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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.