The University of Houston – Graduate College of Social Work
The University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW) prepares diverse leaders in practice and research to address complex challenges and achieve sustainable social, racial, economic, and political justice, locally and globally, through exceptional education, innovative research, and meaningful community engagement. Our vision is to achieve social, racial, economic, and political justice, local to global.
Improvement of Mental Health Services
We prepare organizations and service providers to better understand and address the impact of mental health in the context of HIV care.
Creation of Trauma-Informed Care
We work with organizations to build capacity on how to respond empathetically to individuals dealing with past and/or present trauma.
Strategies to Address Substance Use
We provide capacity building to create and strengthen understanding, systems, and programs that focus on harm reduction and meet people where they are, as well as consider the impact of substance use, particularly opioid use, on HIV/AIDS.
In partnership with healthcare and community organizations, we help start or improve programs that promote the overall well-being of people living with HIV in mind, body, and spirit.
SUSTAIN Advocacy Group
The SUSTAIN Advocacy Group (SAG) is a diverse group of members comprised of nine deep south states disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic. Each member, chosen by HIV leaders to represent his/her/their respective state, brings a combination of lived expertise, community involvement, and grassroots advocacy backgrounds to this collaborative experience. Using MIPA (Meaningful Involvement of People Living with HIV/AIDS) principles, SAG’s mission is to advise the University of Houston’s SUSTAIN Leadership Team on matters of programming, processes, and evaluation. Further, the SAG membership is committed to serving as disclosed ambassadors for all its collaboration during each member’s tenure.
University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work COMPASS Coordinating Center
Dr. Ali’s scholarship focuses on community-based participatory research (CBPR), primary and secondary HIV prevention, and the role of social determinants on the mental health and well-being of communities that are marginalized (particularly those impacted by HIV). Specifically, Dr. Ali has experience in developing, implementing, and evaluating community-led structural sexual health interventions in local and international settings. Dr. Ali has worked with community-based organizations for over 10 years around intersecting areas of HIV prevention and treatment, mental health, and trauma-informed care as well as coordinated care. Through the COMPASS Initiative, we can change the face of the HIV epidemic in the South through building organizational capacity that is community-centered, sustainable, and intersectional, paying particular attention to social and racial justice.
Maria is currently Research Staff at the University of Houston Graduate College Of Social Work. Maria obtained her Bachelor’s in Social Work at the University Of Houston Clear Lake and completed her Master’s in Social work at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Maria has over 12 years’ experience in nursing and 5 years’ experience in medical social work. Her areas of interests are health disparities, medical social work, health promotion and prevention efforts, mental health, substance use disorders, behavioral health, sexual health, HIV/AIDS and enhancing interdisciplinary collaboration. She has 10 years’ programmatic and coordinating experience with federal grants in the topics of mental health, substance use, sexual health and HIV/AIDS. Maria is currently pursuing an Executive Doctorate in Professional Leadership with an Emphasis in Health Science Education degree at the University of Houston College of Education. The COMPASS Initiative will allow Maria to provide administrative and programmatic support as Program Manager for the SUSTAIN Wellbeing COMPASS Coordinating Center in work she is passionate about and is grateful to provide her expertise to create meaningful opportunities with communities in the South.
Katie McCormick obtained a Bachelor of Social Work from Baylor University and a Masters from the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Over the course of the past several years, she has engaged in various projects, primarily engaging in community engagement and community-based research. Katie also has experience collaboratively developing, implementing and evaluating community-driven Southern specific organizational interventions. Applying a multi-level, intersectional, community-centered framework, Katie works with organizations to integrate harm reduction and trauma-informed care approaches through capacity-building assistance in an effort to sustainably strengthen organizations and communities.
Bec Sokha is a second-generation Cambodian-American queer Ph.D. candidate at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Their doctoral research interest broadly includes gender wellness with a particular focus on non-binary and genderqueer experiences. Bec Sokha’s research background also includes South Asian sexual health, NIH-supported HIV Vaccine Trials Network study, and trans masculine intimate relationships. They enjoy increasing access to knowledge and skills, facilitating connection across communities disproportionately impacted by HIV, collaborating with community-based organizations and working collectively to disrupt systems of oppression (such as racism, classism, binarism, ableism). Their approach to the SUSTAIN team is guided by intersectional, gender affirmative, sex-positive, and social justice principles.
Thea has a Bachelor’s in Kinesiology from the University of Houston and is currently working on a Master’s of Business Administration through the University of Texas. She has worked as a Financial Coordinator with the Dean’s Office in the College of Education, University of Houston. Thea later moved to Rice University where she served as a Department Coordinator and a Research Administrator, both pre- and post-award, for the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Her current position as Research Support Coordinator presented itself and she jumped at the opportunity not only to come back to the University of Houston but also for the chance to be a part of a mission that has an actual purpose and a real impact on people’s lives.
