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GCSW Faculty Members Named Associate Professors


September 7, 2021

(HOUSTON, TX) - The Graduate College of Social Work is proud to announce Christina Miyawaki and Samira Ali have been named Associate Professors.

Dr. Christina Miyawaki joined the GCSW in 2015 as well as an Assistant Professor. During her time at the GCSW, Dr. Miywaki has expanded the GCSW's research into aging AAPI communities with notable grant awards from the Alzheimer's Association and the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Samira Ali joined the GCSW in 2015 as an Assistant Professor. Shortly after joining the GCSW, Dr. Ali launched the SUSTAIN Wellbeing COMPASS Coordinating Center, where she serves as Director and Principal Investigator. SUSTAIN seeks to address and eradicate HIV/AIDS in the Southern United States with funding from Gilead Sciences.

We spoke with Dr. Christina Miyawaki about what this appointment means for her research and the GCSW.

Read more about Dr. Samira Ali's work highlighting a recent grant award.


Name: Christina Miyawaki
Associate Professor

What does this appointment mean for your research and teachings? 

Honestly, before thinking about my research and teaching, I felt a HUGE relief!! I have worked and accumulated various success stories in the long lead-up to this moment (six years). I must also acknowledge the excellent advice given by so many faculty members within and outside of the GCSW. But after this milestone, I feel like I can research topics that motivate me and are my passions. I now feel empowered to choose the research topics I care about and focus on these topics because my research work has been validated and valued. In terms of teaching, I feel more "free." Evaluations will always be something that I care deeply about, but I think I will explore more creative ways of teaching and try something new because I have more confidence in my teaching methods and style.

Your work is grounded in aging in minority communities, especially within the AAPI communities. Why is this research critical to the GCSW's vision of achieving social justice? 

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are the most rapidly growing minority group in the U.S., comprising about 7% of the U.S. population. But studies on AAPI are scarce, and for the past 26 years, only 0.17% of the NIH budget counted for clinical research on AAPI! More than 60% of AAPI are foreign-born. The vast majority of my target population (older adults 65 years and older) are immigrants and refugees who do not speak English and often live with chronic health conditions, mental distress, and cognitive impairment. I focus on older AAPI affected by Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD) because their voices are rarely heard and ignored all too often. I conduct my research with this population to show their physical, mental, and cognitive needs and advocate for their well-being to improve the quality of their lives in the U.S.