Graduate Spotlight

Learn about a few of our accomplished Ph.D. program graduates below and view a listing of completed dissertations to see the breadth and depth of areas of study among our doctoral students.

Karen Brown ’15 Ph.D., ’98 MSW

Faculty Member, Author, and Mentor
Dr. Karen Brown is the lead faculty member for policy and work with traditional students, first generation, and non-traditional students across the state.  She is also a board member for the statewide chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Currently, she is co-authoring a book on cultural diversity for social workers. Dr. Brown is engaged in several research projects, including an examination of self-care strategies among undergraduate social work students and the mentoring experiences of Black faculty and Black students at Predominately White Institutions (PWIs).

"The Ph.D. program at the UConn School of Social Work fit nicely within my life schedule where I was able to work full-time and attend school full-time. I received scholarships and financial aid that helped ease my financial responsibilities, and I worked with faculty members, nationally recognized, who were very helpful and supportive, several of whom still serve as mentors to me in my current career activities.  The program curriculum prepared me to educate future social workers and gave me the confidence to carry out valuable research that will contribute to the profession."

PhD Alumna Karen Brown

Karen Brown '15 Ph.D., '98 MSW
Assistant Professor of Social Work
Western Connecticut State University

Dr. Karen Chartier ’07 Ph.D., ’95 MSW

Nationally Recognized Researcher
Dr. Chartier's research agenda seeks to characterize racial/ethnic group differences in alcohol use and related problems and to identify key associated factors and mechanisms.  This work applies a multilevel conceptual framework to examine factors from genetic variants and a family history of alcoholism to socioeconomic conditions and cultural influences. She is also interested in developing culturally appropriate strategies for encouraging understudied racial/ethnic group participation in genetic research.  In 2016, Dr. Chartier received a Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Presidential Research Quest Fund award to support this work, and recently completed a five-year NIH K01 career development award.  Her past and current involvement in research informs her teaching. Dr. Chartier teaches masters-level research methods and doctoral-level quantitative data analysis courses. Her commitment to student learning extends beyond the classroom where she is committed to mentorship and finding ways to integrate students and trainees into her research.

"I knew when I started the Ph.D. program that I wanted to pursue a career in research. UConn is where I began to develop my identity as a social work scholar. In my training, I was supported by strong mentors and can speak firsthand about the importance of these relationships.  I continue to enjoy and benefit from my mentors at UConn. I still seek their advice, and am grateful for the opportunities that have come to me because of these relationships. Serving as a mentor to students and trainees provides me with a great sense of satisfaction and an avenue to contribute to my profession."

PhD Alumna Karen Chartier

Dr. Karen Chartier '07 Ph.D., '95 MSW,
Associate Professor
Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work

Thomas P. Felke ’10 PhD, ’02 MSW

An Academic Leader
Dr. Felke examines a variety of social issues through the use of geographic information systems (GIS) technologies to create maps of community needs. His work on older adults in Southwest Florida led to the establishment of two senior access centers and gained national attention with a feature on the PBS NewsHour. Dr. Felke primarily teaches research and policy courses in both the BSW and MSW programs in addition to several electives. He recently completed a two-year appointment with the Commission on Global Social Work Education through the Council on Social Work Education and currently serves as a Board Member of the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors, a Board Member of the Area Agency on Aging of Southwest Florida, and as Legislative Chair of the National Association of Social Workers: Southwest Florida Unit.

"Having the opportunity to engage with some of the best faculty in the profession was an ideal experience. The faculty of the Ph.D. program were diverse in their styles, opinions, and philosophies, which made for a well-rounded educational experience. They provided support and constructive criticism with an eye toward facilitating our success in the program and in our professional careers. The program also offered students an opportunity to participate in program development. This served me well in my teaching, research, and as I quickly moved into academic leadership positions."

PhD alum Tom Felke

Thomas P. Felke '10 PhD, '02 MSW
Interim Department Chair, BSW Program Coordinator, and Associate Professor
Florida Gulf Coast University

Jack Lu ’16 Ph.D., ’05 MSW

Researcher, Practitioner, Scholar
Dr. Lu leads the dissemination and implementation of multiple evidence-based treatment (EBT) initiatives for children with behavioral health concerns across Connecticut, with a particular focus on training and site-based consultation. These initiatives include Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Modular Approach to Therapy for Children with Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, or Conduct Problems (MATCH-ADTC), and Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) and Bounce Back (BB). Throughout his professional career, Jack has focused his work on communities that experience marginalization through direct practice, research, and scholarly activities. His primary interests include community-based participatory initiatives, health equity, refugee and immigrant communities, and models of integrated care. From 2016 to 2019, Jack held a faculty position at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work and currently serves as an adjunct faculty member of UConn SSW.

"The Ph.D. program at UConn prepared me as a balanced social work researcher, practitioner, and scholar. I had the opportunity to work with expert faculty members who are dedicated to teaching and mentoring doctoral students. UConn attracts phenomenal doctoral student candidates who benefit from the structure and leadership of the program."

PhD Alum Jack Lu

Jack Lu '16 Ph.D., '05 MSW
Director of Implementation
Child and Health Development Institute of Connecticut