PhD Student Directory


Brandie Bentley

Office Location: School of Social Work, Email:

  • Brandie Bentley earned her MSW from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and previously earned a BSW from Eastern Michigan University. Brandie’s research interests surround the intersections of racial identity, mental health, and overall well-being. More specifically, she is interested in investigating alternative intervention practices that aim to reduce racial and health disparities within the Black community.


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 Email:

  • Tuyen T. T. 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 experience involves direct practice with children, youth, and families in need; project management; coordination of social agencies network; and teaching social work at College of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University-HoChiMinh City. Her research interests include international social work, social work education, children with difficult circumstances, adolescents with visual impairments/disabilities, and gender issues.   

Corey Campbell

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2035, Email:

  • Corey Campbell earned his MSW from the University of Illinois and previously earned his B.S. in History and Sociology from Bradley University.  Prior to coming to U of I, he worked at the Human Service Center in Peoria, overseeing community training and research.  He was project manager on a SAMHSA Health Information Technology grant as well as helping set up integrated health clinics in the Peoria area.  His research interests are brief interventions, motivational interviewing, and positive psychology.  His practice experience involves clinical work with medication assisted treatment, integrative treatment initiatives and e-therapy.

Jeanna Campbell

  • Jeanna Campbell received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with an emphasis in Biology, and Master’s in Social Work from Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. While a Master’s student, Jeanna advocated for Community-Based Interorganizational Social Change to establish a food pantry on Illinois State University’s campus. The pantry is open to students who attend post-secondary institutions in Central Illinois. An impetuous for creation of the pantry is Jeanna’s personal experience with low-income, social service utilization, and chronic illness. Jeanna has had Type One Diabetes for more than 20 years. Her research interests include the intersections of chronic illness, ableism, Foucauldian and non-Foucauldian biopolitics, resource allocation, culturally humble health and wellness, and health policy. Her practice experience includes therapeutic services for youth demonstrating violent behaviors, group services for women who had been convicted for violent offenses, program research for a leadership and support organization, and service coordination and research for a non-profit legal aid organization.

Nicole Cantoni

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2080, Email:

  • Nicole Cantoni earned both her MSW and her B.S. in Psychology and Spanish from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. After earning her MSW Nicole worked as a Case Manager at a homeless social services center, which built upon her clinical experience and helped her to discover new research interests. Nicole’s current research interests focus on the development of new interventions utilizing animal therapy specifically for children in the welfare system. Nicole is interested in pursuing research on the best ways to help and stabilize at-risk-of-homelessness and homeless families.

Anissa Chitwanga

  • Anissa Chitwanga earned her MSW from Michigan State University and previously earned her BA in Arts Humanities from The University of Malawi: Chancellor College. Anissa’s interests center on policy, poverty and international social work. More specifically she is interested in policy change to accommodate access to resources for marginalized populations in Malawi and internationally. She has previously worked as an advocacy and campaign officer for Save The Children international (a non profit) working in rural Malawi to make a difference in social policy change for marginalized children and teens.


Wan-Jung (Wendy) Hsieh

Office Location: School of Social Work, Email:

  • Wan-Jung Wendy Hsieh earned her MSW from Washington University in Saint Louis, MO. Previously she earned her B.A. in Social Work from National Taiwan University. After earning her MSW, Wendy worked as a Mental Health Clinician at a community based social services agency in Seattle and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Washington State. Wendy’s current research interests includes health disparity, mental health and behavioral health intervention in the context of minority population, and substance use treatment.


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.


Shongha Kim

Office Location: School of Social Work, Email:

  • Shongha received her BA in Social Welfare at Chung-ang University in Seoul Korea. She earned her MSW in University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign School of Social Work and done her MSW internship at Lincoln’s Challenge Academy. Her overall interest area is in school social work particularly in high school settings. Her current research area is specifically in social emotional learning in high school settings. She also has interest in restorative justice practices among delinquent youth and the impact of school violence and bullying.


Soonhyung Kwon

Office Location: School of Social Work, Email:

  • Soonhyung Kwon has a Master Degree in Social Policy from the University of York in the United Kingdom and Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, MI. His research focuses on older adult’s mental health in a community. His experience working at the O-Jung Senior Welfare Center in South Korea has inspired him to research on how caregiver’s social support affects their mental health and well-being. Currently, he is interested in integrated theoretical approach on older caregiver’s chronic stressors formed by their social role.

