USC University of Southern California

Building Capacity and Welcoming Practices In Military-Connected Schools



Ron Avi Astor

ron_astor.jpgRon Avi Astor is principal investigator of Building Capacity and the Richard M. and Ann L. Thor Endowed Professor in Urban Social Development at the USC School of Social Work and Rossier School of Education. His interest in military-connected schools is a culmination of years of distinguished research on school-based interventions, school and community violence, and culturally responsive institutions. His collaboration with researchers and policy makers in Israel contributed to a large-scale monitoring system that gives each school both social and academic feedback as the foundation for interventions. He is also a well-known advocate of school violence prevention and caring school communities.


Rami Benbenishty

Rami Benbenishty_Photo_Faculty.jpgRami Benbenishty is co-principal investigator of Building Capacity, a professor at Luis and Gaby Wiesfeld School of Social Work of Bar Ilan University and the Head of Research and Evaluation at Haruv Institute. Dr. Benbenishty’s interest in military-connected schools is informed by prominent research in school violence, children and youth at risk, and his leadership in a successful large-scale school violence prevention model in Israel. Dr. Benbenishty is also a well-regarded advocate of children’s rights. He serves on numerous public committees addressing the children’s needs and rights. He is delighted to be collaborating with researchers and practitioners on Building Capacity.

Marleen Wong

marleen_wong.jpb.jpgMarleen Wong is a co-principal investigator of Building Capacity, an Assistant Dean, a Clinical Professor, and a Director of Field Education at the USC School of Social Work. She is also a director and principal investigator for the Trauma Services Adaptation Center for Resiliency, Hope, and Wellness in Schools, a community based research partnership. Dr. Wong’s interest in military-connected schools is informed by years of practitioner and research experience on schools impacted by violence, shootings, terrorism, earthquakes and other disasters. The White House has identified her as one of the “pre-eminent experts in school crisis and recovery,” and the Wall Street Journal has recognized her as the “architect of school safety programs.”


Hazel Atuel

Thumbnail image for hazel 001.JPGHazel Atuel is a Research Assistant Professor at the USC School of Social Work and Program Manager for the Building Capacity Consortium. She is a social psychologist and program evaluator, and has extensive project management and program evaluation experience. She has managed several large scale projects including San Diego Unified School District’s Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative funded by the Departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services, and the San Diego Navy Experiment funded by the Department of Defense in collaboration with the National Institute of Mental Health. Her basic research is concerned with social identity, stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. Her applied work includes examining health-related outcomes of diverse racial and ethnic groups in a variety of settings (e.g., county mental health, school district) and community-based participatory research.


Tamika Gilreath

tamika_gilreath.jpgTamika Gilreath is an assistant professor at the USC School of Social Work. Her involvement in Building Capacity is informed by her research on health disparities and patterns of co-morbidities, substance abuse, and poor mental health among African-American youth, as well as international tobacco consumption among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. She is also a valuable resource for her substantial training in advanced statistical methods, which will be utilized for evaluating the challenges and success of Building Capacity in military-connected schools.

Pamela Franzwa

pamela_franzwa.jpgPamela Franzwa is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the USC School of Social Work. She also coordinates Building Capacity MSW interns. She contributes valuable clinical expertise in the areas of school social work, grief and loss, domestic violence, and program planning to Building Capacity. She is excited to be mentoring and assisting MSW’s in their school placements.

Omar Lopez

omar_lopez.jpgOmar López, MSW, is a visiting Clinical Assistant Professor of field education. López’s educational background includes a BA from the University of California, San Diego and a Master of Social Work degree from San Diego State University. Mr. López has extensive practical experience with a background in county government as a child welfare social worker delivering direct services and in administrative roles for the County of San Diego, HHSA. Concurrently, he served as an Executive Board officer, including President for the Service Employees International Union for most of his County career, which led to a unique perspective on administrative issues and practices. Last year, he worked for San Diego State University as SDSU/HHSA-CWS Liaison, Field Faculty for the Title IV-E program, where he gained experience working with school social workers. Mr. López is a Field Liaison and facilitates the field seminars out of the San Diego Academic Center for the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California.

