USC University of Southern California

Building Capacity and Welcoming Practices In Military-Connected Schools

Research Team

Christine Frymire 
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Christine Frymire is a Certified Research Administrator and the Assistant Director of the Hamovitch Center for Science in Human Services at USC School of Social Work. Ms. Frymire has more than 20 of years of experience in managing federal grants and contracts at research intensive organizations including Wayne State University, Michigan State University, and the RAND Corporation. She currently supervises a staff of four, oversees 60 proposal submissions annually, and manages an award portfolio of more than $20M. While finding much professional and personal gratification in her work with the school’s various grant projects, her best job ever is being Mom to her two sons, Mark and Kurt.

Linda Jacobson 
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Linda Jacobson is a writer and an editor for the Building Capacity project. She is a journalist with over 20 years of education reporting experience. She was the project journalist for the 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education, a project of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. She also worked as a consultant to a variety of organizations including Widmeyer Communications, the Academy for Educational Development, the Education Writers Association, the Institute for Educational Leadership, the New America Foundation, and Policy Analysis for California Education. As a reporter, she specializes in covering early-childhood education policy. From 1996 to 2009, she worked at Education Week newspaper, where she covered early learning, state policy, teaching, parent involvement, after-school programs and research topics. A graduate of Georgia State University in Atlanta, she worked at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1990 to 1994, where she covered education in a large suburban school district. In 1994, she became assistant director of the Education Writers Association, where she organized seminars for reporters and wrote guides for journalists on covering education topics.

Monica Esqueda 
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Monica Esqueda is a Ph.D. student at the USC Rossier School of Education. Her research interests include emerging student populations, student experiences, college access, and how national, state, and campus policies mediate student experiences. Some of Monica's previous work has examined the experiences of military undergraduates at both two-year and four-year institutions. As an emerging scholar, she is excited to be part of a project aimed at supporting the needs of our military families.

Diana Pineda
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Diana Pineda has a psychology degree from UC Irvine and masters’ degrees in social work and health administration from USC. Currently, Diana works as the San Diego Field Manager for the Building Capacity project and Project Manager for Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families. Diana also teaches at the USC San Diego Academic Center as an Adjunct Professor and consults as a Problem Solving Therapy (PST) trainer. Diana has presented at various conferences and conducted trainings at various agencies. Diana is an active member of NASW. Diana’s interests include mental health and health with a focus on minorities and the military. Diana has worked on a research project focusing on educating and empowering veterans, military service members, and families on health care through the use of technology. Diana is familiar with various veteran and military organizations from Los Angeles to San Diego and has worked collaboratively with many of these organizations. Diana’s interest in working with military children and families derives from the impact from within her own community from living near a large military base. Her personal experience comes from visiting close friends at military bases who served OIF/ OEF, extended family who served in the military, and friends with military families in the community, which motivated Diana to become involved in the project.

Wendy Fu 
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Wendy Fu is a senior undergraduate majoring in biological science at USC. She is passionate about science and also has strong interests in topics relating to children and child education and development. Through this project, she has learned the great impact teachers have in a child's life, as she hopes to influence the next generation through mentoring at local elementary schools. She is very glad to be a part of the project family and is enthusiastic to learn much from the process.

Aubrey Rodriguez 
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Aubrey Rodriguez is a Ph.D. student in Clinical Psychology at USC's Dornsife College. She is currently pursuing two primary research interests: the links between family conflict and family members' physiological reactivity and observed behavior, and the communication and emotion processes by which families cope with stressful events (e.g., military deployment). Aubrey recently authored a journal article describing how siblings of military servicemembers adjust to their sibling's service. Before coming to USC, Aubrey conducted research on laypersons' perceptions of depressive symptoms in the writing of strangers.