At Georgia Southern, Marcus trained to understand the long-term development of individuals and families, while seeking methods to improve all areas of their lives, including their relationships, families, organizations, and communities and obtained a BS in Child and Family Development. He worked as a peer health educator and HIV tester/counselor for Georgia Southern University’s Health Education and Promotion Department. He created campus-wide, week-long programming targeting various health-related topics and events and provided technical assistance to staff on methods and approaches to helping students recognize and overcome barriers to improving their health. After graduation, he worked for the National AIDS Education & Services for Minorities, Inc. (NAESM). While employed, he conducted several Effective Behavioral Interventions focusing on young Black men who have sex with men, in addition to capacity building, HIV testing/counseling, linkage to care services, grant writing, and evaluation. After NAESM, he worked for Emory University’s School of Public Health coordinating research, engaging stakeholders, and implementing and conducting HIV/STD research for men who have sex with men and men with a history of or who are currently incarcerated. Marcus transitioned to UCHAPS as Program Coordinator providing HIV advocacy on the Hill, CBA, and T/TA to local and state health departments nationwide. Marcus furthered this experience as Capacity Building Manager for HealthHIV. Marcus currently serves as Project Officer for the Gilead COMPASS Initiative™ at the University of Houston and has completed his Masters in Public Health in the Fall of 2019.
Lladira is a bilingual Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) who received a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Houston-Downtown and completed a Master’s degree in Social Work with a clinical practice concentration from Baylor University. Lladira has over 10 years’ experience in HIV/AIDS work including health education, HIV testing and counseling, community outreach, and case management with individuals living with HIV in both clinical and non-clinical settings in the South. More recently, her work focused on providing trauma-informed case management to foreign national survivors of human trafficking. Lladira continues to be an advocate for underserved populations and she hopes to use her direct practice work experience to better support communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS through the COMPASS Initiative.
Megan Stanton (Stanton Consulting, LLC) is a research and evaluation consultant who collaborates with community-based organizations and academic partners on projects related to health and well-being. She completed a PhD in Social Welfare at the University of Pennsylvania and a Master’s of Social Work from the University of Connecticut. Recent projects include a community-based participatory research project which unpacked the role of a sex-worker led cooperative bank in promoting community health and well-being in Kolkata, India, a mixed methods exploration of the impact of a transitional housing program for young LGBT adults who are living with HIV, and a study examining predictors of advocacy engagement and voting among staff and clients of a large community-based HIV service organization. Dr. Stanton’s work is grounded in community accountability and social change. She is proud to pursue these values in collaboration with the University of Houston team, the other Coordinating Center teams and COMPASS partner organizations.
Warren Alexander Dates is a native of Gadsden, Alabama. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication from Miles College, a United Negro College Fund member institution. He obtained his license to preach in 2004. In 2010 following his November 2009 HIV/AIDS diagnosis, Minister Dates founded The 6:52 Project Foundation, Inc. (6:52 Project). The 6:52 Project began leading the way of exploring the complexity of the HIV/AIDS epidemic as it partners with local, state and national individuals, organizations and corporations on January 16, 2010. Its resources target individuals and organizations whose audience includes those affected and/or infected between the ages of 15-35 years. Warren’s corporate work experience includes being employed at The National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Foundation (NBCAHOF) in Atlanta, Georgia where he served as Vice-President of Programs & Fund Development. Prior to the Hall of Fame, Warren worked for the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity & Inclusion Institute in North Carolina. As Program Manager, Warren was responsible for corporate relationships and was project manager for the annual Chief Diversity Officers Forum. Warren is currently a member of the Alabama Department of Public Health’s HIV Prevention & Care Group (HPCG); He was recently promoted to HIV Special Projects Coordinator for AL Dept. of Public Health, HIV/AIDS Division; He is the Founding Chairman of the Board of Directors for NEAL (Northeast Alabama) Together (an LGBTQ Community Support Group). On September 24, 2016, Dates married his love, Kevin, and is now Warren Alexander O’Meara-Dates.
