About the author

Dennis P. Culhane, PhD

Dr. Dennis Culhane is the Dana and Andrew Stone Professor of Social Policy.

Dr. Dennis Culhane’s primary area of research is homelessness and assisted housing policy. His research has contributed to efforts to address the housing and support needs of people experiencing housing emergencies and long-term homelessness. Dr. Culhane’s research includes studies of vulnerable youth and young adults, including those transitioning from foster care, juvenile justice, and residential treatment services.

Dr. Culhane is the Director of Research for the National Center on Homelessness among Veterans at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Culhane co-directs the Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy initiative (AISP), a MacArthur Foundation-funded project to promote the development of integrated database systems by states and localities for policy analysis and systems reform.

Related Content

About the author

Malitta Engstrom, PhD

Dr. Malitta Engstrom is an assistant professor in the School of Social Policy & Practice. Her research focuses on problematic substance use and its co-occurrence with victimization, HIV, incarceration and mental health concerns, particularly as they affect women and families; multigenerational social work practice with families; and grandparents caring for grandchildren. Her scholarship aims to disentangle complex relationships between substance use and co-occurring concerns and to inform innovative, evidence-supported services for individuals and families. With competitive funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the John A. Hartford Foundation, Dr. Engstrom’s current research includes the design and pilot-test of family-oriented services with grandmothers and mothers affected by maternal substance use problems and incarceration. Her emerging work also evaluates a SAMHSA-funded HIV and substance abuse prevention program serving African American women and examines substance use and co-occurring concerns as they affect older women.

About the author

Antonio Garcia, MSW, PhD

Dr. Antonio Garcia joined the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania as an assistant professor in 2012. His research trajectory is informed and enriched by his wealth of experience as a former Child Protective Services Worker and Supervisor in Washington State. Since earning his doctoral degree in Social Welfare at the University of Washington in 2010, his research and publication record has focused on understanding epidemiological trends related to children of color’s experiences in foster care; and etiological explanations for their increased risk of out-of-home displacement, and lack of access to and use of effective mental health interventions as compared to their Caucasian counterparts. Additionally, his post-doc training at the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center in San Diego, CA between focused on identifying how to shrink the research to practice gap to ameliorate these disparities.

Related Content

About the author

Johanna Greeson, PhD, MSS, MLSP

Dr. Johanna Greeson is passionate about reforming the child welfare system, using research to build better futures for youth who age out of foster care, and realizing the power of connections to caring adults for all vulnerable youth. Her research agenda is resiliency-focused and based in the strengths and virtues that enable foster youth to not only survive, but thrive. Dr. Greeson’s published work includes scholarly articles on natural mentoring, evidence-based practices for older youth in foster care, including independent living programming, residential group care, intensive in-home therapy, low-income homeownership, and child/adolescent traumatic stress. During her doctoral training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Greeson developed an affinity for research methods, advanced statistical modeling, and collaborative multidisciplinary research with a number of peers and leaders in her field. Her work on various research projects integrated the disciplines of social work, sociology, public health, advanced statistics, and economics and community development, and provided her with fluencies that allow diverse collaboration and competencies to launch a productive program of research. Of particular note, during her course work she developed a theory- and research-based intervention for older foster youth, Caring Adults ‘R’ Everywhere (C.A.R.E.), intended to solve the aging out dilemma.

About the author

Amy Hillier, PhD

Dr. Amy Hillier is an Assistant Professor in City and Regional Planning in the School of Design and holds a secondary appointment in SP2. She teaches classes in geographic information systems (GIS), research, and statistics in city planning, social work, public health, and urban studies. Dr. Hillier studies geographic disparities. Her research applies geographic information systems (GIS) and spatial analysis methods to housing and health topics. Specifically, she has studied historical mortgage redlining, affordable housing, housing abandonment, and childhood obesity. Dr. Hillier is a Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics and Center for Public Health Initiatives.

