Faculty Research Profiles
The School of Social Work faculty conducts rigorous and interdisciplinary research using a variety of scientific methods and can be grouped into six main themes: Child Welfare, Health and Mental Health, Poverty, Social Innovation, Social Work Research in Schools, and Workforce Development.
Learn more about their research interests by reading the summaries below and visiting their research profiles on Illinois Experts.
Illinois Expert Profiles
Dr. An’s main research area is in intimate partner violence (IPV), particularly among racial and ethnic minorities. Her research aims to maximize the physical and mental well-being of individuals in intimate relationships by increasing their awareness and behavior of healthy relationships and by developing the capacity of service providers who support at-risk populations of IPV in diverse communities such as college campuses. To achieve this goal, she develops culturally inclusive and equitable prevention programs that promote informed service utilization and generate effective service outcomes for IPV and other public health issues.
Dr. Anderson’s research interests primarily center on factors associated with the access low-income families have to social benefits, and he is particularly interested in how innovative policy and program strategies can improve access to benefits. His projects typically have involved collaborations with state and community organizations to help develop policies and program strategies designed to improve services to low-income populations.
Dr. Andrade is exploring how transitions at the population level, such as demographic, socioeconomic, nutritional, and epidemiological are influencing health across the life course. Currently her work has been focusing on the health of adults and older adults in Latin America and the Caribbean and Latinos in the US. Her current research focuses on several outcomes: chronic conditions (e.g. diabetes and hypertension), quality of life, disability, cognition, mental health, oral health and life expectancy.
Dr. Cross’ overarching interest is in developing effective systemic responses to victims of child maltreatment. His current interests include a) well-being and mental health services for children involved with protective services, and b) investigation, prosecution and service delivery in response to child sexual abuse. Among his specific topics of interest are children’s advocacy centers, child forensic interviewing, substantiation of child maltreatment, and polygraph testing in child abuse cases.
Dr. Fuller’s research focuses on children and families involved in the public child welfare system and the effectiveness of the services and interventions that are provided to families once they become involved in a maltreatment investigation. Over the past decade, she has evaluated the effectiveness of numerous child welfare programs, including the Family-Centered Services, the Child Endangerment Risk Assessment Protocol, the Illinois Child Death Review Teams, post-adoption services, and most recently, Differential Response in child protective services. Within this program of research, there has been emphasis on examining predictors of maltreatment and maltreatment recurrence.
Dr. Garthe’s research examines the etiology, consequences, and prevention of youth violence, primarily among youth living in urban, low-income communities. Her research examines these topics from a developmental-ecological perspective, seeking to understand the developmental, relational, contextual, and structural/systemic factors associated with violence. Additionally, she researches dating violence and intimate partner violence, specifically looking at how definitions and responses to violence can more inclusive and accessible to historically marginalized populations (e.g., racial and ethnic minority youth, transgender populations, justice-involved women). Through this research, she has focused on guiding violence prevention efforts for youth and adults.
Dr. Havlicek’s research widens the view that is typically placed on the transition years and beyond to explore events leading up to the transition to adulthood. Her studies build translatable knowledge that can be used to inform new practice approaches aimed at engaging youth, addressing a holistic set of needs, and calibrating possibilities for success. Her research specifically expands an understanding of aging out foster youths’ needs in three main areas: (a) risks and protections, (b) foster care contexts, and (c) participatory approaches. This body of work uses multiple data sources and methods to uncover patterns, perspectives, and experiences absent from the existing knowledge base to develop empirically-supported approaches that improve foster youths’ success in adulthood.
Tuyet Mai Hoang
Dr. Hoang’s research program is dedicated to addressing racial injustices in both educational and clinical settings. Field practice helps her to contextualize scholarly inquiry and facilitate community-engaged research collaborations. In general, the purpose of her research is to (1) investigate psychological factors that maintain systemic racial inequity that impact health and wellbeing, and (2) address health disparities to increase culturally responsive access and service delivery for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Her research cuts across educational and clinical settings. Currently, it emphasizes the experiences of Women of Color in areas such as cancer survivorship, maternal mental health, and mistreatment as well as the experiences of Youth of Color with online discrimination.
Dr. Kim’s research is informed by his field experience as a child protective services (CPS) caseworker for in-home and foster care cases. His work focuses on developing the best possible evidence to help improve the safety and welfare of children and directly enhance our ability to address child abuse and neglect (CAN). For this, he has worked with a range of national and regional administrative/archival data to understand risk and protective factors of child maltreatment and CPS involvements.
Dr. Kopels’ research and teaching focuses on legal and ethical issues as they affect social work clients and practitioners. She has authored dozens of journal articles and book chapters and has lectured extensively on subjects related to the confidentiality and disclosure of client information. Presently, Professor Kopels serves as the Editor of the School Social Work Journal and is a reviewer for numerous social work journals.
Dr. Larrison’s research and teaching focus on the social determinants of and services for people with serious mental illness and co-morbid health conditions from a public health perspective. His agenda has been shaped by a transdisciplinary approach to research and collecting primary data in rural community-based settings from people receiving and providing services. Dr. Larrison is skilled in utilizing mixed qualitative and quantitative methods. He has studied community-based mental health services in the U.S., community development in rural Mexico, and the impact of welfare reform on health in Georgia.
Dr. Liechty’s research explores social determinants of health and intersections of health and behavioral health, including depression, obesity, disordered eating, body image, health literacy, and healthy lifestyle behavior change. A second area of interest is healthcare delivery and interprofessional education to enhance cultural competency, team communication, and the integration of behavioral health and primary care.