Mary Beth Harris

mary_beth_harris.jpgMary Beth Harris is a Clinical Associate Professor at the USC School of Social Work and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has more than 20 years of experience as a LCSW for families and children. Recently, she developed a school-based group intervention for adolescent mothers, designed to support high school graduation and economic self-sufficiency. She is enthusiastic to be part of a talented team of researchers and practitioners.

Steve Hydon

steve+hydon.jpgSteve Hydon is a Clinical Associate Professor at the USC School of Social Work and coordinates the Field Education program for MSW interns. He brings with him tremendous knowledge in school social work and community engagement. He is excited to assist Building Capacity’s training of MSW interns into school social workers in the issues of military children.

Julie Cederbaum

Thumbnail image for juliecederbaum.jpgJulie Cederbaum is an assistant professor at the USC School of Social Work. From both her clinical social work practice and her prior research, she brings expertise in family systems models as a method to reducing risk behaviors among youth. Her research interests reflect her dedication to fractured families, particularly those who are low-income and urban dwelling with high involvement in substance use, mental health, physical health, correctional, child welfare, or any systems that separate children from parents for extended periods. Methodologically, she brings expertise in qualitative methods.

Eugenia L. Weiss

Eugenia L  Weiss Photo.jpgEugenia L. Weiss is a California licensed clinical social worker and a licensed psychologist. She is a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Southern California, School of Social Work. Dr. Weiss is co-coordinator of military social work sub-concentration and lead instructor for the social work practice with military families’ course and co-coordinator for foundation social work practice in the Virtual Academic Center. Dr. Weiss has maintained a private practice since 1995 specializing in the treatment of trauma and veterans and their families. She is the author and co-author of multiple peer reviewed journal publications and is co-author of a book titled: “A Civilian Counselor’s Primer to Counseling Veterans,” (2nd edition), 2011 and co-editor of the “Handbook of Military Social Work” (2013). She was the recipient of the Hutto Patterson Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching Social Work, USC (2013).

Terence Fitzgerald 

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Terence Fitzgerald is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the USC School of Social Work. He has thirteen years of experience with working as a school social worker and a quasi-administrator in diverse elementary, middle, and high schools in the Midwest, and has experience as a university academic counselor for first generation college students at the University of Illinois. Dr. Fitzgerald has extensive qualitative and quantitative research field experience. He has publications in peer reviewed academic journals, presented at the American Education Research Association, and is the author of two books (2nd publishing in 2014) published through Paradigm Publishing. He is expert in education program and policy evaluations, and has done extensive work with empowering marginalized Black and Latino children and young adults. Dr. Fitzgerald attained his public school administrative credentials in 2012.  

Jennifer Lewis

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Jennifer Lewis joined the USC School of Social Work faculty in the Mental Health Concentration in 2012. Previously, she was an adjunct professor at New York University and Arizona State University. Before entering academia, Lewis was a program supervisor at the University of California San Diego Health System Department of Pediatrics Infectious Disease and the program director at the Southwest Center for HIV and AIDS, where she oversaw programming for HIV positive men, women, and youth. She also worked for the O’Connor House with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Avon Program for Women and Justice. She is the owner of Mosaic Psychotherapy, LLC, a psychotherapy practice that provides consulting and counseling services to individuals, families and schools. Lewis is currently overseeing a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant for HIV positive mothers who are abusing substances that seeks to prevent the abuse, neglect and abandonment of children.  

Ruth Supranovich 

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Ruth Supranovich is a clinical assistant professor of field education at the USC School of Social Work San Diego Academic Center. She joined the school in 2012 and shares responsibilities for all San Diego Academic Center field activities and teaches integrative seminars for foundation year students. Supranovich has more than 20 years of social work experience in child maltreatment and family violence. She has worked as a case manager, clinician and manager/administrator serving families impacted by child sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and exposure to family and community violence. Prior to her USC appointment, Supranovich was an assistant deputy director for San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency where she oversaw the child welfare, public health and public assistance programs in the North Coastal and Inland regions of San Diego County. 