About the author

Roberta Rehner Iversen, PhD, MSS

Dr. Roberta Iversen uses ethnographic research to better understand and improve welfare and workforce development policy and programs and to extend knowledge about economic mobility, especially in relation to families who are working but still poor. Dr. Iversen’s ethnographic accounts illuminate what low-income working parents need from secondary schools, job training organizations, businesses and firms, their children’s public schools, and public policy in order to earn enough to support their families through work. Housing policy in Milwaukee, WI, and workforce development programs and policy in New Orleans, LA, Seattle, WA, St. Louis, MO, and Philadelphia, PA, have been improved by findings from Dr. Iversen’s research. Dr. Iversen’s earlier book, Jobs Aren’t Enough: Toward a New Economic Mobility for Low-Income Families (2006; Temple University Press) presents new ways to increase the economic mobility of low-income families.

About the author

Debra Schilling Wolfe, MEd

Debra Schilling Wolfe is the founding Executive Director of the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research, a collaboration of Penn’s Schools of Social Policy & Practice, Law, Medicine and Nursing and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, whose mission is to improve the lives of victims of child abuse and neglect through system-level reform. A nationally recognized expert in child maltreatment, Ms. Wolfe has held leadership roles in the child welfare arena for well over 30 years and has directed numerous innovative child welfare programs nationally. At the Field Center, Ms. Wolfe oversees the work of the center’s multidisciplinary team while advancing policy and practice improvement through consultation, research, and training on the local and national levels.

About the author

Phyllis Solomon, PhD

Dr. Phyllis Solomon is internationally known for her research on clinical services and service system issues related to adults with severe mental illness and their families. Her research has specifically focused on family interventions, consumer provided services, and the intersection of criminal justice and mental health services. Her expertise is in mental health service delivery issues, psychiatric rehabilitation, and research methods. Her research has been recognized by such diverse organizations as American Association of Community Psychiatrists, US Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, and Society for Social Work and Research.

About the author

Susan B. Sorenson, PhD

Dr. Susan B. Sorenson has a unique interdisciplinary background in epidemiology, sociology, and psychology. She moved to Penn in 2006 after more than 20 years at the UCLA School of Public Health. Since 1986, she has taught a graduate course in family and sexual violence – the first violence prevention course in a school of public health in the nation. She currently teaches three courses that she developed: Foundations of Public Health, Guns & Health, and Non-stranger Violence. With more than 100 publications to her credit, Professor Sorenson has published widely in the epidemiology and prevention of violence, including the areas of homicide, suicide, sexual assault, child abuse, battering, and firearms. A primary focus of her work is the social context in which violence occurs, specifically, the norms that shape whether and how violence is tolerated.

About the author

Mark J. Stern, PhD

Dr. Mark Stern is Kenneth L. M. Pray Professor of Social Policy and History and Co-Director of the Urban Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. An historian by training, Stern has taught social welfare policy since 1980. Stern holds a Ph.D. in history from York University in Toronto, Canada, and a B.A. from Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

About the author

Dean John L. Jackson, Jr.

Dean, School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2)

Richard Perry University Professor

Dr. Jackson’s research examines racial and class-based differences in contemporary urban environments, including a focus on how urbanites themselves theorize and deploy those differences in everyday interactions. Dr. Jackson’s scholarship uses ethnographic research methods to extend and expand Critical Race Theory as an analytical and explanatory framework for understanding contemporary social conflicts. Dr. Jackson’s work also critically explores how film and other non-traditional or multi-modal formats can be most effectively utilized in specifically scholarly research projects, and he is one of the founding members of CAMRA ( and PIVPE, two Penn-based initiatives organized around creating visual and performative research projects—and producing rigorous criteria for assessing them. Dr. Jackson’s work also examines how contemporary urban religions are being mobilized to improve health literacy and health outcomes in poor and underserved communities around Philadelphia and all across the world.

