On Saturday, May 11, Dean Allan Cole certified the graduation of four Ph.D. candidates, signifying the newest generation of doctors who will impact social work and social work education. SHS is proud to welcome these four individuals into the echelon of SHS graduates:


Dr. Ana Chatham, a licensed clinical social worker in the state of Texas, focused her research at SHS on improving the mental health and wellbeing of Latinx persons through culturally informed prevention, intervention, and structural changes. Utilizing her expertise in community-based participatory research (CBPR), her research is grounded in her 10 years of practice experience serving clients in micro, mezzo, and macro capacities in fields including family preservation, domestic violence, and mental health.

Mentored by Dr. Carmen Valdez, Dr. Chatham is a collaborator in various interdisciplinary participatory studies including a mental health needs assessment of rural communities in Mexico and a study on minoritized youth’s experiences of environmental justice. Ana is a licensed clinical social worker in Texas who graduated from Seton Hill University with a B.A. in Psychology and from Baylor University with an MSW.

Her dissertation, entitled Factors Affecting the Mental Health of Youth in Rural Puebla, Mexico: A Photovoice Project, was supervised by Carmen Valdez, Ph.D.

I am thankful for the mentoring and opportunities I received at SHS, through which I have been able to grow as a scholar,” said Dr. Chatham. “Conducting community-based research focusing on the mental health needs and experiences of Latino youth both domestically and abroad alongside Dr. Valdez has been intellectually stimulating and emotionally rewarding. I am filled with gratitude and thrilled for what is ahead. “


Dr. Xiao Ding, the recipient of the Michael R. Daley Endowed Presidential Scholarship for Doctoral Students, focused her research on the impact of intervening in ecological systems, such as parent-child relationships or school culture and environment, using solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) and analyzing students’ mental health/behavioral health and academic outcomes.

During her Ph.D. training, Xiao gained knowledge and expertise in SFBT by continuously practicing as an LMSW and serving as an outside consultation staff member with Dr. Cynthia Franklin at the Gonzalo Garza Independence High School, a model solution-focused alternative school for dropout prevention. In addition, Xiao has been involved with several systematic reviews and meta-analyses on SFBT and is conducting a meta-analysis on interventions at independent alternative high school settings.

Xiao earned her Master of Science in Social Administration (MSSA; equivalent to an MSW) from Case Western Reserve University in 2018, with a concentration in Mental Health, Children, Youth, and Families. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcasting and Television Journalism from Hubei University, China. Born and raised in an underdeveloped, remote, and ethnic minority-dominant city in the northwest of mainland China, Xiao witnessed the regional disparities among ethnic and socioeconomic groups regarding access to social services and the need for change.

Her dissertation, entitled Promoting Mental Health and Well-being in Alternative High Schools: A School-Based Solution-Focused Approach to Crisis Prevention and Early Intervention, was supervised by Cynthia Franklin, Ph.D.

“Ph.D. study is a journey – travel it well,” said Dr. Ding. “I am honored and privileged to have been guided by admirable mentors and supported by trustworthy companions throughout this journey. My time at SHS and UT Austin has profoundly shaped me both as a human being and as a scholar. These years have become an irreplaceable chapter in my life.”


Dr. Laura Harjeet Dosanjh, is a recipient of the Michael R. Daley Endowed Presidential Scholarship for Doctoral Students and an awardee of the Provost’s Early Career Fellowship award. Her research at SHS has been focused on the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on global life outcomes including the physiological stress response. 

During her studies, Dr. Dosanjh has collaborated on interdisciplinary research focusing on the impact of ACEs in minoritized communities and families. Her collaborators have included the Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing, the Thriving Together research project with Dr. Esther Calzada, and smaller projects with Dr. Catherine Cubbin and Dr. Frances Champagne. She plans to continue building knowledge in the field of social work through research on ACEs and associated outcomes, the neurobiology of trauma, and factors that protect against the effects of chronic stress. Her commitment is to focus her life’s work on these issues to support better physical and mental health outcomes for all people, with a particular emphasis on health disparities in sexual and gender minority communities.

Laura received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of British Columbia, and a Masters of Arts in Expressive Arts Therapy, minor Psychology from the European Graduate School. Her current research is informed by almost a decade of clinical experience working on the front lines with adult clients experiencing complex concurrent disorders. 

Her dissertation, entitled The Impact of Inflammation and Minority Stress in a Moderated Mediation Model Examining Childhood Adversity and Psychological Distress in Young Men with Sexually Diverse Identity,was supervised by Cynthia Franklin, Ph.D.

“My experience as a doctoral student at the SHS has been incredible,” said Dr. Dosanjh. “I have had the privilege of learning from leading national scholars whose guidance and expertise have nurtured both my personal and professional growth. I feel very lucky to be part of an academic community that is dedicated to empirical excellence, social justice, and everyday kindness. The sense of belonging and support I have found here has been truly heartwarming. I look forward to applying all of these values to my work as an NIH-funded post-doctoral fellow at UT’s Population Research Center in the fall, carrying forward the commitment to equity and advocacy that SHSSW embodies.”


Katie McCormick

Dr. Katie McCormick, a recipient of the Donald D. Harrington Dissertation Fellowship, focused her research at SHS on multi-level, community-centered approaches to supporting addressing the intersecting HIV and opioid epidemics. Katie has expertise collaboratively developing, implementing, and evaluating community-driven learning collaboratives and training community-based organizations in adopting harm reduction approaches.

Dr. McCormick received her Bachelor’s in Social Work from Baylor University and her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Houston. Her professional interests include harm reduction, implementation science, community-based participatory research, and multi-level interventions.

Her dissertation, entitled Occupational Stress and Burnout Among Texas Harm Reduction Workers, was supervised by Lori K. Holleran Steiker, Ph.D. and Kasey R. Claborn, Ph.D.

“My time at SHS has been better than I imagined,” said Dr. McCormick. “Our accomplished faculty are deeply invested in students’ personal and professional development, and enjoy empowering students to take charge of their own learning and research agendas. SHS has afforded me access to countless opportunities throughout and beyond UT’s campus that have enabled me to translate my research to the field and facilitate real-world impact to achieve social justice. I am proud to be a UT SHS graduate, and ecstatic to continue my time at UT through a NIDA-funded post-doc with Dell Medical School and SHS.”

On Saturday, May 10, Dean Allan Cole certified the graduation of these four doctors, along with more than 200 BSW and MSSW candidates in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work during 2024 commencement ceremonies.