June 2, 2022 at 4:11 p.m.

Welcoming Dr. Natasha Johnson and Dr. Charles Lea to CSSW

Dear CSSW Community,

I am excited to announce that Dr. Natasha Johnson and Dr. Charles Lea will join our faculty on July 1st as Assistant Professors of Social Work. These hires are part of a CSSW commitment to recruit a cluster of faculty whose research aims to enhance the well-being of Black and Latinx individuals, families, and communities.

Dr. Natasha Johnson is a personality psychologist and social work scholar who utilizes quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods to assess culturally-relevant developmental processes that facilitate resilience for Black youth. Her three research foci are: (1) social identities, (2) vulnerability and resilience in the context of racial discrimination, and (3) racism awareness. She aims to reduce mental health disparities by developing and evaluating sustainable interventions that promote Black youth’s wellness. Dr. Johnson’s current work examines racism awareness development, a phenomenon defined as the cognitive process through which a person knows about, makes meaning of, and understands racial inequality. Her goal is to build empirical evidence for racism awareness influence on Black youths’ development and experiences. She is also developing a psychometric tool, using qualitative and quantitative methods, that will capture youths’ understanding of racial inequality across historical, individual, interpersonal, and institutional contexts. This multidimensional scale of racism awareness will advance scientific knowledge on the developmental process of racism awareness and support intervention programs that address race-related stress.

Dr. Johnson is a Black woman from Detroit, a first-generation college graduate, and a Spelman alumna, who earned her MSW and joint PhD in Social Work and Psychology at the University of Michigan. She has chosen to use her voice and position to engage in social justice-oriented work that challenges oppressive norms and increases access to opportunities for minoritized communities. Her commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is evident through her research, teaching, and service efforts.

Dr. Charles Lea uses qualitative methods and community-based participatory research to examine the ways in which racism influences young Black men’s risk, resilience, and resistance processes in educational, correctional, and community settings, and the role and impact non-punitive, culturally congruent diversion and reentry strategies have on their health and well-being. His research foci include: (1) racial justice in learning contexts and school reentry processes, (2) racial trauma, substance use, and health equity, and (3) transformative social work praxis. The overarching aims of his work are to develop knowledge and build theory that informs policies, practices, and interventions to promote healing, resilience, and healthy development among young Black men, as well as dismantle the racialized structures that create and sustain their risk for health-compromising behaviors, arrest, incarceration, and recidivism.

Dr. Lea’s research is informed by his practice, evaluation, and research experience with racial and ethnic minoritized young people in community, educational and correctional settings; prior research on reentry, school reform, and workforce and youth development; and training in qualitative methodology and community-based participatory research. Dr. Lea received his PhD from the Luskin School of Public Affairs (Department of Social Welfare) at the University of California, Los Angeles, his MSW from the University of Michigan, and a BA in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley.

Sincere thanks to our faculty search committee – chaired by Craig Schwalbe, with members Heidi Allen, Rob Hartley, Jane Waldfogel, Brooke West, Susan Witte, Elwin Wu, and Desmond Patton (ex officio) – for their outstanding efforts and commitment to hire faculty who are conducting research in highly relevant areas that reflect our School-wide goals.

I’m delighted that Dr. Johnson and Dr. Lea will join a cadre of new faculty and post-doctoral fellows coming to CSSW this summer, including Dr. Nkemka Anyiwo, Dr. Brenda Jones Harden, and Dr. John Salerno. Please join me in extending a warm welcome to Dr. Lea, Dr. Johnson, and all the new members of our community!

In community,