About the author

Nadina Deigh

Associate Dean for Institutional Advancement, SP2

SP2 Penn Top 10 Project Director

As Project Director for the SP2 Penn Top 10, Nadina worked with the dedicated and talented SP2 Penn Top 10 team to oversee implementation of the project. Nadina also oversees SP2’s Office of Institutional Advancement. A passionate and innovative development and communications professional, Nadina has served at SP2 for over 11 years. She previously was Sr. Associate Director of Alumni Affairs and Annual Giving and Associate Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at Wharton. Prior to coming to Penn, Nadina worked as Manager of Grants and Sponsorships for the Adventure Aquarium in New Jersey, assistant editor for an award-winning computer magazine, public relations associate for an international software company, and special projects coordinator for America’s oldest African American newspaper. Nadina earned a BA from Duke University and an MA from the University of Pennsylvania.


About the author

Jessica Bautista

Manager of Communications and Public Relations, SP2

SP2 Penn Top 10 Project Manager

Jessica is Penn School of Social Policy & Practice’s Communications and Public Relations Manager and is responsible for developing, writing, editing, scheduling and publishing SP2-related content for the School’s four dedicated communication vehicles as well as Penn-wide publications including Penn News Today, the Penn Current and Almanac. She also works to heighten and enhance the School’s presence in local, regional and global media and oversees SP2’s social media sites.

Jessica has been able to pursue her passion for storytelling, social change, the arts and education over the years as an award-winning reporter and communications specialist. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Temple University and has contributed to a number of publications, including the South Jersey Times, the SPIRIT Media Group, the Philadelphia Daily News and Montgomery Newspapers.

About the author

Melissa B. Skolnick, MSW

SP2 Penn Top 10 Creative Consultant & Fellows Project Manager

Melissa is a documentary filmmaker and multimedia storyteller, who uses these platforms to bring awareness to social justice and human rights issues that are often ignored. Currently, she serves as the Creative Consultant for the SP2 Penn Top 10 Social Justice & Policy Issues for the 2016 Presidential Election. Additionally, she serves as a Lecturer at Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice, co-teaching classes focused on journalism and multimedia as tools for social change.

Since 2010, she has been working with nonprofit and community based organizations throughout Philadelphia. She has worked within fundraising and communications roles, developing strategies to raise support for under-resourced communities. She has also worked with media-based organizations and local film festivals, using media as a tool for community building and storytelling. She holds a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Delaware.

About the author

Daniel Heimpel

Fellows Project Director

Daniel Heimpel is an award-winning journalist and founder of a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children through solution-based journalism. He teaches graduate students of public policy, social work and journalism how to use media to drive social change. Heimpel has written and produced stories about vulnerable children for Newsweek, The Los Angeles Daily News, the LA Weekly, The Seattle Times and the Oprah Winfrey Network, among many others. This coverage has garnered him journalism awards from the Children’s Advocacy Institute, The Los Angeles Press Club and the Child Welfare League of America, among others. In 2010, Heimpel founded Fostering Media Connections (FMC), a nonprofit with the mission of harnessing the power of media and journalism to drive public and political will behind improving the lives of vulnerable children. Since its inception, FMC has been central to policy change to the child welfare system on both the state and federal levels. Heimpel is currently a lecturer at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy as well as USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.

About the author

Steven Feldman

SP2 Board of Overseers

Founding creator and benefactor of the SP2 Penn Top 10

Mr. Feldman currently runs GBI Holdings, a family office that starts, owns and operates small businesses primarily in the financial services and technology industries. These companies include GBI LLC, which focuses on precious metals where he serves as CEO, and US Farm Trust, a farmland asset manager where he serves as Chairman.

Previously, he was a partner at Goldman Sachs where he was the founder and head of the $10 billion global infrastructure fund and served on numerous corporate boards. He was also the co-founder and head of AgCoA, the firm’s agricultural land business. Prior to that, he held a variety of investing and banking roles in real estate, including lead developer of Goldman Sachs’ global headquarters at 200 West Street. He started his career as an Associate Attorney at Skadden Arps focusing on real estate and M&A. He received his B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a J.D. from New York University Law School. He is a Trustee for The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice, an Advisory Board Member of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and a special advisor to the Streb Dance Company in Williamsburg.

