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Meet our new doctoral students

This year the School welcomes eight new doctoral students — a larger cohort than usual.

“It is always exciting when doctoral students arrive and come together as a group during orientation,” said Dr. Kathleen Rounds, doctoral program chair. “The diversity of research interests and experience that they bring enriches and energizes the learning culture at the School.”

“This year especially, due to the generous gift that Sam and Betsy Reeves made to the School to support doctoral students, we were successful in recruiting a strong cohort from a very competitive applicant pool,” she said.

About the students

Mathieu (Mat) R. Despard received his BS in Psychology from Virginia Tech in 1990, and his MSW from the UNC School of Social Work in 1994. His 12 years of post-MSW practice experience were distinguished by program planning and evaluation activities. At the Piedmont HIV Health Care Consortium in the mid 1990s, Despard conducted a nine-county HIV needs assessment which led to several service delivery system changes.  Subsequently, he worked with the Duke Center for Health Policy on an intervention research project funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRS): under the Ryan White CARE Act Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) program, and as Agency Coordinator for Duke’s Center for Health Policy – N.C. SPNS Integration Project, as well as serving as Project Coordinator, Center for Health Policy-Health Inequalities Program. He also served as vice president and interim president of United Way of Roanoke Valley; associate director of research and development for Head Start-Total Action Against Poverty; and chief operating officer of Bradley Free Clinic. Despard has been a faculty member at the UNC School of Social Work since 2006, where he teaches graduate level courses in social welfare policy, social work with organizations and communities, non-profit management and leadership, financial management for nonprofits and citizen participation. Despard’s primary area of interest is asset development policy and practice to improve social and economic outcomes for lower-income and  -wealth individuals and families.

Melissa Goodbourn received her MSW from the UNC School of Social Work in 2005. After graduating, she served as the volunteer coordinator for the Family Violence Prevention Center of Orange County and as a family therapist for Carolina Outreach.  In 2007 she moved to Scotland and worked for the City of Edinburgh Council as a social worker in foster care and adoption.  Her practice experience has made her acutely aware of how violence and the impact of trauma have affected children and youth. Goodbourn plans to design and conduct research that will inform practice interventions and prevention efforts to reduce violence against women and children.

Will Hall (MSW/Ph.D. continuum) received his BA in Psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2004. Hall has worked for the UNC Psychology Department and the School of Nursing as a research assistant and coordinator on several projects, including a school-based health intervention program to prevent pediatric obesity and Type 2 diabetes, a study of rural high schools, and the African American Family Life Study. Hall has also served as the research coordinator for Safe Schools North Carolina, a nonprofit organization that examines and works to promote a safe school climate for LGBT youth in North Carolina schools. He is interested in designing and conducting research on school-based interventions that promote mental wellness, academic achievement, and adaptive development among children and youth from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Candace Killian received her MSSW from Columbia University in 2003. Post-graduation, she worked at Westat, Inc. as an evaluative coder and research assistant for a year. She then went on to become an adolescent psychotherapist for the Behavioral Healthcare Center at Carolinas Medical Center. Since 2007, Killian has been a psychotherapist for Carolina Partners in Mental Healthcare. She is interested in developing and testing interventions to better improve trauma treatment and to inform policy and raise awareness of negative societal outcomes related to psychological trauma.

Rainier (Rain) De Vera Masa received his MSW from Washington University in 2008, where he worked as a research assistant on an international children’s savings project at the Center for Social Development. Post-MSW, he was the international project manager for the Center and worked on three projects: Global Assets Project, “YouthSave” Planning Project and International Assessment of Birth Registration Project. He recently moved from the Philippines, where he was working as a consultant for the Center for Social Development on a multi-country youth saving and asset-building project. He plans to continue to conduct research on assets development. He has a particular interest in the nexus among assets, migration and reproductive health.

Crystal (Joy) Stewart received her BA in Psychology in 1997, and her MSW from UNC Chapel Hill in 2001. After earning her MSW, she took a social research position at the Guilford County Department of Social Services, relying on her direct practice knowledge and evaluation skills to translate research into practice. She also participated in several major reform initiatives including Annie E. Casey’s Family to Family, Casey Family Programs Breakthrough Series on Disproportionality, Multiple Response System, and IV-E Waiver. In 2003, she became the agency’s evaluation coordinator, and in 2005 was promoted to data manager directing evaluation of all agency programs. Stewart has been a faculty member at the UNC School of Social Work since 2006, where she serves as a research instructor providing training to MSW students in policy analysis and program evaluation. She also provides policy analysis, reports and recommendations to the N.C. Division of Social Services; and provides technical assistance to counties in analyzing data and utilizing our research project’s website which includes outcomes data for child welfare, food stamps and Work First. Stewart plans to continue bridging the gap between research and practice by making data readily accessible to direct services workers and supervisors.

Qi Wu received her Master of Management degree from Peking University in 2010, majoring in social security and social work, and a Bachelor of Law from China Youth University for Political Sciences in 2007, also majoring in social work. She has a strong interest in child welfare, and has worked with street children in the Bejing Protective Centre of Street Children, focusing on reuniting children with their families. Wu then initiated “Harbour Action” to bring attention to the problem at street children. She continued to do field work in many organizations such as Hong Kong Christian Service, Youth Hotline, Peking University’s People’s Hospital and Niu Street Community. Wu plans to conduct child welfare research and to return to China to help develop social work education.

Angela You (MSW/Ph.D. continuum) received a BA in Political Science and Spanish from the University of Michigan in 2007. After graduation, she taught English to middle school students at the Beijing Foreign Language School. Since 2008, You has worked as a research assistant for the Child and Family Services Department at the American Public Human Services Association. In this position she worked closely with the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators and on multiple projects including the Positioning Public Child Welfare Initiative. She is interested in child welfare policy and practice research with a focus on mental health needs and services and the prescription and monitoring of psychotropic medications for children in the foster care system.