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PhD in Psychology and Social Intervention

Meet Our Students

Esther Burson


Esther Burson is a fourth-year doctoral student in Psychology and Social Intervention. Her research centers on sociopolitical development and relations among marginalized groups in the United States. Her primary mentor is Dr. Erin Godfrey, with whom she works on projects exploring intersectionality, system justification, and critical consciousness in youth. She also works on the RISC settings level evaluation project with Dr. Godfrey and Dr. Shabnam Javdani. Esther is committed to applying psychological settings research to public policy in an effort to reduce inequality. Before joining NYU she worked for a humanitarian aid organization in Tallinn, Estonia, a non-profit in New York City, and a high school in Athens, Greece. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Swarthmore College in 2010. In her spare time, she likes riding horses and baking fancy cakes. View Esther's full CV.


Travis Cramer


Travis Cramer is a 4th year student in the Psychology and Social Intervention program in the Department of Applied Psychology at NYU Steinhardt. His research focuses on teacher workforce development, children’s social-emotional development, and program implementation and quality improvement. Travis works with Pamela Morris and Elise Cappella on multiple research projects aimed to support workforce development and preschool quality within New York City’s universal preschool expansion. Travis also works closely with a large nonprofit service provider to identify how children's and families’ needs for services vary across communities in New York City. Travis graduated from Dartmouth College magna cum laude with a degree in Anthropology. Before beginning his doctoral studies, Travis taught elementary school and worked as a research assistant on projects studying kindergarten readiness and mindfulness interventions. View Travis's CV.


Trenel Francis


Trenel Francis is a doctoral student in NYU Steinhardt’s Psychology and Social Intervention program. She graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor's of Science with Honors in Human Development and minor in Education. During her undergraduate career, Trenel worked on research projects involving hook up behavior in emerging adulthood, and conceptions of intelligence among college students of different races. At NYU Steinhardt, she aims to investigate how students' conceptions of their race and immigrant status can affect their academic achievement. Specifically, she is interested in racial identity development and the effects of immigration status among Caribbean-American students. 


Sam Freel


Sam Freel is a third year Ph.D. student in the Psychology and Social Intervention program. His primary interests are collective action, collective memory and the intersection of the two. Currently, he works alongside Drs. Bilali and Godfrey on a longitudinal study of people's involvement in the "Resistance" movement. Sam holds a B.A. in political science from George Washington University and an M.A. in teaching from Johns Hopkins University.


Sophia Hwang


Sophia Hwang is a doctoral candidate and IES-PIRT fellow in the Psychology and Social Intervention Program (Department of Applied Psychology) at NYU Steinhardt. As a former high school science teacher, Sophia’s research interests lie at the intersection of education and mental health. Sophia aims to conduct policy-relevant research that improves academic and social-emotional outcomes for urban students, learning contexts both in and out of school, and educator professional development. Currently, as part of a long-standing research-practice partnership with a local nonprofit organization, Sophia studies best practices in the afterschool setting. This includes the usage of social network analyses to examine changes in peer relations over time and qualitative methods to understand the experiences of the afterschool workforce. Additionally, Sophia’s research leverages large-scale national datasets and quasi-experimental methods to generate causal estimates about the influence of educational practices and supportive relationships on adolescent outcomes. She has published research in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, andBehavioral Medicine. Sophia earned her bachelors from Stanford University and masters from the University of Pennsylvania. View Sophia's CV.


Deanna Ibrahim


Deanna Ibrahim is a doctoral student in the Psychology & Social Intervention Program at Steinhardt. She graduated summa cum laude with her BA in Psychology and Theatre from Muhlenberg College. Upon graduation, Deanna was accepted as one of five students in the country to receive the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s undergraduate research award, which she utilized in Dr. Van Bavel’s lab at NYU. She soon moved on to a full-time position as the Data Manager of the Neuroscience and Education Lab at NYU under Drs. Cybele Raver and Clancy Blair. Through this position, Deanna collaborated on presentations and papers surrounding the potential impact of an early childhood intervention and thus became interested in designing and evaluating interventions that might improve developmental outcomes. In her own experience in an arts-based interventions, Deanna performed at the White House, State Department, and United Nations Headquarters in Switzerland to raise awareness about social justice issues through theatre. She is interested in studying, designing, and evaluating programs (including those based in the arts and empowerment) that improve academic outcomes, behavioral development, and critical consciousness for children and adolescents. View Deanna's CV.