Feldman is also the writer behind The Ethical Capitalist, a non-partisan blog that comments on current events focusing on business, politics and human behavior.

About the author

Meagan Corrado (Senior Fellow)

Doctorate in Clinical Social Work candidate

Meagan Corrado is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who provides clinical therapy to inner city youth in the Philadelphia and Camden, NJ areas. She is expected to earn her Doctorate of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. She earned her Master’s of Social Services from Bryn Mawr College in 2009 and her Bachelor’s of Social Work from Cairn University in 2008. She specializes in work with children and adolescents who have experienced complex trauma. She created the Storiez Trauma Narrative intervention, a 9-step treatment to assist trauma-exposed inner city youth in creating, voicing, and honoring their life experiences. She completed trainings in Childhood Sexual Abuse Treatment, Trauma-Focused CBT, CBT, Prolonged Exposure Therapy, and Narrative Exposure Therapy. Her experience includes clinical work in a variety of settings, including community mental health agencies, residential treatment facilities, schools, and homes. She takes a creative approach to her interventions with children, adolescents and families, incorporating elements of art, music, poetry and play therapy in her clinical practice.

About the author

Kalen Flynn (Senior Fellow)

PhD in Social Welfare candidate

Kalen Flynn is a third-year student in SP2’s PhD program in Social Welfare. Her research examines the impact of violence on the lives of adolescents and their communities. She is currently working on a project examining school violence within the Philadelphia context. Prior to entering the PhD program, Kalen worked as a researcher at the American Institutes for Research, in the Human and Social Development Program. In this role, she served as Deputy Director for the Juvenile Justice Technical Assistance Center and worked with federal, state and local juvenile justice leaders. Kalen received her Master of Science in Social Policy and Master of Social Work degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from St. Joseph’s University.

About the author

Nate Bronstein

Master in Social Policy/Public Administration candidate

SP2 Penn Top 10 topic – “What Do You Do? Ideas about Transforming ‘Work’ in the United States”

Nate is a former teacher from North Philadelphia; he earned his Masters in Education from the University of Pennsylvania and is currently earning his second and third masters in Social Policy and Public Administration respectively. Nate has spent the last year working as both the Co-Founder of two DC-based startups working to solve inefficiencies in how people connect and organize, and as an Education Consultant working to analyze statewide education programs in Delaware. He is a Philadelphia native and has a long history of youth civic engagement having become a Truman Finalist, the campaign manager of a political campaign and the student body president of American University in 2011.

About the author

TC Burnett

Master in Social Work candidate

SP2 Penn Top 10 topic – “Ending Homelessness Now”

TC Burnett is an Associate Director for Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP) at the University of Pennsylvania. Her work covers a wide range of topics related to integrated data systems, as well as the administration and management of AISP activities. TC joined the AISP team in 2009 as an Administrative Coordinator. Prior to this, she worked in government relations and then spent a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA at a Philadelphia social services agency. While a VISTA, TC oversaw a West Philadelphia Earned Income Tax Credit site, and wrote a guide for teen girls about to age out of the Philadelphia foster care system. TC’s primary responsibilities at AISP include working with existing and developing IDS sites, developing and maintaining business operations, and grant development and management. She earned her B.A. in Political Science with a concentration in U.S. Social Policy from Bryn Mawr College and is currently enrolled in the MSW program at The University of Pennsylvania.

About the author

Jennifer Ginsberg

Master in Nonprofit Leadership candidate

SP2 Penn Top 10 topic – “The Reality of Urban ‘Food Deserts’ and What Low-Income Food Shoppers Need”

Jennifer Ginsberg graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work from The Catholic University of America in 2011. She has since worked with NGOs in Quito Ecuador and in the Takeo Province of Cambodia. She also ran a nonprofit case management and community support program in Washington DC. At present, she is a full-time student in Penn’s Nonprofit Leadership program and a practicum associate at the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians.

