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Michelle Samura
UC Santa Barbara/education

Dissertation Fellow, 2007

Dissertation: Architecture of Diversity: Dilemmas of Race and Space for Asian American Students in Higher Education

Abstract: Significant increases in Asian American college enrollment have created a veil of success often concealing a variety of tensions and dilemmas that many Asian American college students wrestle with—dilemmas that stem from their achievement, on the one hand, and their inability to escape processes of racialization on the other. By highlighting the multiple salience of higher education for Asian Americans, this study aims to examine how Asian American students work to understand, negotiate, and contest their racial identities given their fluctuating status within the larger US racial system. Bringing together three distinct and usually separate perspectives to frame this project—symbolic interactionism, group position model, and spatial analysis—this study gathers data from a large public university in the form of in-depth interviews, surveys, ethnographic observations, and cognitive mapping in order to: 1) examine how Asian Americans college students navigate through physical and social spaces; and 2) explore what it means to be Asian American in spaces where inclusion and mobility, while highly sought after, remain problematic.

Veronica Santelices
UC Berkeley/education

Dissertation Fellow, 2006

Dissertation: Differential Item Functioning in the SAT Reasoning Test

This research explores allegations of unfair SAT results for African American and other minority students, which would inaccurately limit college opportunities for disadvantaged students. My dissertation research revolves around the psychometric definition of unfair treatment (differential item functioning or DIF) and its effects on the SAT results for African American and Hispanic students. DIF is investigated using two different methodological approaches: a classical test theory approach and an item response theory approach. This research also helps to judge the merits of an alternative measure of academic preparation for minority students based on some of the more difficult SAT questions. The alternative measure will be judged by its capacity to predict minorities’ performance in college and its predictive capacity analyzed in the context of other measures traditionally used for this purpose.

Samantha Scribner Bartholomew
UC Riverside/education

Dissertation Fellow, 2002

Dissertation: The Cultural Context of Standardization: A Study of Two Diverse Schools’ Enactments of Curriculum Standards Reform

About: Using institutional and organizational theory, this dissertation seeks to understand how and why a school district responds to new curriculum policies in ways that do or do not achieve the original policy intent. The study investigates the response to policy (the enactment of standards based curriculum reform in mathematics) at two middle schools in the district. Of particular importance is the impact of the social class and racial composition of the student body on educators’ decisions about implementing rigorous academic reforms.

Gabriela Segade
UC Berkeley/education

Dissertation Fellow, 2010

Dissertation: Making and Not Making Sense: The Development of English Language Proficiency among Immigrant Community College Students

Abstract: Large numbers of immigrant students are attending community colleges, where they enroll in English as a second language courses hoping to later transfer to a four-year institution. Statistics indicate that many of these students never accomplish their goal and often languish in ESL classes. This dissertation relies on qualitative research methods, including extensive video and audio recording of classroom activities and student interviews, to examine how students at an urban community college make sense of the language and language practices they encounter in an ESL course. A preliminary analysis suggests that students who previously attended US schools bring with them practices and patterns of course participation that may be detrimental to their language development, and that course activities may encourage those practices. The findings, by informing ESL curricular and pedagogical design, can help create the rigorous programs that are critical to helping students fulfill transfer requirements.

Haley Seif, Ph.D.
UC Davis/anthropology

Postdoctoral Fellow, 2003

Title: Undocumented Latino Youth, Higher Education Access, and California’s Assembly Bill 540:  An Ethnographic Perspective

Assembly Bill (AB) 540, which waives out-of-state college and university tuition for many undocumented California youth, was signed into law in 2001. Based on participant-observation and interviews, this project records and analyzes the successful legislative and grassroots struggle for AB 540 despite the obstacles facing this highly vulnerable student population. It studies the community outreach and training activities of two LA-based non-profit organizations that help undocumented Latino youth avail themselves of increased access to higher education afforded by this law. From this organizational perspective, it also elucidates the continuing barriers to entering California’s public higher education institutions for this student population.

Ingrid Seyer-Ochi, Ph.D.
UC Berkeley/education

Faculty Augmentation Grantee, 2003

Title: Landscapes of Educational Opportunity: Understanding the Full Context of Schooling

Focusing on four diverse San Francisco neighborhoods, this study employs GIS maps to reveal the distribution of educational opportunities and constraints for local youth. This work looks at the wider contexts of youth’s lives, and includes as school opportunity indicators factors such as housing, faith-based and community institutions, and environmental hazards. By expanding the group of indicators used to measure educational opportunities, this study will offer insights into how education policy fits into other state policies areas.