Yeshim Iqbal


Yeshim Iqbal is a doctoral candidate in the Psychology and Social Intervention Program at New York University. She has a B.A. in Psychology from Cornell University and worked for three years as a Research Coordinator at the Harvard Laboratory for Developmental Studies. She then went on to found Kaan Pete Roi, the first suicide prevention and crisis support line in Bangladesh. Broadly, her research interests include people’s responses to violence which may occur either in the present or in their group’s past, and how belonging to particular social groups can affect these responses.  Additionally, she is interested in the ethics and methodology of cross-cultural and international research and the implementation of accessible mental health and conflict resolution interventions in developing countries. Her adviser is Dr. Rezarta Bilali.   View Yeshim's CV.


Sharon Kim


Sharon Kim is a doctoral student in the Psychology and Social Intervention program at New York University. She has a B.A. in English and Music from the University of Michigan and a Masters in International Educational Development from Columbia University. Prior to pursuing her doctoral studies, she spent three years working with Dr. Edward Seidman on the development of the Teacher Instructional Practices and Processes System (TIPPS), a systematic behavioral observation tool that aims to understand the quality of the classroom environment in low, middle-income, and conflict affected countries. She currently serves as project Co-Director. Her research interest include 1) understanding the instructional and socio-emotional factors that influence a quality learning environment and how those factors manifest in various cultural contexts; 2) the development and refinement of instruments to measure such factors; and 3) the effective integration of relevant findings within the respective cultural contexts through more rigorous implementation research.


Andrew Nalani


Andrew Nalani, Ed.M., is a doctoral student in the Psychology and Social Intervention Program at New York University. He has focused his academic and applied work on understanding and creating contexts that support social and emotional learning as well as positive youth development in East Africa and North America. Andrew founded the African Youth Leadership Experience (AYLE), a camp that serves youth in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda and is also an international facilitator and trainer with Partners for Youth Empowerment (PYE), an award-winning international training program whose innovative learning model has been developed and adapted in fifteen countries. He has served as assistant manager and lead-facilitator for the Power of Hope Youth Camp, PYE’s signature youth camp in North-America and as a guest facilitator for Hope North, an arts-empowerment camp PYE co-led in Northern Uganda for war-affected youth. Andrew is an alumnus of United World College-USA and a 2016 Stamps Leadership Scholar at Dartmouth College where he earned his B.A. in Religion modified with Gender and Environmental Studies. At the Harvard Graduate School of Education where he obtained his Master of Education degree in Human Development and Psychology, Andrew was the inaugural Anne M. Sweeney Fellow as well as a recipient of the 2016 Leadership in Education Merit Award. His research interests include adolescent and young-adult development as well as the design and evaluation of interventions that promote positive development across cultural contexts. View Andrew's CV.


Olga Pagan


Olga Pagán Olga Pagán is a second-year doctoral student in NYU Steinhardt’s Psychology and Social Intervention program. She graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in Psychology and from Stanford University with an M.A. in Elementary Education with a certificate in Bilingual Education. Before coming to NYU, Olga was a teacher and instructional coach in schools with high populations of low-income students of color for 5 years. She is interested in how teacher can create equitable environments for diverse learners in elementary classrooms.


Anaga Ramachandran


Anaga Ramachandran is a first year doctoral student in NYU Steinhardt’s Psychology and Social Intervention Program. Prior to coming to NYU, Anaga provided research support at Centre for Learning Resources, an NGO in India, which designs and implements large-scale systemic capacity building programs to strengthen quality of early childhood and elementary education provided by public health and education systems. Anaga’s research interests are broadly anchored in leveraging research to design, refine, evaluate, and implement at-scale programs to support early childhood development in regions of poverty and conflict. Anaga received her B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Psychology from University of Madras, India.


Jason Rarick


Jason Rarick is a fifth year doctoral student in the Psychology & Social Intervention program at NYU Steinhardt. Broadly, Jason's research focuses on understanding how youths’ experiences of social and economic inequality influence their wellbeing and educational outcomes.  Much of his research is driven by the following questions.  First, how do rising disparities in school settings affect students' thoughts and feelings about their own education?  Second, how do the psychosocial factors important for educational success (e.g. social comparison, academic identity, and attributions) help explain the relationship between inequality and education?  Finally, how can a better understanding of these psychological factors be leveraged to generate usable knowledge for informing the interventions, policies, and practices targeting more equitable educational opportunities and outcomes?  Originally from Los Angeles, California, Jason spent three years working with two non-profits, School on Wheels and the Los Angeles Youth Network, providing educational resources to homeless youth. He later received his masters in educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin before coming to New York.  Jason’s adviser and research mentor is Dr. Erin Godfrey. View Jason's CV.


