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IIDEA Committee Members

Meet the 2023-2025 IIDEA Committee

Click on each person's name below to learn more about their research and interests relating to IIDEA.

  • Thomas Benjamin

    I am delighted to team up with other committee members and help inform the Dean and other leadership personnel on policy and practices that assist students, staff and faculty in feeling and knowing that they are valued. A member of the School of Social Work should not have the slightest worry that their identity may threaten their growth, achievement, sense of self-worth or safety.

    I have worked at the Center for Research on Ending Violence (formerly the Center on Violence Against Women and Children) for just over three years. I am also a graduate student in the Master of Communication and Media program at the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus. Up until my time at Rutgers, I was a staff member at an interesting mix of colleges and universities: a private, single-sex, historically Black college, a public research university and a private alternative healthcare university. 

    Serving as staff representative on the IIDEA committee, I look forward to drawing upon the concerns of my colleagues and my personal and professional experiences to proactively surveil social blind-spots, maintain equitable pathways to success and promote professional, academic and personal well-being.

  • Qiana L. Brown

    Dr. Qiana L. Brown is an assistant professor at the Rutgers University School of Social Work, where she directs the Substance Use Research, Evaluation, and Maternal and Child Health (SURE MatCH) Group at the School's Center for Prevention Science. Dr. Brown is an epidemiologist, translational scientist and social worker. From a health equity lens, her research focuses on system-level change to improve maternal and child health, centering on preventing prenatal substance use and examining the role of the built and social environments and health and social policies in shaping substance use and other health outcomes among women, youth and families. Serving on the IIDEA Committee aligns with her equity-focused research interests. 

  • Carmen Castro Headshot

    As an IIDEA committee member, I look forward to contributing to efforts that promote healthy, inclusive workplace cultures and learning communities. I hope to foster curiosity and continuous growth among all our school community members with opportunities to engage with each other in meaningful ways. I am deeply committed to the practices of community building, creating equitable and inclusive environments, increasing employee engagement, and advancing inclusive leadership principles.

    For over 13 years, I have supported the personal and professional development of Rutgers faculty, staff, and students in various capacities. Serving on the IIDEA committee will give me an opportunity to continue to build on that work and contribute my own journey and experiences as a staff member which are part of the fabric of the university. In collaboration with my IIDEA colleagues, I look forward to creating transformative experiences for our school community.

  • Antoinette Farmer

    Antoinette Y. Farmer (Ph. D., University of Pittsburgh, 1991) focuses on research that examines the social and interpersonal factors that affect parenting as well as how parenting practices influence adolescent high risk behaviors, such as delinquency and substance use. This research agenda has been greatly influenced by the work of Jay Belsky, and she has also modified his ecological model as reflected in her research examining the buffering effect of social support on the relationship between parenting stress and parenting behavior. Her work in the area of parenting has led her to develop and test models to determine what variables may mediate the relationship between parenting and adolescent outcomes. She is also beginning to examine the effects of fathers' parenting practices on adolescents high risk behaviors. Her work has also examined the effects of religion/spirituality on adolescent high risk behaviors. In order to carry out her research agenda, she conducts quantitative data analysis using large national data sets. Her research has been published in Social Work, Journal of Social Service Research, and Children and Youth Services Review. She co-edited a special issue of the Journal of Social Service Research, which was devoted to informing researchers of the methodological issues confronting them when conducting research with minority and oppressed populations. She has also written several chapters on this issue as well, with the most recent appearing in the Handbook of Social Work Research Methods (2nd Edition). She has served as a consulting editor for Social Work in Education and on the editorial board for Children in Schools. Dr. Farmer has also presented at numerous national and international conferences.

  • Dr. Kristen Gilmore Powell

    Kristen Gilmore Powell, PhD, LSW, (she/her/hers) is an associate research professor at the Rutgers University School of Social Work, Associate Director of the Center for Prevention Science, and Director of the Northeast and Caribbean Prevention Technology Transfer Center.