About the author

Courtney Knight

Master in Social Policy candidate

SP2 Penn Top 10 topic – “Mass Incarceration: What’s at Stake and What to Do”

Courtney earned a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Saint Joseph’s University in 2011, having completed a thesis on Violence in Music and Juvenile Violent Crime. She spent two years working with homeless and foster youth in Pennsylvania, where she was a member of the Bucks County Direct Service Coalition and worked with the state Budget Coalition. In preparation for her legal studies, she became a paralegal at a personal injury firm in 2013, where she continues as a law clerk today. Courtney is concurrently pursuing a Juris Doctor at Rutgers University School of Law and a Master of Science in Social Policy at The University of Pennsylvania, where her research concentrates on Juvenile Justice Reform.

About the author

Joshua Lin

Master in Social Policy candidate

SP2 Penn Top 10 topic – “Legally Mandated Outpatient Mental Health Treatment: Not the Answer to Preventing Violent Tragedies”

Before arriving at the University of Pennsylvania, Joshua Lin was a college access counselor at a traditional public school in Harlem, New York. He received his Bachelors in French and Francophone Studies with a specialization in African studies from Columbia University. He is also a Humanity in Action Senior Fellow (Amsterdam, Class of 2013), an opportunity that allowed him to research the Dutch national curriculum on the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Joshua is currently an intern at Research for Action, a Philadelphia-based educational policy research organization, where he is assisting a project that is evaluating the impact of outcomes-based funding in higher education.

About the author

Ashleigh Martell Brunsink

Master in Social Work candidate

SP2 Penn Top 10 topic – “Implementing What We Know is Effective: The Push to Increase Access to and Use of Evidence-Based Interventions Among Public Youth-Serving Institutions of Care”

Ashleigh Martell Brunsink is a second year MSW candidate at the School of Social Policy and Practice. A macro student and a member of the Child Well-Being and Child Welfare (CW2) specialization, she is interested in using research to shape child welfare policy. Her specific research interests include the adult functioning of former foster youth and evidence-based interventions for youth aging out of care. This fall, she assisted Professor Johanna Greeson and doctoral candidate Allison Thompson with a systematic review of natural mentoring among older youth in foster care, which was recently accepted by the Children and Youth Services Review. At Penn, her field placements have included the Interdisciplinary Child Advocacy Clinic at Penn Law and the Children’s Home of York, a child-centered social service agency serving York, PA. She currently serves on student government as the Vice Chair for Finance and as a volunteer “PennPal” for prospective students. Ashleigh came to Penn following three years at Pepperdine University School of Law, first as an Advancement Assistant and then coordinating the Tour Program for the Office of Admissions. Ashleigh graduated, cum laude, from Johnson University’s School of Business and Public Leadership with a B.S. in Nonprofit Management and Bible in May of 2011. While at Johnson, she worked full-time as a houseparent at a local group home for adolescents and spent a gap year volunteering with a faith-based organization called Mission Year, where she interned with an after-school program and a housing agency for emancipated foster youth. A former foster youth herself, Ashleigh has experience in public speaking at recruiting and fundraising events and has been interviewed for two publications.

About the author

Maxwell Wagenknecht

Master in Social Work candidate

SP2 Penn Top 10 topic – “Beyond Poverty? Developing Better Measures of Social Deprivation and Wellbeing”

Maxwell Wagenknecht is an Advanced-Standing MSW candidate at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice. He is pursuing a macro concentration and is interested in child welfare policy and research. Max hails from Napa, California, and graduated from San Diego State University in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Social Work degree and a minor in Counseling and Social Change. Max’s BSW field placement was at San Diego State’s Consensus Organizing Center, where he worked on programs to empower low-income adults and former foster youth (18 to 24 years old) transitioning into adulthood to achieve their dreams and strengthen their communities. Max is currently interning at the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research where his current focus is working on research to improve the post-secondary outcomes for former foster youth, evaluating the Center’s programs, and providing social service referrals and short-term brief interventions for users of the Philadelphia Family Court through the Project PENN Program. Max currently serves as a graduate social work volunteer for the UCC health clinic through the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a group facilitator for the Center for Grieving Children in Philadelphia. In his free time, Max enjoys watching football, working out, and riding his bike.