Carl Castro 

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Carl Castro joined the USC School of Social Work faculty in 2013 after serving 33 years in the Army, where he obtained the rank of colonel. He is also the research director for the USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families. Castro began his military career as an infantryman in 1981. Throughout his military career, Castro has served in a variety of research and leadership positions, including commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Unit-Europe in Heidelberg, Germany; chief of the Department of Military Psychiatry at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington, D.C.; and director of the Military Operational Medicine Research Program, Headquarters, U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Fort Detrick, Md. Castro has completed two tours in Iraq and peacekeeping missions to Bosnia and Kosovo. He is currently chair of a NATO research group on military mental health training and serves as an advisor for several Department of Defense research panels focused on psychological health. Castro has authored more than 150 scientific articles and reports in numerous research areas. His current research efforts focus on assessing the effects of combat and operations tempo (OPTEMPO) on soldier, family and unit readiness, and evaluating the process of service members’ transitions from military to civilian life. 

Trina Gregory

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Trina Gregory is a senior lecturer for ITP teaching technology, programming, and mobile classes. She has been teaching at USC since January 2007. Recently her main focus has been the Mobile App Development minor which is now available. After getting a bachelor's degree in Mathematics-Computer Science from UCSD, she worked full-time in the computer science field for over 12 years. She mainly worked for SAIC developing, writing, and managing software for the Department of Defense. She is currently working on a master's degree in Computer Science at USC.

Charles Kaplan
Charlie KaplanAlthough a medical sociologist by training, Dr. Charles Kaplan has sought a balance between social work, sociology and social epidemiology during the course of his prolific research career exploring the patterns of drug use, drug treatment strategies and social policy. Kaplan obtained his undergraduate degree in political science from Tulane University, and his master’s degree and doctorate in sociology from UCLA. During his time at UCLA, he received training in biomedical research through the National Institute of General Medical Science and began examining the connection between brain function and language. His experiences in the lab sparked an interest in drug abuse and addiction. After a few years as an assistant professor at Rutgers University, Kaplan accepted an invitation to participate in an exchange program with Frankfurt University. In 2011, he joined the USC School of Social Work as a research professor and the associate dean of research. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, Kaplan is keen to continue exploring the preclinical patterns of drug use with his research team, including the emergence of crack cocaine in Mexico City and the impact of the drug wars on Latino communities. He plans to involve students in his field-intensive research and further integrate the PhD program into research activities, in addition to developing a research cluster on drug and social policy with other researchers.


Thom Reilly

thom-reilly-formal-web.jpgDr. Reilly joined the San Diego State University, School of Social Work as Professor and Director in August 2008. He is responsible for oversight and administration of the School’s budget, day-to-day operations, securing extramural funding and guiding the educational, professional and research mission of the School. Reilly also serves as Executive Director of the Caesars Foundation, a private charity operating internationally and strategically focused on programs serving the elderly. Reilly served as County Manager/CEO for Clark County, Nevada (the Las Vegas Valley) where he was responsible for the executive oversight of a government that provides both regional and municipal-type services to over 1.8 million residents (44 million tourists per year). Reilly was responsible for the fiscal management of the County’s $5.8 billion budget and provided administrative oversight for 38 diverse and geographically dispersed departments and close to 12,000 employees. Dr. Reilly has held senior administrative position in the Nevada System of Higher Education serving as Vice-Chancellor of the Health Sciences System and has held faculty positions with the College of Urban Affairs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Additionally, he has held senior administrative positions with the State of Nevada, Department of Human Resources overseeing income maintenance programs and the statewide child welfare system. He also served as Director of Clark County Administrative Services where he was responsible for administering and planning Clark County’s legislative initiatives, franchise agreements, emergency management, policy and program development, and strategic planning efforts. Reilly holds both a Doctorate and Master of Public Administration degrees from the University of Southern California (USC), a Master of Social Work from Arizona State University, and a B.A. from Memphis State University. He serves on the editorial boards for the journals, Public Administration Review (PAR) and Administration in Social Work. Reilly is currently serving on the national Board for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Meals on Wheels Association of America Foundation (MOWAA). In October 2005, Reilly was elected a Fellow of the prestigious National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA). Chartered by Congress in 1967, the Academy is the preeminent independent, non-partisan organization for public governance.


