USC Gould Search

Student Scholars 2015-2016
Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics

The Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics supports wide-ranging research by the Saks Institute Student Scholars. The institute educates these future legal, medical and public policy leaders to employ cutting-edge research methodology and to serve the larger cause of social justice. The Scholars conduct research on the institute's topic of the year and present work that is published in academic journals. To date, 25 student papers have been published in three journals.

  • Sareen ArmaniSareen Armani

    Sareen Armani is a second-year law student at USC Gould School of Law. She received her B.A. degree in sociology from New York University. As an undergraduate student, Armani was very interested in the intersection of stigma, social structure, and inequality. At USC, she is a staff member of the Review of Law and Social Justice, a certified law student working in the Post-Conviction Justice Clinic, and has leadership positions in the Public Interest Law Foundation and International Law and Relations Organization. As a Saks Scholar, Armani is particularly interested in studying the power of media to create stigmas and social hierarchies, resulting in social injustice.

  • Renee BolingerRenee Bolinger

    Renee Bolinger is a fourth-year philosophy Ph.D. student at USC, where she focuses on political philosophy and philosophy of language. Before USC, she graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in philosophy and B.S. in studio arts from Biola University, and earned an MA in philosophy at Northern Illinois University. Her recent work focuses on social attitudes toward mental illness, as revealed by the prominence of mental health pejoratives as all-purpose socially accepted slurs and the differential application of legal standards for reasonable belief. Bolinger is particularly interested in the way that these practices shape and are shaped by social stigmatization and stereotypes of mental illness.

  • Robert FifferRobert Fiffer

    Robert Fiffer is a second-year law student at USC Gould School of Law. He received his B.A. from Goddard College. Prior to entering law school, he worked as a recovery counselor at an in-patient adolescent drug treatment center, where he counseled clients with drug and alcohol problems, mental health diagnoses, and legal issues. He recently interned with the Presiding Judge of Los Angeles Juvenile Court, Hon. Michael Levanas, which provided him with greater insight into the Los Angeles County dependency and delinquency court systems. As a Saks Scholar, Fiffer will examine how recent and prospective legislation addresses mental health issues for vulnerable adolescent populations.

  • Jennifer FlynnJennifer Flynn

    Jennifer Flynn is a third-year law student at Quinnipiac University School of Law, where she concentrates in Health Law and serves as the Executive Managing Editor of the Quinnipiac Health Law Journal. Flynn received a B.S. in Psychology from the State University of New York at Cortland. Post-graduation, she spent several years working in mental and behavioral health, primarily with challenging youth. Flynn has continued to follow this trajectory throughout her legal education. Her scholastic endeavors have focused on juvenile justice reform in Connecticut and advocating for the mental health needs of juvenile offenders. As a Saks Scholar, Flynn is honored to have the opportunity to further intersect her passion for mental health with her legal studies, and to substantively contribute to efforts to reduce the mental health stigma in our culture.

  • Cameron Gomez Cameron Gomez

    Cameron Gomez is a third-year law student at USC. Before USC, he graduated from UCLA with a degree in Political Science. Cameron has interned at the Ventura County Public Defender's Office where he received hands-on experience working with clients. He also worked at the US Attorney's Office in the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Division. Gomez is interested in either entering a JAG program following the completion of law school or Government work. He very much looks forward to his work with the Saks Institute.

  • Stephen HolmgrenStephen Holmgren

    Stephen Holmgren is a second-year law student at USC Gould School of Law, pursuing Entertainment Law. Last summer he externed for Judge Ann D. Montgomery in the United States District Court in Minnesota. In addition to the Saks Institute, Holmgren is also participating in the Mediation Clinic. Prior to law school, he worked on the business-side of the arts in New York City, primarily in production and exhibition for independent films.

  • Louis KachulisLouis Kachulis

    Louis Kachulis is a second-year law student at USC Gould School of Law. He received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from North Carolina State University. Before attending USC, Kachulis worked as an application engineer in the chemical process controls industry. He is particularly interested in examining public perception of mental illness and mental health issues. As a Saks Scholar, Kachulis looks forward to advocating for mental health law reform.

