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John Johnson
UC Santa Cruz/psychology

Dissertation Fellow, 2009

Dissertation: The Contextual Functionality of Black Student Unions in Higher Education: An Ecological Systems Analysis

Abstract: Black Student Unions (BSUs) in higher education contribute to the flow of ethnic minority students through the education pipeline via student-initiated recruitment and retention efforts. BSUs also offer underrepresented students a medium for campus involvement and leadership development. However, BSUs in higher education are beset by a variety of complexities and complications that correspond with their contextual conditions, not the least of which is the unavoidable instability of their membership. The current study involves a mixed-method analysis of four BSUs in the California higher education system examining the internal and external networks of these student organizations and testing the effectiveness of an ecological systems approach to assessing organization-context congruity. Preliminary results suggest that practices that extend or stabilize member composition contribute to organization development and success and that ecological system conditions and resources impact organization effectiveness. For BSUs in higher education, context is likely more important than member composition.



Kevin Binning, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow, 2008

Title: Undermining the Effects of Stereotype Threat on Student Performance: A Self-Affirmation Intervention

We propose a social psychological intervention designed to reduce the racial/ethnic educational achievement gap by weakening the influence of stereotype threat on academic performance. Stereotype threat is the fear that one's behavior (e.g., failing a test) will confirm an existing stereotype of a group with which one identifies, and it has been found to impair academic performance in the negatively stereotyped groups (e.g., African Americans, Latinos). Using a double-blind experiment in a mixed-ethnicity middle school, a self-affirmation manipulation will be administered in which experimental subjects think and write about values that are important to them. This simple exercise provides a psychological “safety-net” that makes the possibility of confirming negative stereotypes less stressful and thereby improves performance. My major contribution to the project is an examination of the role of subgroup respect (i.e., the feeling that one’s group is valued and appreciated) in moderating the effect. I predict that students high in subgroup respect will be less threatened whereas students low in subgroup respect will be more threatened, and more benefited by the intervention.

Cynthia Pickett, Ph.D.
UC Davis/psychology

Faculty Seed Grant Fellow, 2008

Title: Social Identification and the Successful Transition to College

A UC/ACCORD Faculty Research Seed Grant is being requested to develop a proposal that examines how social identities can help buffer minority students from the stress, loneliness, and uncertainty that often accompany the transition from high school to college. Although previous research has studied how factors such as social support, belonging, and racial climate impact the transition process, the proposed research takes a different approach by focusing on the benefits that can accrue from adopting particular social identities. A longitudinal study of incoming freshman will be conducted testing the hypothesis that a critical predictor of the well-being and academic achievement of minority students is the extent to which the identities that these students possess fulfill basic needs for self-esteem, certainty, assimilation, and differentiation. Study results will be used to develop a full research proposal that can yield insights into how to promote successful academic transitions for minority students.



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.



Anne Gregory
UC Berkeley/psychology

Dissertation Fellow, 2003

Dissertation: Defiance or cooperation in the high school classroom: understanding how school discipline policies impact the education of African American students

Abstract: A much-discussed achievement gap across racial and ethnic groups plagues the educational system. Less discussed is a gap in discipline– the burden of which falls mostly on African American adolescents. African American students are often excluded from class for “defiance”  suggesting pervasive authority conflicts between teachers and their African American students. Yet little research has explored what fuels or can prevent these negative interactions. This study includes a broad-scale review of discipline data at a large high school and an in-depth examination of how students and teachers experience defiance and cooperation. The study analyzes student beliefs, teaching styles, and discipline practices that promote trust, respect, and cooperation between teachers and students. The findings will provide insight into reducing the rates that African Americans are excluded from class for disciplinary reasons and for increasing their access to safe, engaging classrooms, which are critical for college preparation.


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