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Six Ph.D. students join UNC School of Social Work

For the academic 2022-2023 year, UNC School of Social Work welcomed six new students into our Ph.D. program.

These students bring a broad span of domestic and international research interests, helping to strengthen the School’s ongoing examination of social problems that challenge individuals, families and communities around the world.

“The doctoral program really is a place where we push and embody the various priorities that the School has in different ways,” said Mimi Chapman, the School’s associate dean of doctoral education. “Whether that be embodying equity or globalization or pursuing more cutting edge research, the students who enroll in our program enable us to consistently lead in a variety of issues. I’ve always said, ‘There’s no Top 10 School of Social Work without a doctoral program.’”

Introducing the newest cohort


Ph.D. student Emmanuel AmoakoEmmanuel Owusu Amoako is a Royster Fellow who received a bachelor’s degree in social work and sociology from the University of Ghana in 2018. Emmanuel worked as a teaching assistant with the social work department where he taught quantitative methods in social research. He earned his MSW from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, where he specialized in research and economic development. Previously, Emmanuel worked as a community development officer at the Volta River Authority in Ghana. He also served as a graduate research fellow for social and economic development working on HIV/AIDS related studies in Uganda and Ghana at the Brown School. He currently works with the Health Lab at the University of Chicago as an implementation manager and provides research support on the study aimed at reducing opioid mortality in the Illinois area. His research interests include poverty reduction interventions and policies, such as asset-building and wealth creation strategies that focus on dismantling systems that economically oppress women and their children in under-resourced communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. As a Ph.D. student, he aims to explore implementation science mechanisms that can be applied to existing asset-building interventions to optimize their poverty mitigation effects. Associate professor David Ansong will serve as Emmanuel’s research mentor.


Ph.D. student Dicky BaruahDicky Baruah (She/He/Dicky), earned a master’s degree in counseling with a specialization in school and family counseling in 2011 from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, India. Dicky earned an undergraduate degree in home science with a specialization in child development and family relations in 2005 from the College of Home Science, Assam Agricultural University, Assam, India. Dicky has more than a decade of work experience with various non-governmental organizations and community based organizations in India, including with the LGBTQIA+ community around their health, sexual and legal rights, in addition to issues around HIV/AIDS, women and child development and empowerment, research and training, micro-finance and various corporate social responsibility activities. Dicky’s area of research interest includes the LGBTQIA+ community, with a focus on HIV treatment and prevention and the stigma, discrimination and resilience of hijra/transgender women, transmen, non-binary, and intersex community members in India. Associate professor Rainier Masa will serve as Dicky’s research mentor.




Ph.D. student Capt. Kenneth HarrisCapt. Kenneth R. Harris III, LCSW, BCD, graduated from George Mason University in 2011, with a bachelor’s degree in integrative studies and human services management, while simultaneously earning his commission as a cavalry officer in the Army ROTC. Assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, he deployed to Afghanistan as a scout platoon leader in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2013-14, and to South Korea in 2015 as a troop executive officer. Kenny’s desire to enhance the mental health of veterans and their families emerged during his tenure as a cavalry leader. As a result, he re-classed to the Army clinical social work profession in 2016. Kenny earned his MSW from Fayetteville State University in 2017 and completed the Army’s Social Work Internship Program in 2019. He has worked in numerous military mental health settings and most recently, served as the primary behavioral health provider for 4,500+ Immediate Response Force paratroopers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. Kenny is an active-duty Army social work officer with research interests in fostering post-traumatic growth in veterans, using spirituality and religion informed evidence-based treatments for trauma, overcoming adverse childhood experiences, and suicide prevention strategies in support of the military population. Professors Trenette Clark Goings and Michael Lambert and associate professor Paul Lanier will serve as Kenny’s research mentors.


Ph.D. student Imani JohnsonImani Johnson, MSW, LCSW, earned her bachelor’s degrees in psychology and in French and francophone studies at Columbia University in 2015. She spent the next two years working as a case planner for Family Foster Care in the Bronx to assist families in achieving permanency. She later pursued her MSW at Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, focusing on clinical practice with individuals, families, and groups. After obtaining her MSW in 2019, Imani began providing family therapy at a nonprofit organization in Durham, where she used several evidence-based models, including parent-child interaction therapy and attachment and biobehavioral catch-up. She also worked as a mental health provider at a group psychotherapy practice in Raleigh that provided treatment to adults. Imani’s current research interest involves interventions related to child welfare, including those that support reunification with the family of origin when possible. Professor of the practice Allison Metz will serve as Imani’s research mentor.




Ph.D. student Danya KruegerDanya K. Krueger, MSW, MBA, holds a master’s degree in social work from The Ohio State University, a master’s degree in business administration from Boise State University, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Boise State University (BSU). She also maintains her Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) credential in the state of Idaho. Prior to joining the Ph.D. program, Danya served as lead research associate at BSU’s School of Social Work under the mentorship of James Beauchemin. with whom she has co-authored peer-reviewed publications and the state-funded “2021 Idaho Child Welfare Needs Assessment and Gaps Analysis” for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. She has also facilitated multiple solution-focused brief therapy wellness groups. In addition to her research, Danya served as a part-time licensed mental health professional with BSU Health Services and as an adjunct instructor and faculty founder and chair of the Social Work Club at the College of Western Idaho. Danya’s research interests concentrate on serving and improving the health and well-being of the healthcare workforce through prevention-based and community-engaged intervention research, the development and evaluation of second victim phenomenon programming, and the application of solution-focused brief therapy and evidence-based models for multidimensional wellness in healthcare settings. Associate professor Lisa de Saxe Zerden will serve as Danya’s primary research mentor.



Ph.D. student Joan WanyamaJoan Wangui Wanyama earned her master’s degree in social work, community practice, with an international social work concentration from Baylor University. She also holds a master’s degree in arts, project planning and management and a bachelor’s degree of arts, social work from The University of Nairobi. Joan enters the doctoral program with eight years of experience coordinating and supporting various child safeguarding, gender mainstreaming, and disability inclusion programs in Sub-Saharan Africa. She has been involved in different community service initiatives serving underprivileged populations in different capacities in government and non-profit organizations, locally and internationally. Her core competencies include project management, program design, implementation and evaluation, fundraising, grant writing, and management. Joan currently serves as a program manager at Christian Brothers Ruben Centre, a faith-based nonprofit in Kenya, where she coordinates health, education, and socio-economic empowerment projects in the informal settlements of Mukuru, Nairobi. Joan is interested in social justice advocacy for vulnerable and marginalized groups and research that aims to create equitable opportunities for individuals, families, and communities and that helps to eliminate inequalities reinforced by poverty through innovations for social development. She is especially interested in intervention and data-driven research that targets children and youth in under resourced international communities. Professor Gina Chowa will serve as Joan’s research mentor.