Ruth Berkowitz 
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Ruth Berkowitz is a post doctoral student at the USC School of Social Work, and a Ph.D. candidate at Bar-Ilan University school of social work (Israel), where she also worked as research assistant and a teacher. Her main research interests are on issues of school climate and their relationships to students' outcomes, with a special interest in military-connected schools, the interplay of perpetrating and victimization of violence in schools, evidence-based practices and schools as learning organizations. Ruth is a psychotherapist who completed her internship at Abarbanel hospital of mental health (Israel). She works with children of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders and their families and gives professional supervision to therapist with their clinical work.

Stephani Wrabel 
Stephani Wrabel
Stephani Wrabel is an Urban Education Policy Ph.D. Student at the USC Rossier School of Education. Her research interests include federal and state accountability policy, standardized testing and achievement measures, and student populations which are underserved in the current policy arena. Some of her previous work has examined the use of the safe harbor alternative method to make Adequate Yearly Progress in California. As a researcher and military sibling, Stephani is honored to work on a project committed to serving military families.

Gordon Capp 
Gordon Capp
Gordon Capp is a Ph.D. student in the School of Social Work at USC. His research interests include the integration of school systems and mental health services, school climate, and child development and social emotional development. His previous work includes teaching public school in Colorado in a district with many military families, and working in community mental health in California. He is excited to be participating in a project that is working to improve both educational and mental health outcomes for students and families, and at the same time working to support schools and school staff.

Raeli Bronstein 
Raeli Bronstein is a post-doctoral research fellow and part time lecturer at the Louis and Gabi Weisfeld School of Social Work at Bar Ilan University. He teaches statistics for MSW students and evidence-based practice to undergraduate and graduate students. Raeli completed his Ph.D. in Evidence Based Social Intervention at the Centre for Evidence Based Intervention, University of Oxford in 2011. Raeli’s doctoral research was the largest UK epidemiological study on the mental health and sleep of unaccompanied asylum-seeking adolescents from Afghanistan. Prior to academia, Raeli worked for several years with various refugee populations as a qualified social worker. His current research interests include strategy, methodology and statistics for social interventions. Raeli is excited to have been accepted to join the research team.

Ilan Roziner 
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Dr. Ilan Roziner is a researcher at Luis and Gaby Wiesfeld School of Social Work of Bar Ilan University. In the past, he served as a military psychologist in the Israel Defense Forces. He specializes in the methodology of program and project evaluation and assessment. He has also participated in numerous evaluation projects in Israeli school system, including several studies of antecedents and consequences of school climate change. He contributes to the project his extensive knowledge of advanced statistical methods, such as Structural Equation Modeling, Multilevel Modeling, and diverse methods for the analysis of change. He is excited to be a part of the Building Capacity in Military-Connected Schools research team.

Christian Alfaro 
Christian Alfaro
Christian attended UCLA where he studied History, Chicano Studies, and Education. At UCLA, Christian was accepted into the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program where he researched self-efficacy among at-risk high school Latino males. His research interests include urban education reform, school climate, pedagogy, youth popular culture as well as media production and social change. Christian has spent over the last six years working as an academic tutor, athletic coach, and educational consultant for various urban high schools in the Los Angeles area. His future plans include pursuing an MSW/MBA dual-degree program at USC where he hopes to develop an effective non-profit organization targeting at-risk youth that will focus on academic achievement, health and fitness, and the arts.

Sergio Pedroza 
Christian Alfaro
Sergio is a web designer that specializes in Front-End and Back-End Development. He currently works as a Web developer for the University of Southern California as part of the Welcoming Practices team. He designs for usability while creating beautiful experiences on the Web. His skills are evolving with rapidly changing design trends and development methodologies to ensure his work keeps current with industry standards. He has a passion for technology and the way we interact with it, which is why he works hard to create experiences that are both functionally sound and visually pleasing.

Rachelle Wang 
Rachelle Wang
Rachelle Wang is a Ph.D. student in sociology at the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. Coming from a mathematics and economics background, Rachelle has developed an acute interest in using quantitative methods to estimate economic relationships and to test sociological hypotheses. Her current research interests lie in the area of family, demography, and social stratification, focusing on Inter-generational mobility and social inequality. Some of Rachelle's previous work has examined the relationship between demographic characteristics, sibship size in particular, and transmission of occupation across generations. As an emerging social scientist, she is excited to be a part of the team, researching on military families and their needs.

