News Details

SP2 Doctoral Candidate Receives Doris Duke Fellowship

Authored by: Jessica Bautista

Faculty & Research, Student Life


Among her many laudable goals, Christina DeNard seeks to produce research that is accessible and useful to child welfare agency leaders and administrators. She also wants to improve the quality of services that children and families receive.

Now, DeNard – a doctoral candidate at the School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) – has more of the tools and resources she needs to positively influence the lives of children and families, having recently received a Doris Duke Fellowship for the Promotion of Child Well-Being: Seeking Innovations to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect.

These highly competitive fellowships are designed to cultivate leaders who are capable of creating practice and policy initiatives that will enhance child development and improve the nation’s ability to prevent child maltreatment.

DeNard was one of just 15 people selected for the current cohort of fellows.

“I am looking forward to collaborating with other scholars and mentors in the field and seeing the various ways that we are all tackling the issue of child maltreatment prevention,” DeNard said. “As a part of the fellowship, we have a group project to complete, so I am excited about working with students from other disciplines and drawing on our experiences and skill sets to answer relevant questions that I may not have thought of or have the capacity to investigate on my own.”

Fellows receive an annual stipend and have the opportunity to participate in a peer learning network that includes their academic and policy mentors, policymakers, expert researchers, and other fellows.

DeNard, who is expected to graduate in 2017, has also been a research assistant at the School since 2013. DeNard has completed literature searches and reviews on mental health disparities within the child welfare system as well as analyses on national child welfare administrative datasets regarding racial disparities in mental health service use.

More recently, DeNard co-authored an essay with SP2 assistant professor Antonio Garcia, MSW, PhD, for the SP2 Penn Top 10 initiative – The essay – alongside an adapted animation and author interview segment – mindfully discusses the social service bureaucracy and the impact it can have on the safety of children.

Garcia is also DeNard’s advisor, and one of the many she thanked for helping her secure the prestigious fellowship. “I would like to thank my advisor and chair, Dr. Tony Garcia, for his continued support and edits throughout the process. His encouragement throughout the application, interview, and waiting process is deeply appreciated. I am grateful for Stephanie Shell of Wordsworth, who is my policy mentor for this fellowship, and Justin Williams, also of Wordsworth, who provided support. I would also like to thank the other members of my dissertation committee, Dr. Rinad Beidas and Dr. Lori Rosenkopf, for their belief in my work. And I cannot forget my cohort mates and fellow PhD students in my program.”