Diagnosed with HIV in 1991 and infected in 1988 at the age of 15, Maria began a long journey finding hope, pride, and passion in an undereducated society unprepared to deal with the growing epidemic of HIV and AIDS. After ten years without treatment, Maria found herself at a crossroads. She could begin medical treatment or continue to slide towards death. Thankfully she chose to live and to fight for more than just her own health. Maria is the author of the book From a Warrior’s Passion and Pain, a real-life account of her 30-year battle with HIV and AIDS. She is currently the co-chair of the Women and Minorities Outreach for the Dab the AIDS bear project. She is also an Ambassador for the campaign “Let’s Stop HIV Together” Detengamos el VIH juntos by the Center for Disease Control, the Global Ambassador for The Well Project, and an Ambassador for the campaign for Greater than AIDS (IPV, Women, HIV, and Women), Empowered. Finally, Maria is a volunteer for the Red Cross, an HIV educator, and a tester for Jackson Memorial Hospital, a global motivational speaker, and an HIV consultant and a member of several advisory boards such as Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
Masonia Traylor is a mother of two and an internationally recognized Community Champion for HIV/AIDS. She dedicates herself as a passionate HIV/AIDS Activist and Advocates focusing on youth, women, and reproductive justice. She has served as a youth representative and volunteer of organizations such as Georgia’s Community HIV Prevention Planning Group, In Our Own Voice, Sister Love Inc., AID Atlanta, The Red Pump Project, and the Ryan White Planning Council to name of few. She is a campaign ambassador for CDC’s Act Against AIDS, “Stop HIV Together” and Kaiser Family Foundation, “Greater Than Aids- Empowerment & We Are Family” projects. Masonia is a Blogger and CAB member for The Well Project and a member of the SUSTAIN – SAG Project. She received her undergraduate degree at the Andrew Young School of Public Policy Studies at Georgia State University with a concentration in Nonprofit Management and Leadership. With recent features on the cover of People Magazine, in Time Magazine, and Essence Magazine she uses her campaign “She’s Positive” to break the stigma and bring attention to barriers surrounding life-threatening issues of people living with HIV/AIDS. As CEO/Founder of her non-profit organization, Lady BurgAndy Inc. she quotes, “I believe that equipping youth and their respective spheres with knowledge and awareness of the CURRENT HIV/AIDS epidemic is what it will take to STOP new infections amongst our youth!” She’s in it Until The Last One.
Alexis Powell is a 38-year-old FIERCE transgender woman that is currently not only living with but also thriving with HIV, diagnosed in 2004 and is doing very well. On December 12, 2015, she became the first Trans Woman to get married in the State of Louisiana and is the mother of a truly amazing 7-year-old son, Isayah Augustine. She is employed as a Consumer/Peer Advocate with Volunteers of America Greater Baton Rouge as part of the Minority Aids Initiative and has been employed with the agency since 2015. She goes to great lengths to advocate for all clients so they can receive the services they need, making sure that there are no barriers to getting into and staying in care so they can thrive and live a healthy and full life. She loves helping anyone diagnosed with HIV, but of course, the Transgender Community is near and dear to her heart. Because of this, she is a facilitator for VOAGBR’s Transgender Focus Group, a member of the Transgender Law Center, a national board member for Transgender Advocates, and a graduate of NMAC’s Building Leaders of Color Program. Her aspirations are to take what she learns and use it to become a better motivational speaker and educator, as well as being able to put herself out into the community more and use the smaller platforms to move to bigger platforms to educate and motivate more people.
Sa’Mya was born and raised as an only child in Flora, MS where she graduated from Terry High School. Sa’Mya is currently a full-time nursing student at Hinds Community College in Jackson, MS. Sa’Mya is a proud Black Trans woman who has survived homelessness, which began when her parents were unable to accept her gender identity, substance abuse and working as a professional escort. Sa’Mya later relocated to Atlanta where she discovered backstage.com and began transitioning into the woman she is becoming today. Sa’Mya is also a dancer and, through it all has maintained her love of the performing arts. Sa’Mya was diagnosed with HIV in 2016 and is now committed to being a voice for trans youth and educating the community on issues related to HIV and health.
Eddie Wiley is the founder of Maverick Consulting and has been active in HIV program implementation and social media expansion since 2006. Mr. Wiley has consulted in culture enhancement, program evaluation, staff retention and many other topics across the country. In 2015, Eddie co-founded “The Headliners” that focuses on novel HIV prevention techniques in the Black LGBTQ community in the Memphis area by using the community’s input to host events and draft messages. As an “In It Together” trainer, he has worked closely with agencies and community members to more meaningfully promote health literacy for Same-Gender Loving, Black men. Mr. Wiley has worked within linkage to care, youth engagement, program management, social media management and most recently served as the Co-Chair for the Shelby County Ryan White’s HIV Care and Prevention Planning Group. Eddie has been featured in POZ Magazine, Ebony Magazine, the Tri-State Defender and the Memphis Flyer. Mr. Wiley has been honored by the Red Door Foundation, Philander Smith College, Tri-State Black Pride and the TN Department of Health. After graduating with his Masters in Public Health in 2017, Eddie has worked to combat health disparities across the Southern United States. Currently, Eddie co-hosts a podcast tailored to same-gender-loving, black men entitled “Dem Southern Boyz”. Mr. Wiley is excited to be working with the University of Houston on SUSTAIN and representing the state of Tennessee.
Venita is an attorney with a passion for social and racial justice, advocacy and equity. Venita currently serves as the deputy director of the Positive Women’s Network-USA, a national membership organization for women living with HIV. Venita served as the public policy manager for Legacy Community Health, a federally qualified health center in Houston, TX, where she monitored HIV related health policy and managed an advocacy training program for people living with HIV. Venita advocates and speaks on a number of local and national issues impacting the HIV community and in 2016 led a citywide effort to end the HIV epidemic in Houston. Venita is a founding member of the Texans Living with HIV Network, HIV Racial Justice Now and the Texas chapter of PWN-USA. Venita was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and is deeply committed to issues like HIV criminalization, meaningful involvement of people living with HIV and racial justice.