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Meet our new doctoral students

Melissa Jenkins earned her BSW degree from Meredith College in 2017. While at Meredith,  she worked on four research projects, including an exploration of religious diversity in the workplace and the college’s Status of Girls in North Carolina report, presenting findings of the latter study at the 80th Southern Sociological Society Annual Meeting. She earned her MSW degree with a concentration in community, management and policy practice from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2018. During her MSW program, Melissa cross-evaluated assessments to identify victims of human trafficking and trained local service providers to administer Project NO REST’s screening tool. She later worked as a research assistant for the Duke University Center for Child and Family Policy and UNC-Chapel Hill Summer Bridge Program. Melissa’s research focus is on trauma-informed interventions for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and human trafficking survivors, in addition to near-peer mentor program development. Melissa is a North Carolina Excellence Fellowship recipient and will be working with Dr. Dean Duncan.

Melissa L. Villodas earned her BA in English writing from Nyack College in 2012. She then received her MSW in 2015 from New York University. Much of her work and training have been in trauma informed evidence-based practices for children, youth, and young adults with severe and persistent mental health challenges. Before arriving at UNC, Melissa worked as a clinical therapist for a treatment family foster care program and as the project director for the Youth and Young Adult Mental Health Group led by Dr. Michelle R. Munson at New York University. Melissa’s research interests include youth and young adult identity formation. At UNC, Melissa plans to explore how community impacts identity formation and its effect on mental health wellness during the transition to adulthood. Additionally, she is interested in policy improvement for marginalized youth and young adults in urban communities of color. Melissa’s research assistantship will be supervised by Dr. Sarah Verbiest.

Quinton Smith earned his BA in interpersonal and organizational communications in 2006 and his MSW in 2016, both from UNC-Chapel Hill. While completing his MSW program, Quinton worked as a compliance director for a community mental health agency in Durham and served as a project coordinator for Dr. Paul Lanier working on a study examining the impact of stigma on fathers participating in parental support groups. Since graduating, he has worked at Duke University as an associate in research, serving as the fellow for the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion at the Sanford School of Public Policy. In this role, Quinton has spearheaded the School’s efforts on inclusion and equity by organizing events, facilitating town halls and discussions, providing training, and conducting climate surveys, among other activities. He is also a member of the Advisory Committee for Duke’s Task Force on Bias and Hate and serves as a consultant for their Office of Faculty Advancement, where he has developed materials on inclusive teaching and best practices for equitable searches. Quinton’s primary research focus is in the formation of racialized identities–particularly the conflict between cultural maintenance and assimilation–and their relationship with persistent inequalities in adolescent and young adult African Americans. Quinton was selected for membership in the Royster Society of Fellows and will be working with Dr. Paul Lanier and Dr. Michael Lambert.