2019 Social Work Doctoral Degrees
2019 PhD graduates accept social work faculty and research appointments at universities nationwide
Graduates of the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work PhD program are social justice scholars, educators and policy experts whose work responds to today’s most pressing community needs. The school’s six 2019 PhD graduates are headed to faculty and research positions at schools in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut and Oregon, where they will continue to advance scholarship and the profession of social work.
Antonia R. G. Alvarez, PhD ’19
A queer feminist mestiza Pinay scholar and mother, Alvarez is committed to liberatory research and community-based practice with LGBTQI/Two-Spirit/Mahu communities of color. Using arts and culture-based interventions, her work emphasizes healing and protecting from suicidality. Her dissertation is titled “‘We Were Queens.’ Historical Loss among Native Hawaiians: Exploring Historical Trauma-Informed Suicide Prevention.” Alvarez is joining the faculty of the Portland State University School of Social Work as an assistant professor.
Katie Massey Combs, PhD ’19
Combs’ research focuses on the reproductive health of vulnerable youth, particularly youth with experience in foster care. She is especially interested in how child welfare workers can play an integral role in the prevention of unwanted pregnancies among youth involved in child welfare services. Her dissertation is titled “Evaluation of a Sexual Health Training for Child Welfare Caseworkers.” She is joining the University of Colorado Institute of Behavioral Science as a research associate.
Jonah DeChants, PhD ’19
DeChants uses community-based research methods to study the experiences of youth and young adults experiencing homelessness, particularly those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ). His dissertation is titled “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: An Exploration of LGBTQ Young Adults Navigating Family Rejection and Housing Instability.” DeChants is joining the Colorado State University School of Social Work as a postdoctoral fellow in inclusive excellence and health and well-being disparities.
Heather Kennedy, PhD ’19
Kennedy is a justice-oriented youth-engagement activist and scholar who supports youth in tackling a variety of social issues, including mental health, racism, healthy eating and tobacco control. Her dissertation is titled “Disrupting Adultism: Practices that Enable and Constrain Intergroup Contact between Youth and Adults.” She joined the Colorado School of Public Health Center for Public Health Practice and is serving as program manager of two grants: UpRISE (Colorado’s social justice youth tobacco control movement) and a rural youth-led, arts-based social action project around mental health.
Jon Phillips, PhD ’19
Phillips is focused on increasing the intensity and quality of interprofessional collaboration in the child welfare system to improve child and family well-being. His dissertation is titled “Working Together to Achieve Safe and Timely Reunification: A Mixed Methods Study of Interprofessional Collaboration in the U.S. Child Welfare System.” He is joining the University of Connecticut School of Social Work as an assistant professor.
Mark Plassmeyer, PhD ’19
Plassmeyer’s research focuses on U.S. drug policy and the criminal justice system. He is particularly interested in how substance use policy and the civil penalties associated with criminal drug charges impact the ability of people to fully participate socially and economically in U.S. society. His dissertation is titled “Locked Out and Locked Up: Assessing the Relationship between Housing Instability and Recidivism for People with Criminal Drug Records Using a General Strain Theory Framework.” Plassmeyer is joining the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) School of Social Work as an assistant professor.