Leading Scholars Join CSSW Faculty

CSSW is pleased to announce that Drs. Ana Abraído-Lanza, Nkemka Anyiwo, Brenda Jones Harden, Natasha Johnson, and Charles Lea have joined its faculty beginning July 1, 2022.

Dr. Ana Abraído-Lanza enters the School as Professor of Social Work with tenure. She is a leading scholar in the study of Latinx health and behavioral science, an innovator in curriculum development, and an effective advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the academy.

Dr. Abraído-Lanza is a scientist cross-trained in the social sciences and public health. She is a superb scholar of Latinx health in the US, and is an ideal addition to the faculty of CSSW as we seek to recruit faculty who focus on the well-being of Black and Latinx individuals and communities. Dr. Abraido-Lanza is one of the top scholars in this area. A major focus of Dr. Abraído-Lanza’s research is on analyzing the disparities between non-Latino whites and Latinos in the US, and exploring key cultural, social, and individual factors that promote health.

After completing her PhD in Social-Personality Psychology with a Health Concentration at the CUNY Graduate School in 1994, Dr. Abraído-Lanza completed a three-year post-doctoral fellowship with the prestigious Psychiatric Epidemiology Training Program at Columbia.

Dr. Nkemka Anyiwo joins us as Assistant Professor of Social Work. The primary focus of Dr. Anyiwo’s work rests on the sociocultural factors that promote the resilience and empowerment of Black youth. She studies the influence of media and sociocultural factors that shape the construction of Black youth’s racial identities and their sociopolitical development. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Dr. Anyiwo is a very strong proponent of the principle that this work should be done in collaboration with youth and their communities. Her studies tie together how Black youth make meaning of racial inequity, the strategies they employ to promote racial justice, and the implications of their beliefs and behaviors on their psychological and academic outcomes.

She completed both her Master’s degree in Social Work and her PhD in Social Work and Developmental Psychology at the University of Michigan and recently completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Division of Human Development and Quantitative Methods at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.

Dr. Brenda Jones Harden joins our faculty with a named professorship, as the Ruth Harris Ottman, Class of ’45, Professor of Child and Family Welfare. Dr. Jones Harden is a scientist-practitioner who uses research to improve the quality and effectiveness of child and family services to inform child and family policy. Her research focuses on the developmental and mental health needs of young children who have experienced early adversity.

Dr. Jones Harden received her Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University in 1980 and her PhD in Developmental Clinical Psychology from Yale University in 1996. Previously she held a named professorship (the Alison Richman Professor for Children and Families) at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, where she was also the Director of the Prevention and Early Adversity Research Laboratory in the College of Education.

Dr. Natasha Johnson is an Assistant Professor of Social Work. She 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.

Dr. Charles Lea is an Assistant Professor at CSSW. His work 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.

Dr. Anyiwo, Dr. Johnson, and Dr. Lea are a cluster of new faculty engaged in scholarship on the well-being of Black American families, an effort for which CSSW has received invaluable supplemental support from the Office of the Provost. We are thrilled to have them join us at CSSW.