Yen Ling Shek

Dissertation Fellow, 2012

Cultural resource centers in higher education: Missions, structures, and strategies

Abstract: Cultural resource centers in higher education serve as crucial counterspaces for students of color as they navigate college. Although there is a long history of these race-specific and multicultural centers on college campuses, little is known about their missions, structures and strategies at a macro-level. This study seeks to understand the commonalities and differences among cultural resource centers. Through survey data, typologies of cultural resource centers may emerge nationally. Follow-up interviews will then be conducted to get richer data on the strategies used by cultural resource centers. Cultural resource centers, which serve as institutionalized support spaces for outreach and retention efforts, are questioned in times of resource scarcity and serve as a critical issue in supporting students of color in higher education. This study will provide the foundational work needed for cultural resource center assessment and assist with creating critical conditions needed for the educational success of underrepresented students.

Jessica Singer Early
UC Santa Barbara/education

Dissertation Fellow, 2006

Dissertation: Literacy Sponsorship and First Generation Latino College Writers

Abstract: There is great need for educators and researchers to understand the kinds of classroom experiences that Latino students encounter in K-College that reinforce their literacy growth. This dissertation is a retrospective interview study of ten Latino college students and the factors that led their college professors to judge them as outstanding writers. The participants have made it past various social and academic barriers to attend and succeed in a prestigious four-year university. All of the students come from low-income families with little or no formal education in high poverty communities, and spoke no English at the time of entrance to school. This research will contribute to the diversity of literacy studies by providing concrete examples of the interactions and processes that mentors use to assist Latino students develop superior writing skills. Findings yielded from this dissertation may have significant implications for writing instruction and interventions for Latino students in K-College classrooms.

Michael J. Smith

Postdoctoral Fellow, 2002

Title: Using a Trifold Capital Lens to understand African American College Choice

This study investigates how the college choice process of urban African American high school seniors and their parents is shaped by their own economic class, by the social class context of their neighborhood, and by characteristics of their high schools. A common yet simplistic explanation for disproportionately low rates of college going among African American students is the disproportionately lower incomes of their families. This study probes deeper to understand how social and cultural characteristics of schools and communities can outweigh the powerful influence of students’ own social class.

Michael J. Strambler
UC Berkeley/psychology

Dissertation Fellow, 2005

Dissertation: Academic Identification among Ethnic Minority Elementary School Children:  Developmental and School Contextual Factors

About: Despite a large body of research on the achievement gap, disparities between ethnic minorities and whites continues to be one of the largest and most important problems of this society.  Researchers have examined issues related to the gap ranging from biological, cultural, familial, and social factors.  Academic identification, or how much one values and bases one’s self-esteem on academic performance, is one such factor that has been explored in explaining the achievement gap.  While there is some evidence that African American and Latino students are less academically identified than whites, there remains much to be understood about the developmental and context-specific factors that contribute to such differences.  Also, few studies have examined academic identification within an ethnic minority population. My study aims to shed new light on developmental and environmental processes related to academic identification in the context of a high-poverty, predominantly ethnic minority elementary school.  Specifically, from the perspective of students, I examine how classroom learning conditions (i.e. teacher expectations, student-teacher relationships, academic press), school culture (sense of community), and beliefs about the benefits of education relate to academic identification and gains in achievement.  Developmentally, I examine the degree and process of academic identification across grade levels while exploring factors associated with ethnic (African American and Latino) and gender differences.

Ryane McAuliffe Straus
UC Irvine/political science

Dissertation Fellow, 2003

Dissertation: Increasing Segregation as Magnet Schools Seek to Attract Middle Class Students

Abstract: In response to a state court desegregation order, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) instituted magnet schools in 1978 for the dual purposes of integrating and improving schools.  Now, however, magnets emphasize academic benefits over voluntary integration.  Although these emphases are not mutually exclusive, this change appears to have accompanied the schools’ shift from attracting and retaining both urban poor and middle class students, to a greater emphasis on attracting and retaining middle class students. The study analyzes this process by using both existing theories of public policy and emerging  understandings of racial power in urban settings.  The study  applies a social construction perspective and the policy design framework to school desegregation, and it adds Los Angeles to the body of desegregation case studies.

Roger Studley
UC Berkeley/economics

Dissertation Fellow, 2003

Dissertation: Socioeconomic Inequality, Ethnicity, and College Admissions

Abstract: Large socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities exist in college admissions. This research examines the extent to which an admissions policy that “levels the playing field” by thoroughly, objectively, and systematically accounting for the effects of socioeconomic factors on pre-college achievement can remedy these disparities. This study explores how various socioeconomic factors effect a student’s pre-college academic achievement and explain differences in achievement across racial/ethnic groups.  This analysis hopes to offer tangible recommendations for universities making admissions decisions, including how to ensure the validity of policies and how to predict the impact of such policies on the resulting pool of admitted students.  Finally it examines if using socioeconomic factors in admissions has an impact on remedying racial/ethnic disparities in admissions.

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