior outcomes among low-income families with nonstandard work schedules.


Kelly Valencik

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 24, Phone: (217) 244-9884, Email:

  • Kelly earned her BSW and MSW from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include substance use disorders and efficient interventions, as well as the effectiveness of motivational interviewing and screening brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT) with specific populations. Kelly’s social work practice has been with the juvenile justice system, alcohol prevention programming, and substance use treatment using MI and SBIRT clinical skills.


Francesco Volpini

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 17, Email:

  • Francesco’s current research interests concern the short- and long-term effects of international voluntary service on communities and individuals, with a focus on: the development of social and cultural competences through international volunteerism; its trigger effect in terms of social capital and active citizenship; and ultimately the influence of program variables and cultural norms and differences on the life satisfaction and subjective well-being of the volunteers and community members engaged in the programs – with the vertiginous hypothesis that by living and working in multicultural contexts and on projects of common interest, people can actually be happier, together.


Yang Wang

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 3, Phone: (217) 244-9884, Email:

  • Yang Wang earned his bachelor degree in management from China Agricultural University, and master degree in social security from Beijing Normal University. He is in the MSW/PhD program, and he focuses on mental health, particularly that of the older people and pregnant women. He is currently in Circle of Friends for his MSW internship.


Shuo Xu

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2014-Station 15, Phone: (217) 244-9884 Email:

  • Shuo Xu received her MSW from the University of Pittsburgh, PA. Previously she received her MD from the Hubei University of Chinese Medicine, China. Her research focuses on death and dying. Her current research specifically focuses on the long-term effects of widowhood on mental and physical health outcomes, as well as psychosocial interventions for grief and loss.

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