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Four earn doctoral degrees at SSW in 2020

Four doctoral students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work have completed all requirements to earn the Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work (Ph.D.) in 2020. The new graduates are Erum Agha, Joseph Frey, Sarah Rabiner and Joy Stewart.

Agha entered the School in 2015 and completed her three-paper dissertation on “Health and Behavioral Health Needs of Resettled Refugee Women in the United States.” In her research, she examined the incidence and prevalence of mental illness among refugee women, analyzing a national data set and collecting perspectives from refugees and care providers.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from NED University of Engineering and Technology in Pakistan and a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from North Carolina Central University. She is a past recipient of the National Association of Social Workers – North Carolina Chapter President’s Award.

Frey entered the School in 2014 and wrote his dissertation on “Multidimensional Stigma and the Mental Health of Sexual Minority Adults.” This year, he was a recipient of the Dean’s Teaching Award for his work with MSW students.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from Eastern Michigan University and two master’s degrees (in social work and in education) from the University of Louisville. Before coming to UNC-Chapel Hill, he served as assistant director for community engagement in the Office of Leadership and Service Learning at UNC Greensboro.

Rabiner entered the doctoral program at UNC School of Social Work in 2016 after completing her MSW degree here. She wrote her dissertation on “Attention Problems and Their Input on Academic Performance, especially Reading.” Through her work with the Durham, N.C., research institute Innovation Research & Training, she coordinated six national research projects related to social-emotional learning, sexual health promotion, media literacy education and drugged driving prevention.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Duke University and a Master of Education degree from Lesley University in addition to the MSW degree. She received a UNC Graduate School Merit Award for her studies. Previously, she worked as an educator in Durham Public Schools.

Stewart first came to the School as an employee in 2006 and has served on the staff of several research projects, often in a lead evaluator role. She entered the doctoral program in 2010, completing her dissertation on “Effects of Complex Trauma on Human Capital among Vulnerable Youth.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and her MSW from UNC-Chapel Hill. Currently, she is an assistant research professor and has been a co-principal investigator for several research projects, including Project NO REST, a five-year, $1.24 million grant to increase awareness of and reduce sexual and labor trafficking of children and youth.

Congratulations to these new doctoral graduates! Their degrees will be formally bestowed at a later time, as UNC-Chapel Hill’s spring commencement ceremony was postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.