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Faculty named fellows in honor of their scholarship and leadership

Cindy Fraga Rizo, Lisa de Saxe Zerden and Todd Jensen were all recently honored for their scholarship and leadership in the social work profession.

The UNC School of Social Work faculty were each selected as incoming fellows of the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR). SSWR fellows are recognized for exemplary service, leadership and accomplishments in social work research. The School of Social Work colleagues are among 36 faculty from colleges and universities across the country tapped for the honor.

Cindy Fraga Rizo, Ph.D.
Cindy Fraga Rizo, Ph.D.

Cindy Fraga Rizo is an associate professor and a John A. Tate Early Career Scholar. Her research expertise centers on developing and evaluating interventions for particularly vulnerable survivors of interpersonal violence, including Latinx survivors and youth. She has worked on a number of projects in the area of interpersonal violence, including intimate partner violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault.

Rizo is currently working to develop and evaluate school-based sex trafficking content for students as well as protocols that schools can use to connect at-risk youth and victims to needed community services.

In 2017, she received the Linda Saltzman New Investigator Award, which recognizes an outstanding new investigator working in the field of domestic violence, violence against women or dating violence.

Rizo received a master’s in social work from Florida International University. She earned a doctorate in social work at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2014 and joined the School of Social Work’s faculty as an assistant professor shortly after graduation.


Lisa de Saxe Zerden, Ph.D.
Lisa de Saxe Zerden, Ph.D.

Lisa de Saxe Zerden is an associate professor, John A. Tate Early Career Scholar, and a research fellow with the Carolina Health Workforce Research Center at the Sheps Center for Health Services Research. She serves as director of the School’s Interprofessional Education and Practice and is a founding member of UNC’s Office of Interprofessional Education and Practice. The campus-wide initiative oversees the development of educational programs, research and clinical experiences that enhance collaborative learning across the participating schools, including business, dentistry, education, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and public health, and social work.

Zerden’s research interests focus on the social drivers of health, including disparities that exacerbate drug use and behavioral health conditions. Her work explores inequitable access to treatment and prevention, the role of social workers in integrated health care, and policies to support these initiatives and improve health.

In 2018, the Council on Social Work Education awarded her the Recent Contributions to Social Work Education Award, a prestigious national award that recognizes the achievements of a social work educator within the last 10 years.

Zerden received her master’s in social work from the University of California at Los Angeles and a doctorate in sociology and social work from Boston University School of Social Work. She joined the School of Social Work as an adjunct faculty member in 2010 and has served as associate dean for academic affairs and senior associate dean for MSW education.


Todd Jensen, Ph.D.
Todd Jensen, Ph.D.

Todd Jensen is a research assistant professor, associate director for research in the Collaborative for Implementation Practice, and a family research and engagement specialist in the Jordan Institute for Families.

His scholarship focuses on promoting family well-being in diverse contexts, strengthening family-serving systems, and centering equity in family research, practice, and policy.

Specifically, Jensen’s work attends to families experiencing relationship transitions and shifts in parental structure; family maltreatment prevention among military-connected families; promoting the use of data and evidence in family-serving systems; understanding the role of trusting relationships in optimizing the uptake of effective programs and practices in family-serving systems; advocating for inclusive definitions of family; and centering equity in the theory and methods used to study and support families.

Jensen is co-founder and co-chair of the Diverse Family Structures Focus Group of the National Council on Family Relations, which has amassed more than 130 scholars from around the world who aim to align research, practice, and policy with the complex realities of family relationships.

Jensen received his master’s in social work from Brigham University and his doctorate in social work from UNC-Chapel Hill. He joined the School’s faculty as an adjunct instructor in 2016.