Erika GonzalezGraduate Student

I am a PhD student in the Human Development & Family Studies (HDFS) program within the School of Human Ecology. My interest in applied, mixed methods research derives from my work with children and adolescents in low-income public schools. In my roles as an educator and K-12 student support intervention specialist, I observed the chronic stress and trauma that was pervasive in the young students, as well as the lack of effective mental health interventions in schools. My research aims include seeking effective ways to develop sustainable restorative environments in low-income school systems while partnering with K-12 educators to understand how to best meet the mental health needs of their students. Drawing from the extensive research on the positive impact of nature on a person’s well-being, I plan to incorporate elements of the natural environment in the development of restorative spaces.

I hold a BA in history from the University of Michigan and an MSW from Washington University in St. Louis with an emphasis on children, families, and community development. I have over 10 years of experience working to advance access to high quality education and social services for children and youth. I spent five years working with a large public school district in St. Louis as an educator and student support services district employee before entering higher education as an instructor for graduate-level social work students. Through my position with the Brown School of Social Work, I have also worked as a manager of initiatives to support educational equity, increase access to mental health services for children, and build partnerships between social service nonprofits and low-income public schools.

I have experience teaching at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Prior to beginning my PhD program, I held a position as an adjunct faculty member and then a full-time assistant teaching professorship at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. In both roles, I had the opportunity to teach full-time Master of Social Work students who were taking courses within the children, youth, and samily studies concentration track. At the undergraduate level, I have been the lead instructor of a course within the HDFS department and a member of the Writing Center instructor team.

Erika Gonzalez portrait sitting outdoors.


  • Human Development & Family Studies

Degree Program

  • PhD Human Ecology: Human Development & Family Studies


  • MSW, Emphasis on children, families, and community development, Washington University in St. Louis
  • BA, History, University of Michigan


Phone: 517-918-1334