Tiffany Laursen

  • Tiffany’s work experience has spanned twenty years, five continents, and eight countries.  Domestically, Tiffany worked for thirteen years serving individuals with development disabilities and their families in New York State. Although domestic social work was her chosen path for a period of time, she has focused her academic studies and career pursuits on international poverty – particularly looking at citizen engagement, social innovation, and dissecting organization’s operating models. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Leading International Social Change from State University of New York at Empire State College, and a Master’s in International Relations/Development from Harvard University.


Carol Lee

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

  • 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.

Minal Manisha

  • Minal earned her MSW from University of Delhi, India. She has extensively worked on issues concerning children with some of the leading not-for-profit organizations in India. Her work lies at the intersection of social development, education, and gender. She has worked with a broad range of stakeholders including policymakers, researchers, academia, child protection organizations, law enforcement agencies, and the legal system for more than a decade. Minal’s primary research and publications focused on influencing the rights of the children and were used as tools for policy advocacy and awareness generation in India. She plans to study parenting competencies of couples, in which one of the partners is mentally ill, in overcoming the associated challenges of technology associated with the well being of the children.


Vanessa Parker

Office Location: School of Social Work, Email:

  • Vanessa earned her MSSW from the University of Louisville, and previously earned a B.S. in Sociology from the University of Evansville with a minor in Psychology. Prior to starting her studies at U of I, Vanessa worked for two years as a licensed social worker at an accountable care organization in Nashville, TN. Here, Vanessa worked as a liaison to area skilled nursing facilities and as an integrated care clinician with Medicare recipients and dialysis patients. She also has previous experience working with Federally Qualified Health Centers and colon cancer prevention. Her research interests include health policy aimed at reducing health disparities and improving social determinants of health and end of life concerns. Additionally, Vanessa is interested in mental health outcomes, coping strategies, and perceptions of death and dying among persons experiencing chronic illness.

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.

Emily Rhodes

Office Location: School of Social Work, 2080, Email:

  • Emily Rhodes holds a B.A. in Public Policy Studies and Master of Public Policy (M.P.P.) degrees from the University of Chicago. Her research interests are anti-poverty policy and the intersection of child welfare involvement with housing instability and food insecurity. Prior to joining the PhD program, Emily worked at a policy research center where she focused on helping public and private child welfare agencies use administrative data to assess and improve child welfare systems. She has experience with quantitative and qualitative program evaluation of child welfare, housing, youth violence prevention, and early education programs.

Allison Salisbury

Office Location: School of Social Work, Email:

  • Allison Salisbury earned her MSW from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2018. Previously, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater with a double major in Social Work and Psychology and a minor in Spanish. Allison’s research interests include criminal justice content in social work baccalaureate and master’s programs. She is currently a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center for Prevention Research & Development, working on two projects: the Engaging Youth for Positive Change project as a Facilitator Trainer and Facilitator Guide Expert and the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission project. Her practice experiences included the areas of adult institutions, adult probation services, a Mental Health Juvenile Justice program, and an Intensive Outpatient Program specialized in Dialectical Behavior Therapy for adolescents.


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 more than 12 years of direct practice experience of facilitating behavioral and systematic changes that help improving the economic lives of the poor and vulnerable populations. Broadly, his research agenda involves developing a comprehensive understanding of household and behavioral finances and their relationship to youth’s mental health. He prefers rigorous and in-depth discussions of methodological approaches in studies that can help in research reproducibility. He puts considerable faith in students’ capacities and feel that their development as successful individuals is the energy that drives his commitment to social work profession. He is passionate about learning as a process which leads him to invest time and energy to make it better every time he teaches. Gaurav earned his MSW from the Delhi School of Social Work, University of Delhi, India. Visit the following link for additional information about his research and teaching:

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.


Kang Sun

Office Location: School of Social Work, Email:

  • Kang Sun’s previous research interests lie in the social production of identity through examining Chinese peasant workers after they migrate into cities. By himself migrating from Cultural Studies into Social Work, Kang is interested in fusing grand social change views with concrete social change actions and critiquing tensions of this fusion. Poverty, political and social structures, working class, migrants, and labor are his primary research topics.

Soohyun Yoon

  • Soohyun earned her MSW from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and concentrated on poverty and welfare programs. She interned at the Department of Human Services at Dane County (DCDHS) and conducted projects to support vulnerable families with young children or to evaluate a program which is designed to prevent child maltreatment. She also conducted research to understand the relationship between parental income sources/employment status and the economic burden of families with children who are at risk of entering the child welfare system. Her current research interests include the effectiveness of public benefits or related welfare programs for low-income families. She hopes to find effective anti-poverty policies to bolster low-income families.

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