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Meet our new doctoral students

Stefani Baca-Atlas received a BA in psychology from Arizona State University in 2010. She has training and research experience in the field of human rights and worked as a mental health caseworker at International Rescue Committee in Phoenix. Baca-Atlas then moved to Baltimore, where she was employed by the University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB) School of Medicine, working as an interventionist on a public health project with African American middle school girls. She received her MSW from UMB’s School of Social Work, where she gained experience as a macro level social worker at an international child welfare organization. Most recently, she has been employed as an anti-human trafficking case manager at The Salvation Army of Wake County. Baca-Atlas plans to study factors that influence unequal distribution of resources to different types of victims of human trafficking and to develop interventions to ensure that equitable resources are allocated to identify and serve all victims of trafficking. Research Professor Dean Duncan, Ph.D., is supervising her research assistantship.

Premela Deck received her BA from Mount Holyoke College, her MSW from Springfield School of Social Work, and her JD from Western New England School of Law. She currently practices family law and criminal defense law. Prior to attending UNC, Deck was a Litman Fellow at Harvard Law School, where she represented low-income clients in criminal show-cause hearings. In this capacity, she also researched integrating law and social work into Harvard Law’s clinical programs in an effort to offer holistic services. She further used her law and social work degrees while representing the City of Springfield, Mass., in cases against hoarders by designing a protocol for condemnation due to hoarding that recognized a client’s legal and psychological needs. As a doctoral student, Deck intends to study the benefits, ethical dilemmas, and feasibility of further merging law and social work in professional practices and in graduate school clinical programs. Distinguished Professor Kim Strom-Gottfried, Ph.D., is supervising her research assistantship.

LB Klein earned her bachelor’s degree in history and her MSW from Washington University in St. Louis, a graduate certificate in LGBT health from Drexel University, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado Denver. She serves as a lead trainer and curriculum development specialist for Prevention Innovations Research Center at the University of New Hampshire and has provided consultation and training for organizations and institutions of higher education across the United States and Canada. Klein has also served as a community organizer, survivor advocate, campus administrator, volunteer coordinator, educator, and research assistant. Her career goal is to build community capacity to effectively prevent and respond to gender-based violence and hate crimes and to serve as a faculty member. Klein, who received a Merit Award from the UNC Graduate School, will be working with Distinguished Professor Rebecca Macy, Ph.D.

Michael Lazar earned his MSW degree from UNC, with a Certificate in Substance Abuse Studies. In addition, he received a bachelor of science degree in Substance Abuse Counseling from the University of Cincinnati. Lazar’s research focus is on the prevention and treatment of behavioral addictions (e.g., sex, gambling, internet use, video gaming), and designing interventions to help train substance use professionals to better identify these diseases. He is currently licensed in North Carolina as a clinical social work associate (LCSWA) and clinical addiction specialist associate (LCASA), and he is working toward his certified sex addiction therapist (CSAT) credential with Patrick Carnes, Ph.D. Lazar, who received the Excellence Fellowship from the UNC Graduate School, will be working with Distinguished Professor Matthew Howard, Ph.D.

Sarah Rabiner Eisensmith earned her MSW at UNC, where she focused on direct practice; her MEd at Lesley University, where she studied curriculum development; and her bachelor’s degree at Duke University, where she studied sociology. Her research interests revolve around children’s school-based relationships and experiences in the context of public education. She cultivated these interests as a student and further developed them as an educator in Durham Public Schools and during her work for Citizen Schools, an education-based nonprofit organization. Eisensmith works as a research specialist at innovation, Research & Training in Durham, where she has coordinated six national research projects related to social-emotional learning, sexual health promotion, media literacy education, and drugged driving prevention. She maintains a small practice in Durham to support her goal of becoming a licensed clinical social worker. She also hopes to develop effective, minimally-invasive school-based interventions and to reform policies and practices that contribute to racial disproportionality in special education and school disciplinary action. Eisensmith, who received a Merit Award from the UNC Graduate School, will be working with Assistant Professor David Ansong, Ph.D.