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Meet our new doctoral students

By Brenda Vawter, Doctoral Program Coordinator

Erum Agha received her bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from NED University of Engineering & Technology, Pakistan in 1998, and her master’s degree in social work from North Carolina Central University in 2015. Agha’s areas of interest are risk and resilience in diverse populations, empowerment of women through education, and caregiver needs. Her career goals are to develop programs that address these problems in ethnically diverse families and marginalized individuals and communities. During her internship at the Women’s Center, Agha designed an intervention for first generation college students that aims to promote student retention and success. She is the recipient of the National Association of Social Workers President’s Award from North Carolina Chapter for 2015. Agha’s research assistantship will be supervised by Dr. Mimi Chapman.

Brittney Chesworth received a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from UCLA in 2003. She worked for several years with at-risk youth and survivors of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) before earning her MSW at CSU Long Beach in 2009. Chesworth investigated child abuse at the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services, and worked as a Medical Social Worker for several years in hospice and hospital settings. She also was actively involved in research at her graduate school, at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain, and at the Gender Health Center in Sacramento. In addition, she taught Human Behavior in the Social Environment at Sacramento State University. Most recently, she became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Chesworth’s career goals are to develop effective treatment for IPV perpetrators, individuals exposed to trauma and childhood maltreatment, and terminally ill patients. Her research assistantship will be supervised by Drs. Betsy Bledsoe and Cindy Fraga Rizo.

Annie Francis received her bachelor’s degree in Sociology from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2007 and worked as a child welfare social worker in Northampton County immediately following graduation. She returned to UNC as a NC Child Welfare Leadership Scholar and received master’s degrees in Social Work and Public Administration in 2011. Francis previously worked as a child welfare social worker for the Orange County Department of Social Services, and currently works as the coordinator of student affairs for the UNC School of Social Work. Her areas of interest include poverty, community development, child welfare, and issues related to Native American identity. Francis’ ultimate goal is to improve both accountability and practice within North Carolina’s child welfare system by identifying and minimizing barriers to dissemination and translation of evidence-based interventions. She is a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe of North Carolina and enters the program as a part-time student. Her research will be supervised by Dr. Dean Duncan.

Rhianna Rakip received her bachelor’s degree in Biology from St. Lawrence University in 2002. She spent a decade working in behavioral neuropharmacology with a focus on neurodegenerative diseases, schizophrenia, and genetic indicators of mental illness. After collaborating on projects with the Department of Defense, she cultivated a personal interest in improving outcomes for combat injured service members, and began volunteering with various nonprofit organizations. She left biomedical research to pursue a master’s degree in Social Work from UNC-Chapel Hill, which she received in 2015 along with a Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership. Her areas of interest include community capacity building in veteran communities and the effects of military-related injuries on children and families of veterans. Rakip’s research assistantship will be supervised by Dr. Gary Bowen.

Andrew Williams received his bachelor’s degree in 1999 and his MSW in 2007 from The Ohio State University. He worked as a crisis assessment clinician prior to entering active duty in the U.S. Air Force where he has performed duties as director of a substance abuse program and deputy commander of a joint-installation mental health clinic since 2008. Williams’ areas of interest include trauma treatment, military sexual trauma, military accessions, military policy, and international social work. His career goals are to return to the operational Air Force to impact policy to aid access of mental health services for service members. His research will be supervised by Dr. Gary Bowen.