    My research is focused on building the capacity and empowerment of community-based organizations and prevention workforces to mobilize, intervene, create systemic change, and, consequently, overcome social problems through effective prevention approaches. My work is grounded in prevention science, empowerment theory, and team science. I work to build a bridge between academic research, prevention science, and collaborative workforce development at the state, regional (including Northeastern states and the US Caribbean), and national levels. Much of this work focuses on how individual and environmental strategies can prevent the harmful consequences of substance misuse, particularly in communities identified with high need and existing health disparities.

    I am excited and honored to serve on the IIDEA Committee and I look forward to working with Associate Dean Farmer and the IIDEA committee members. I am committed to figuring out actionable ways we can work towards ensuring our workplace, our classrooms, our research, and the communities we serve are safe, equitable, and inclusive. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue the important work of this committee, carrying out the school’s strategic goals towards Inclusion, Intersectionality, Diversity, Equity, & Advancement.

  • Tawanda Hubbard

    Tawanda L. Hubbard, DSW, MSW, LCSW, obtained her BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Management from Bloomfield College and her MSW and DSW from the Rutgers School of Social Work. She is a Ph.D. candidate in Family Science and Human Development at Montclair State University. Dr. Hubbard has experience in child welfare, mental and behavioral health, case management, advocacy, and clinical practice with a small private practice and consulting firm. She is trained in family therapy, EMDR, and certified in REBT and child sexual abuse therapy. Dr. Hubbard was honored in 2022 and 2023 with the Outstanding Clinical Specialization Professor Award. 

    Dr. Hubbard’s scholarship interests and research agenda focus on mental and relational health and well-being in Black women and families; young Black women aging out of foster care and transitioning successfully into adulthood; dismantling structural inequities and promoting inclusive and transformative leadership and practices in human service organizations; inclusive, transformative, and humanizing pedagogy; and oppositionality and relational neglect in adolescence. She develops curriculum, publishes, and creates and delivers keynotes, webinars, and workshops connected to her scholarship interests and research agenda statewide and nationally.

  • Kristen Indriso

    I am honored to be selected as part of the IIDEA committee in establishing a difference in our community, positively impacting others, being part of the process of following strategic planning goals and collaborating with my colleagues. I am a first-year blended MSW student passionate about assisting adults with special needs as a Support Coordinator for over five years. Also, I am a graduate student research assistant specializing in assessment for the School of Social Work curriculum and benchmarks. I plan to obtain my CSW in Aging and Health, emphasizing Mental Health.

    In my previous professional experiences, I graduated from Rider University in 2017 with a Bachelor's in Elementary and Psychology with a Minor in Special Education. Before starting my MSW, I worked in advocacy, behavior modifications, case management, job coaching, crisis management, Medicaid, community-based services, social skills counseling, and elementary teaching. I have worked in various backgrounds, from ages of 3 years to clients over one hundred years old.

    Through the IIDEA committee, I hope to establish new rapport in the MSW field and with colleagues at Rutgers University. When I graduated with my bachelor's degree, I didn't leave an impact on my field, and I love to help others. As an individual with special needs and an advocacy background for over twenty years, I am beyond excited to be part of a fantastic committee to foster beautiful growth through my contribution lens from a behavior, inclusion, and school background. 

  • Rupa Khetarpal headshot

    I look forward to working with Dr. Farmer and the IIDEA committee and work towards strengthening our efforts within our school and the larger communities we serve to create a safe and just world for all. My lived experiences inform my practice, teaching and research agenda. I was born and raised in the poorest state in India, notorious for violence and exploitation, with rampant social and health disparities. I observed the widespread victimization of women and children, the divisive caste system, and prevalent socio-economic inequities, all of which fueled my quest to pursue social work education. Since emigrating from India, I inhabited multiple worlds (including living in five countries), attempting to understand cultures and communities, observed those included and those living on the periphery, and finally, the impact of socio economic and political factors that affect health and safety. I recognized the parallels between caste and race, privilege and oppression and the long term and multigenerational impact of casteism and racism. I witnessed the nexus between intersectionality and oppression, the unjust treatment of people, assault on basic human rights and the systemic control perpetrated by institutions in power. My over two decades of work as a trauma practitioner and educator has focused on including diverse and marginalized voices, attempting to understand lived experiences, and examining policies that disproportionately and adversely impact the vulnerable under-resourced. 