Natalia Rojas


Natalia Rojas is a doctoral student in the Psychology and Social Intervention program at New York University. Previously, she received her BA from New York University. After graduating, she worked at MDRC, a non-profit social policy research organization, as a research associate, working to implement and evaluate two large-scale randomized control trials of early childhood interventions focused on social-emotional and math skills in low-income preschoolers. Broadly, her research interests include the intersection between research and social policy, specifically early childhood education, teacher professional development, and designing and testing interventions at improving these settings and informing policy. She currently works with Hiro Yoshikawa. View Natalia’s CV.


Sarah Rosenbach


Sarah Rosenbach received a 4-year fellowship in 2016 and is a 3rd year PhD student in the Psychology and Social Intervention program in the Department of Applied Psychology at NYU Steinhardt and a four-year IES-PIRT fellow. Her current research interests include health and academic disparities faced by LGBTQ adolescents and school-based policies and programs focused on sexual orientation and gender identity. She has also contributed to measurement development work for the Ministry of Education of Colombia. In addition to her academic pursuits, Sarah sits on the volunteer board of the New York City chapter of GLSEN, a national nonprofit that works to ensure safe schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania. Her primary mentor is Dr. Hiro Yoshikawa. View Sarah's CV


Kate Schwartz


Jessica Siegel, M.Ed., is a doctoral student in the Psychology and Social Intervention Program at New York University. Jessica received her Bachelor of Science in Child Development and Cognitive Studies from Vanderbilt University. She remained at Vanderbilt to receive her M.Ed. in Child Studies, with a specialization in Poverty and Intervention. After graduating, she worked at NYU School of Medicine on ParentCorps, a family-focused, school-based intervention that aims to strengthen family engagement and support parents and teachers to create high-quality learning environments for children of color in low-income communities. Broadly, Jessica’s research interests include investigating the impacts of poverty on child development and how policies and systems can effectively and equitably serve children and families.


Alex Watford


Alex Watford is a doctoral student in the PSI program. He graduated from Morehouse College magna cum laude with a B.A. degree in Psychology. Drawing on his years of working at various levels of involvement with nonprofit organizations that prioritize positive adolescent development, Alex comes to the program eager to investigate questions pertaining to urban youth considered “at-risk.” Deeply invested in the broad goal of positive youth development, Alex focuses his attention on interventions in adolescence both inside and outside of schools. Alex’s other primary research interest is in innovative school environments which emphasize the importance of school climate as alternatives to the traditional approach. The constructs which currently interest him most are resilience, psychological well-being, school climate, and peer/family support. He currently works with Elise Cappella and Diane Hughes.


Mackenzie Whipps


Mackenzie Whipps is a 4th year doctoral student in the Psychology and Social Intervention program. She earned her BSc in Psychology, Biology, and Political Science from University of Maryland. Following graduation, she spent 5 years as a birth and postpartum doula and childbirth educator in Maryland and New York. She currently volunteers as a lactation counselor. Her research interests include: 1) transitions into parenthood; 2) decision-making processes in early parenting, including choosing childcare, infant feeding decisions, and return to employment; 3) the maternal ecology of breastfeeding; 4) social policies and primary preventions aimed at promoting infant health and positive parent-child interactions, particularly in low-resource contexts; and 5) utilizing innovative quantitative and qualitative methodology to study complex phenomena.


Tess Yanisch


Tess M. Yanisch is a sixth-year doctoral student in the Psychology and Social Intervention Program at the NYU Steinhardt. Her dissertation explores the impact of demographics, social support, religious values, and functional motivations for volunteering on whether, how much, and in what areas people volunteer. More generally, her research interests include civic engagement, social norms, and prosocial behavior. Her research, in whatever form, is driven by the question: "What makes people treat which other people well--or not well?"

Tess graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Oberlin College with a BA in psychology in January 2013 and entered NYU's program the following fall. She has worked with Dr. Allen and Dr. Godfrey on a wide array of projects, ranging from Muslim teachers' civic engagement and career trajectories to a study of perspective-taking and attitudes toward the poor. View Tess's CV.