Liru Gao 
Liru Gao
Liru Gao is a sociology Ph.D. Candidate in School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Nanjing University (P. R. China). She is currently a visiting scholar in School of Social Work at University of Southern California. Her research interests include child welfare, child development and community services. Some of her previous work has examined Chinese migrant children suffering social exclusion in education, the interactive relationship between the government and the NGO providing community services. She is honored to be part of the project committed to supporting military families.

Veronica Joy Gempis

Veronica Bio Picture.jpgVeronica Joy Gempis is a sophomore majoring in psychology in the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. Her positive experiences living overseas in Yokota Air Force Base in Japan have become her inspiration for helping the military community and in future she wants to become a neuropsychologist working in a Veteran’s Affairs Hospital. Her main research interests are in helping military veterans and their families’ transition to civilian life following service and she is excited to be a member of this project.

Jonathan Alfonso
Jonathan Alfonso
Jonathan has a BA in Literature/Writing with a certificate in Technical Communications from UCSD and an MS in Homeland Security from SDSU. His creative work has been preserved in the UCSD Special Collections Library. He collaborated in creating Exercise24, where more than 40,000 participants tested the use of social media in a natural disaster exercise. His previous work includes providing mission support for United States Customs and Border Protection and providing access to therapy for patients with multiple sclerosis, many of whom were US Veterans. Jonathan grew up most of his life as a military dependent. His research interests include higher education, pedagogy, media, communication, and human-computer interaction.Through this project, he hopes to help provide military-connected children with the resiliency needed to live long, healthful, and happy lives.

Berenice Castillo 
Berenice Castillo
Berenice Castillo majored in Psychology and minored in Latin American and Latino Studies at UC Santa Cruz, where she graduated with highest honors in the major and received the Herman Blake award for community service and academic achievement. She was involved in a developmental psychology research lab at UC Santa Cruz, where she examined factors that contribute to academic success, which formed the basis of her honors thesis. Berenice was also a Millennium Scholar of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD). She has worked as an academic advisor with the Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) advocating for higher education and helping underserved students at Watsonville High School, as well as a peer advisor of undergraduate students in the Psychology Department at UC Santa Cruz. Berenice also worked with jail inmates and provided community resources through the Friends Outside organization. Berenice is currently a Master of Social Work Student at USC focusing on the Community, Organizing, Planning, and Administration (COPA) sub-concentration. She is also the Community Outreach Co-Chair of the Latino/a Graduate Student Association at USC. Her research interests are development and transitional periods, underrepresented populations and social mobility, and education.

Nidhi Praveen Jain
Nidhi Praveen JainNidhi Praveen Jain is currently a Computer Science graduate student at USC Viterbi School of Engineering. She has worked as a Systems Engineer at Infosys Limited before joining graduate school. Her work involved customizing web applications like project management tools. Her interests lies in web and mobile application development and database systems. She is working as an application developer for Buildings Capacity and Welcoming Practices.

Pratik Joshi
Nidhi Praveen JainPratik Joshi is currently a Masters in Computer Science student at the University of Southern California. He graduated from the University of Mumbai with a Bachelors in Computer Science. Currently he is the lead iOS developer for the WelcomingPractices project. His interest lie in mobile development, backend/server-side development and in algorithms. He is super-curious about anything and everything, not just Computer Science. In his free time, he generally loves to read, travel, and wonder about the mysteries of the universe.

Gaurav Murti
Gaurav Murti Gaurav Murti is currently a Masters in Computer Science student at the University of Southern California and is also an Android developer at USC's School of Social Work for the Welcoming Practices project. He loves technology and code. His interests lie in full stack web and mobile development. He enjoys working at USC's School of Social Work, and has developed a love for Android Development.