    Sustainable change for me begins with acknowledging the power and privilege that I hold and further, with intention committing to action towards fostering an environment that nurtures inclusion, equity, mutual respect and dignity. My teaching has focused on creating safe spaces where students can bring their entire authentic identities and truly express their differing opinions while learning from each other. I strive to examine the curriculums I teach, the assignments I grade and the conversations I have, to reflect the vision of our school – ensuring a just environment for all. My identity as a social worker has always been deeply connected with service and community work, in addressing inequities in mental health, human right violations and unequal access to resources. I feel incredibly honored and humbled to be engaged in this work and am committed in supporting my colleagues in this effort. 

  • Veerja Mehta

    I am grateful to join the IIDEA committee, as the MSW traditional program representative, to work with faculty, administrators, and other students in increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion of intersectional identities at the university level. 

    My work with vulnerable populations with severe mental illnesses has radicalized my perspective and advocacy work regarding systemic inequities. As an ally and future clinical social worker, it has been important for me to understand the ways that lack of community care can lead to individual illnesses for those with multiple marginalized identities within the mental health system. 

    As a South Asian, first-generation child of working-class immigrants, I have a keen interest in developing a global perspective when working with people of other cultures and ethnic backgrounds. This includes the ability to raise awareness about historical traumas that are perpetuated within the diaspora that may not be well known in westernized Social Workspaces, such as caste-based oppression. My work as a research assistant with the Global Social Work program has allowed me to work on implementing caste-based oppression into the Global Social Work courses and I hope to collaborate with others on this work. Also, I have been expanding my knowledge of how different countries are approaching social reform, while working with Dr. Rebecca Davis on the Working Group on Girls at the UN, which aims to promote human rights for all girls. 

    As a non-binary person of Indian descent, my goal is to create a more inclusive space for those who are part of the LGBTQIA2S+ community and have a BIPOC identity. 

    For me, committing to increasing diversity, inclusion, and equity at the university level will require awareness of my privileges and the ability to take accountability for my learning. I am looking forward to being a small part of a bigger mission.

  • Lucy Nonas Barnes

    I wanted to join the IIDEA Committee because it is essential that as social work researchers, scholars, and leaders there is space for PhD students to voice desires and methods for change towards a more inclusive, intersectional, equitable, and anti-racist learning and working environment. I am honored to be the bridge between faculty, administration, and the PhD students. As a board member of the Doctoral Student Association and committee member of the Student Planning Committee on Anti-Racism, it is a goal of mine to ensure that the curriculum and research we are being taught and are putting out into the world aligns with the IIDEA statement and actions. As a White woman, I understand that part of my work is continuously listening, learning, and ensuring that I am holding others accountable in making the world and my communities more equitable and I take that responsibility seriously in my clinical work, research, and personal life. I have enjoyed continuing this effort through the IIDEA Committee.

  • Nina Santiago

    Since transferring to Rutgers fall semester of last year, I have been searching for opportunities to enhance my leadership abilities, as well as interact more with the BASW students, faculty, and curriculum. Being nominated for either the BASW Curriculum committee, or the IIDEA committee, would allow me to further enter the Rutgers Social Work community, as well as better prepare me and others for my future as a social worker. Being a part of a committee that stands for social justice, equality, and diversity, will allow me to share ideas and ideologies with other passionate individuals who have the same values. Going into my junior year at Rutgers, I also would like to meet new people with similar goals to my own, that can also help me grow individually, as well as part of a community. I have always struggled with feeling shy and anxious about becoming part of a committee or organization, so if nominated, I feel I can begin taking the steps that I need to become an active part of communities I am so zealous about.