Colette L. Ingraham

ingraham.jpgDr. Colette Ingraham is a faculty member at the San Diego State University’s School of Psychology Program. She is also on the faculty for the Doctoral Program in Education and School Counseling Program. Dr. Ingraham teaches graduate courses in school consultation, systems assessment and intervention, advanced seminar in school psychology, program development and evaluation, and supervision of trainees in school practica and internships. She identifies professionally as an educator and as a psychologist, thus her work emphasizes the psychological aspects of education, such as empowerment, motivation, and the multifaceted nature of human development. Research interests include: consultation in culturally diverse schools, systems change and comprehensive service delivery, and developing professional leaders. She is active within professional organizations, having served as Vice President of Membership for the Division of School Psychology of the American Psychological Association, and member of various task forces. She has served as member of the Editorial Advisory Boards for several school psychology journals, consultant to schools, and holds national certification in both school psychology and counseling.


Joey Nuñez Estrada, Jr.


Dr. Joey Estrada received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California. He received his M.S.W. from UC Los Angeles and his Bachelor's from UC Santa Barbara. Dr. Estrada's research interests include school violence, street gang culture, school-based intervention, resiliency and youth empowerment. His work has been published in major academic journals, and he has presented his research at various national and international research conferences. He is currently conducting research on the risk and protective factors for gang-involved youth within school communities. He is also excited to be part of the Building Capacity in Military-Connected Schools, a consortium of eight military-connected school districts in San Diego, the Department of Defense Educational Activity, and the University of Southern California. This project empowers schools to create military-friendly school climates that improve students' academic, behavioral, and social outcomes. In his spare time, Dr. Estrada enjoys spending time with family, coaching youth football, attending live music and poetry events, and riding his motorcycle along the coast.

Trish A. Hatch

536558_author_photo.jpgTrish Hatch, Ph.D. is the Director of the Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership (CESCaL) and the Director of the School Counseling Program at San Diego State University. She has trained thousands of school counselors and administrators in the Use of Data to Effect Change and is nationally recognized as a passionate and engaging keynote speaker, trainer and consultant. She is a former school counselor, site level and central office administrator over school counseling programs. She served as Vice President of the American School Counselor Association and as an appointed member of the National Panel for Evidenced-Based School Counseling Practices. She was awarded Administrator of the Year by the American School Counseling Association. She received her PhD in Education: Institutional Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of California at Riverside. Trish is the co-author of The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs (ASCA, 2003, 2005).


Amanda Datnow

datnow.jpgAmanda Datnow is Professor and Chair of the Department of Education Studies at UCSD. Prior to joining the faculty at UCSD in 2008, she was most recently a professor at the USC Rossier School of Education, where she chaired the Ph.D. program and was Associate Director of the Center on Educational Governance. Earlier in her career she was on the faculties at University of Toronto and Johns Hopkins University. She received her Ph.D. in Education from UCLA and is a proud former Triton, having received her B.A. from UCSD (Third College) in 1990. Her research focuses on the politics and policies of school reform, particularly with regard to the professional lives of educators and issues of equity. Sociological perspectives inform her research on these topics, and her methods are mostly qualitative. She has conducted prior studies on district-wide reform, comprehensive school reform, and on the intersection of gender and educational reform. She is on the editorial boards of several journals and consults for numerous professional organizations and government agencies. 

Kris De Pedro 
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Kris De Pedro is an Assistant Professor at the College of Educational Studies at Chapman University. He obtained his Ph.D. from the USC Rossier School of Education. His research interests include school discipline policies, school climate, high achieving minority students, epidemiological methods in educational research, and military-connected schools. He has presented his research at different sessions within the American Educational Research Association conference. As a researcher, he is delighted to be part of this project and hopes to use research to inform practices that provide positive social and academic schooling experiences for military students.