About the author

Samantha Waxman

Master in Social Policy candidate

SP2 Penn Top 10 topic – “Child Welfare and Poverty: The American Paradox”

Sam started off her career in workforce development, helping to train low-income people for living wage careers. After a move into nonprofit operations, she discovered her passion for public policy and came to Philadelphia and Penn to pursue her interest. As a social policy student, she studies labor policy and economic development. In her free time, Sam bakes bread, reads too many books, and does community organizing around issues relating to income inequality and taxation.

About the author

Abigail Wilson

Master in Social Work candidate

SP2 Penn Top 10 topic – “Youth Aging Out of Foster Care”

Abigail Wilson is an Advanced Standing MSW candidate at the School of Social Policy and Practice. She is a macro student and is a member of the Child Well-being and Child Welfare specialization. She is interested in child welfare policy change, specifically around issues of child abuse and neglect, poverty, and the foster care system. Her current field placement is at the Interdisciplinary Child Advocacy Clinic at Penn Law. Before coming to Penn, Abigail graduated from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, magna cum laude, with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work in December of 2014. While at Lock Haven University, Abigail interned at the Children’s Resource Center in Harrisburg, PA. After graduating she worked as Therapeutic Staff Support for Youth Advocate Program in Harrisburg, PA, providing direct interventions for children diagnosed on the Autism spectrum. Abigail hopes to continue to work within the child welfare field.

About the author

Devon Ziminski

Master in Social Policy candidate

SP2 Penn Top 10 topic – “Beyond the Good Guy v. Bad Guy World View: Improving the Gun Policy Debate”

Devon Ziminski is from Hillsborough, NJ, and attended The College of New Jersey. Her policy areas of interest include education, gun violence, and consumer behavior/business practices. Devon has been published in the Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research and most recently presented her research on distracted driving at the 2015 Marketing and Public Policy Conference. She is excited to begin work on the Penn Top Ten Fellows project!

About the author

Toorjo Ghose, PhD, MSW

Dr. Ghose focuses on structural interventions in the area of substance abuse, homelessness and HIV, both at the domestic and international levels. His research examines the manner in which contextual factors such as housing, community mobilization and organizational characteristics influence substance use and HIV risk. He is currently working with community-based agencies in New York city to study the effectiveness of providing housing as an intervention for substance-using women with HIV released from prisons and jails. A second project involves a collaboration with scholars at the Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia, state substance abuse agencies in the U.S. and addiction treatment centers to examine the effects of facility-level financial interventions in treatment effectiveness. Dr. Ghose also works with collectives of sex workers and transgendered people with HIV in India, New York and Philadelphia to examine the effectiveness of social movement mobilization in reducing HIV risk.

About the author

Ezekiel Dixon-Román, PhD

Dr. Dixon-Román’s research rethinks and reconceptualizes the use of quantitative methods from a critical theoretical lens (broadly conceived), particularly for the study of social reproduction in human learning and development.

Dr. Dixon-Román’s theoretical and empirical work has demonstrated alternative possibilitiesvia three primary and interrelated areas of inquiry:

  • inheritance and the social reproduction of “difference” (e.g., race, gender, class, sexuality, and dis/ability) in education, with a particular focus on theoretically and empirically demonstrating alternative ontological and epistemological approaches to social inquiry;
  • the production of knowledge with the methods of quantification, with a particular focus on rethinking and reconceptualizing their ontological and epistemological assumptions and practices;
  • critical inquiry on social policies that seek to address issues of inequality, social mobility, and education.

Dr. Dixon-Román co-edited Thinking Comprehensively About Education: Spaces of Educative Possibility and Their Implications for Public Policy (Routledge) and is the author of the forthcoming Inheriting ImPossibility: New Materialisms, Quantitative Inquiry, and Social Reproduction in Education (University of Minnesota Press). He is currently working on two book projects: Handbook of Critical Inquiry and Quantitative Methods and Measurement, Data, & Society.