  • Rebecca Swann-Jackson

    I am honored to represent the Institute for Families since on the IIDEA committee. My personal world view focuses on the values of equity and justice and my work has focused on listening to and elevating the voices of the unheard, silenced, and historically marginalized. Since coming to Rutgers, I have participated in the inaugural cohort of Rutgers’ Inclusive Leadership Academy through the Office of Equity and Inclusion. This work is focused on equity-minded leadership and aimed at building the responsibility of leaders in creating inclusive climates. As a member of the SSW IIDEA committee, I look forward to bringing learnings from Rutgers Inclusive Leadership Network to the School of Social Work and focusing on the continued implementation of the Liberatory Consciousness Framework.

  • Nivedhitha Thiruvenkadam

    I am a third-year doctoral candidate at Rutgers School of Social Work. Born and raised in India, one of the fastest developing countries globally, I witnessed inequitable living conditions, disproportionate access to opportunities, and uneven development as a part of my everyday reality. It has been an unsettling realization that the right to family and a safe environment to grow up in is a far-fetched dream for many children worldwide. I hold a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology from India and in Community Development and Action from Vanderbilt University. With over five years of work experience in non-profit organizations that cater to children living in orphanages in India and the US, I aspire to contribute significantly to the discourse on child welfare policy and practice throughout my doctoral career.

    Having spent most of my adult life in academia, I have felt the power of education as an equalizing force in a disparate society. On the other hand, I am also aware of the privilege that comes with academic affiliation in shaping global knowledge systems. Given the pivotal role academic institutions play in influencing the global discourse in all spheres, it is imperative to make these high-impact spaces rooted in values of diversity, equity, intersectionality, and inclusion. By being a part of the Rutgers IIDEA committee, I believe I can do my part in instilling these values. Specifically, as a doctoral student representative, I am honored to represent my fellow doctoral colleagues. By working with this purposeful group of people in the IIDEA committee, I commit to making our curriculum, pedagogy, research methods, and outreach initiatives sensitive to the IIDEA values.

Past IIDEA Committee Members

2023-2024 Committee Members

  • Zan Haggerty, Academic Year 2022-2024 | DSW Student Representative
  • Michael Joo, Fall 2023 | Faculty Representative
  • Lenna Nepomnyaschy, Fall 2023 | Faculty Representative
  • Gabriel Robles, Academic Year 2023-2024 | Faculty Representative
  • Karen Zurlo, Spring 2024 | Faculty Representative

2022-2023 Committee Members

  • Valentina Gil | MSW Traditional Program Student Representative
  • Julia Katz | BASW Student Representative
  • Alia Zarwi | MSW Non-Traditional Program Student Representative

2021-2022 Committee Members

  • Monica Grace Sanagustin | MSW Traditional Program Student Representative
  • Vimmi Surti | MSW Non-Traditional Program Student Representative
  • Angela Jones | BASW Student Representative
  • Tangela Sawyerr | DSW Student Representative
  • Iris Cardenas | PhD Student Representative

2020-2021 Committee Members

  • Brenda Collados | MSW Student Representative
  • Amos Koffa | BASW Student Representative
  • Kira O'Brien | DSW Student Representative
  • Sheila Borges Rajguru, PhD | Research/Academic/Educational Programs Representative

2020-2023 Committee Members

  • Edward Alessi | Faculty Representative
  • V. DuWayne Battle | Faculty Representative
  • Elsa Candelario | Faculty Representative
  • Jacquelynn Duron | Faculty Representative
  • Christine Morales | Faculty Representative
  • Cathy Thompson-Fix | IFF Staff Representative
  • Emmy Tiderington | Faculty Representative