Dr. Lough’s teaching interests focus on community development, nonprofit management, and social innovation. He currently teaches courses on the nonprofit sector, social entrepreneurship, social work theory, and organizational strategies for social change. He previously taught courses on the management of human service organizations, social welfare policy, and international social work and development. Dr. Lough is currently working with the United Stated Aid for International Development (USAID) to create an agency-wide mental health policy. He also continues to study the comparative advantages of hybrid social purpose organizations over traditional nonprofits.
Dr. Okumu’s research focuses on the development, implementation, and evaluation of interventions in marginalized communities. He is particularly interested in examining the efficacy of digital and technology-based interventions for improving the sexual and mental health outcomes of vulnerable black youth. Much of Dr. Okumu’s research on the development and delivery of digital health interventions is centered there and in sub-Saharan African communities. Focusing on community-based strategies and strengths, Dr. Okumu’s work advocates for the increasing infrastructure of existing support systems and equipping community members with the resources necessary to provide services to local youth. Dr. Okumu is also interested in gender-transformative approaches and strength-based interventions related to men’s sexual and mental health.
Dr. Piedra’s research interests explore the social consequences of an increasingly diverse society by examining how the language and culture of immigrants affect their access to and use of social and health services. Specifically, her analyses have focused on three interrelated topics, as they apply to Latino immigrants: (1) the mental health service barriers created by linguistic and cultural incongruence, (2) the increased need for bilingual and interpretational services in communities with rapidly growing immigrant populations, and (3) the adaption of interventions to these new service contexts through university and community partnerships.
Dr. Powell’s research interests were derived from her time spent as a social worker post-Katrina and through directly experiencing the disaster. Presently, Dr. Powell’s research explores trauma recovery and the efficacy of evidence-based interventions in post-disaster contexts. She has led research projects in numerous natural disaster and conflict affected regions in the United States and internationally. She also specializes in intervention development and has created behavioral health interventions for children, social service, and healthcare providers in response to trauma and stress after a disaster.
Dr. Schneider’s research examines the influence of macroeconomic factors, family complexity and fatherhood, and interventions in the promotion of child well-being and the prevention of child maltreatment.
Dr. Smith’ practice and research experience has focused on treating and preventing substance use disorders. He has practice experience with varied substance misusing populations including: adolescents involved in the juvenile justice system, adults addicted to crack cocaine, and addicted mothers involved with child welfare. His research currently focuses on what treatments work best for adolescents and young adults with substance use disorders. Additionally, he is interesting in studying the effects of Motivational Interviewing among adolescents with alcohol and other substance use disorders.
Dr. Karen Tabb Dina’s current research agenda focuses identifying risk factors for morbidity and mortality among perinatal women and clinical factors to improve minority health. Dr. Tabb Dina is also an expert collaborator (in the areas of diabetes, mental health, maternal health, and North America) for the Global Burden of Disease Study where she assists in contributes to estimating population morbidity and mortality for 188 countries.
Dr. Tan’s research focuses on understanding profiles of youth risk and protective factors, developmental patterns of problems behaviors, and their social contextual influences. Based in a person-oriented developmental psychopathology perspective, his work focuses on interventions that target pattern-specific developmental risk. Dr. Tan works with administrative and teacher teams to understand SEL data, and he promotes strategies to support the social, emotional and behavioral health of students, families, and their communities.
Dr. Wade’s program of research aims to fill critical gaps in understanding on health and well-being among LGBTQ+ communities of color. At present, much of his research is focused on occurrences of ‘sexual racism’ in online dating, a phenomenon referred to as Racialized Sexual Discrimination (RSD). Dr. Wade’s research also seeks to identify individual and community-level factors that may be protective in the context of RSD. His work ultimately aims to inform the development of health promotion initiatives aimed at mitigating and/or eliminating the adverse effects of discrimination, as well as other social stressors that disproportionately impact LGBTQ+ communities of color.
Dr. Wegmann conducts school-based social work research focused on social and environmental barriers to academic achievement and children’s general well-being. She is particularly interested in the role that stereotyping plays in the “achievement gaps” between different groups of students and how this knowledge can be leveraged for both prevention and intervention.
Dr. Windsor’s research focuses on the application of critical consciousness theory to the development of multi-level interventions designed to reduce health inequalities related to substance use disorders, HIV prevention, and criminal justice in marginalized communities. Dr. Windsor follows community based participatory research (CBPR) principles and utilizes a variety of scientific methodologies including ethnography, randomized experimental controlled trials, measurement development, meta-analysis, and online survey.
Dr. Wu’s research and practice interests include poverty, social welfare policy, the impact of welfare reform on low-income families, access to public benefits and support services for low-income families, and program evaluation. She has focused her research agenda on three distinct yet interrelated topics: (1) the effects of financial sanctions on the well-being of welfare participants; (2) access to public benefits and related supports for low-income families; and (3) the long-term employment and earnings trajectories of at-risk families. Her overarching interest is in assessing the effectiveness of different strategies for promoting economic advancement.
Dr. Zhan’s research centers on identifying social policies and other factors associated with the long-term economic well-being of low-income families with children. Specifically, her research examines the impact of educational approaches, specifically in the forms of postsecondary education and financial management training, on the long-term economic well-being of low-income families. She also examines the role of asset development, an approach that aims to develop human capital and to promote economic security for low-income families through facilitating their financial asset accumulation.