  • Mary KellerMary Keller

    Mary Keller is a second-year law student at USC Gould School of Law. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from Columbia University, where she focused her studies on the psychocultural bases of stereotyping and prejudice. As a Saks scholar, Keller hopes to explore the ways in which routine thinking and decision making processes may promote harmful stigmas and how an understanding of relevant psychological processes can be applied to allay the stigmatization of mental illness.

  • Jeff NewellJeff Newell

    Jeff Newell is currently a psychology Ph.D. student in USC's Clinical Science program. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in anthropology. While at Berkeley, he spent two years as a research assistant in Dacher Keltner’s Social Interaction Lab. From 2007-2008, he was a project coordinator for Ian Gotlib in the Stanford Mood and Anxiety Disorders Lab. From 2008-2013, Newell was a research coordinator for Jerome Yesavage in the Stanford/VA Aging Clinical Research Center. His current research focus is on remote or self-administered psychotherapy with an emphasis on interactive media and video games.

  • Bang ThiBang Thi

    Bang Thi is a second-year law student at USC Gould School of Law. He received a B.A. in psychology and minor in forensics and criminality at the University of Southern California. As an undergraduate student, he was a research assistant for an experiment that studied the relationships between bullying, academic achievement, and culture. During this time, Thi also worked in his college police department and took several interdisciplinary courses of psychology and law. Before law school, he worked in a real estate and probate law firm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Last summer, he was an extern for a Los Angeles Superior Court judge in the criminal division. As a Saks Scholar, Thi is excited to learn more about mental health law and the policy implications behind the field.

  • Osahon TongoOsahon Tongo

    Osahon Tongo is a third-year film and television production student in USC School of Cinematic Arts. He is a graduate of Georgia Tech, where he majored in business management with an emphasis in marketing. Osahon is an Annenberg fellow, PD Soros finalist, executive board member for Comedy @ SCA, USC Media for Social Change director, high school football coach and activist. Before coming to USC he worked in digital marketing at CNN and Emory University and volunteered at the humane society in Chios, Greece. As a Saks Scholar, Tongo looks forward to researching and drafting a script that puts a real face on mental health in American culture.

  • Patrick WiitaPatrick Wiita

    Patrick Wiita is a fifth-year psychiatry resident at USC in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He received a B.S. in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics at the University of California at Los Angeles before earning his M.D. at the Keck School of Medicine at USC. Dr. Wiita has broad experience treating both adults and kids with mental illness in both voluntary and involuntary treatment settings. His research interests include sports-related mild traumatic brain injury and the intersection of Psychiatry and Law. Dr. Wiita plans to pursue additional fellowship training in Forensic Psychiatry and he is honored to be part of the Saks Institute. As a Saks Scholar, Dr. Wiita will be investigating news media portrayals of mental illness and the role and responsibilities of the Psychiatrist in interacting with news media.

  • Joshua WilliamsJoshua Williams

    Joshua Williams is a second-year law student at USC Gould School of Law. He received a B.A. in Philosophy and a B.S. in Business Management from the University of Florida with a minor in Nonprofit Leadership. While at the University of Florida, he became interested in law and public policy as an intern at a child advocacy center. At USC, Williams currently serves on the board for the Government Law Organization and the Senate for the Graduate Student Government. As a Saks Institute Scholar, he is excited to study the intersection of law and policy regarding mental health.

Recent News

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USC Gould Graduates Celebrate Passing the Bar
December 8, 2017

New lawyers take their oath after passing the nation’s most difficult bar exam


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Start with “Yes”
November 27, 2017

During “Conversation with the Dean,” alumnus Paul Richardson (JD1990) shares career insights


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Saks Institute Holds Discussion on Involuntary Commitment
November 20, 2017

Judge Jim Bianco ’87 discusses mental health court