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Yvonne Kwan
UC Santa Cruz/sociology

Dissertation Fellow, 2013

Kelly Nielsen
UC San Diego/sociology

Dissertation Fellow, 2013


Jessica Cobb
UC Berkeley/sociology

Dissertation Fellow, 2011

Dissertation: Shocking Inequality: Teachers’ Subjective Experiences of Unequal Schools

Abstract: This dissertation examines the *critical conditions* that impact teachers’ subjective experiences of their work as they negotiate the “uncomfortable middle ground” between students and unequal school systems, enhancing our understanding of the processes that mediate race/class disparities in schooling outcomes. This comparative study is based on in-depth interviews with teachers at high schools in three independent school districts in L.A. County that vary in terms of student demographics, material resources, and relationship to the local community. The research examines the complex process of developing a self-as-teacher for individuals who vary in terms of their personal backgrounds and teacher training, and who negotiate interpersonal and institutional relationships within unequal schools. Thus, this dissertation will help us to develop a more nuanced sense of the conditions confronting teachers, how they process these conditions, and the stances they develop that may help them to understand, cope with, and perhaps challenge systems of oppression.



Brianne Dávila
UC Santa Barbara/sociology

Dissertation Fellow, 2010

Dissertation: Negotiating ‘Special’ Identities: Structure and Agency in Special Education

Abstract: This study is a qualitative exploration and analysis of Latina/o student experiences in special education, specifically in the Resource Specialist Program (RSP) in an urban high school located in Southern California. Using an ethnographic approach, observations, in-depth interviews (with students, parents and teachers) and educational case studies are analyzed in order to determine the role of educational experiences and student interactions in shaping student identity, academic performance and motivation. I focus on the role of schools as social institutions, and teaching and learning as cultural practices in order to understand their role in the production of racially gendered identities for Latina/o students enrolled in special education. This research contributes to the sociological and educational literature that seeks to challenge deficit notions traditionally attributed to the educational outcomes of Latina/o students and expose the way social institutions and interactions shape the life opportunities of Latina/o students enrolled in special education.

Erica Morales

Dissertation Fellow, 2010

Dissertation: Financial (In)stability: Class and Black Student Experiences within Higher Education

Abstract: The study of intra-group differences among Black students has been an overlooked topic within higher education research. Yet these important within-group differences can work to create different experiences at the university for Black students. Utilizing critical social theory and intersectionality frameworks, I examine how class shapes the lives of Black undergraduate students at UCLA. Drawing upon sixty-two, semi-structured, in-depth interviews with Black students, I focus on the experiences of students in three groups: solidly middle-class, lower middle-class and low-income. I analyze how class influences the ways students experience: financial challenges at the university, relationships with their Black peers and access to Black student organizations. This research can inform university policy and programs that can be designed to better support Black students from different class backgrounds as they navigate higher education.

Daisy Verduzco Reyes
UC Irvine/sociology

Dissertation Fellow, 2010

Dissertation: Latino Student Politics: Constructing Ethnic Identities in Organizations

Abstract: My dissertation examines the process of constructing and expressing identity in Latino student organizations on three different college campuses. Using data obtained through ethnographic observations, 72 in-depth interviews and organizational member surveys, I develop an understanding of 1) how three universities —varying resources, diversity, size, and selectivity ¾ shape the Latino student organizations that emerge on campus; 2) what resources and ways of understanding Latino identities student organizations provide their members; 3) how groups draw boundaries for membership into a Latino group; 4) how groups define a Latino community’s concerns; and 5) how Latinos integrated in institutions of higher education identify ethnically-racially. The fundamental goal of this dissertation is to examine the diverse racial-ethnic identity constructions and experiences that emerge in Latino student organizations on a Southern California campus today.



L. Esthela Bañuelos
UC Santa Cruz/sociology

Dissertation Fellow, 2009

Dissertation: (Re)Producing Difference: Academic Cultures and the Making of “Women of Color” Ph.D.s

Abstract: This study examines the social relations intersecting everyday experiences of racialized women Ph.D. students and the academic cultures in which they participate in order to gain insights into knowledge formation processes and racial/ethnic identity formations at the graduate level. This study seeks to understand the experiences of graduate students from a comparative lens, with racialized women the primary analytic focus. Research was conducted at the University of California Berkeley and consisted of a survey that yielded 171 respondents and in-depth interviews of 51 participants (30 core interviews of racialized women and 21 comparative interviews of men of color, white women, and white men). I argue that the complex positioning of racialized women in the academy has important theoretical implications for the study of knowledge formations that has to date, been largely overlooked. Through identifying 'best practices' that can have an impact on diversity and representation, the policy contributions of this project may ultimately benefit all students.


Veronica Terriquez

Dissertation Fellow, 2008

Dissertation: Latino Parental School Involvement in Los Angeles County: Opportunities and Challenges

Abstract: Latino parental school engagement has important implications for addressing disparities in student outcomes and increasing the accountability of schools to the Latino communities that they serve. Yet research on parental school involvement has not adequately accounted for variations in Latino parental school involvement, especially among immigrant working mothers and fathers. Using an immigrant incorporation theoretical framework to guide my analysis, I examine how race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, immigrant background characteristics, parental employment, and school conditions are related to Latino parental school participation. I also investigate how parents‚ gender, work schedules, labor union participation, and access to labor union resources influence their engagement in children‚ schools. My study uses data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey, as well as survey and qualitative data gathered from the Los Angeles County membership of the Service Employees International Union Local 1877.



Melanie Toshiye Jones
UC Davis/sociology

Dissertation Fellow, 2007

Dissertation: Educational Advantages: Race, Class, and Teacher-Student Relationships

Abstract: Past research emphasizes the importance of teachers in motivating students in school, especially African American students. However, we know little about why or how teacher-student relationships help students gain educational advantages or additional support from teachers. We also do not know how race and social class faciliate or impede teacher-student relationships or how students benefit from such relationships. This dissertation uses ethnographic methods, interviews, and observations at a public high school in California with a substantial African American population and diversity in social class to examine how race and social class shape relationships between African American students and their teachers. This project also investigates how teacher-student relationships help students gain increased support in planning course schedules and preparing for higher education. In doing so, this project will highlight the specific roles teachers play in reinforcing or moderating the relationship between social class and preparation for college among African American students.

Rosaura Tafoya-Estrada
UC Irvine/sociology

Dissertation Fellow, 2007

Dissertation: Multi-Generational Educational Trajectories of the Mexican-Origin Population

Abstract: This study examines the different pathways of educational mobility undertaken by descendants of immigrants in pursuit of upward mobility. Specifically, how 1.5, second and third generation Mexican descendants make decisions about family, housing/neighborhood and work responsibilities that affect educational mobility? By comparing the experiences of men and women across the generations, documentation of individuals’ lived experiences will help discern specific trade-offs and constraints affecting each generation. The study will draw from the Intergenerational Immigrant Mobility in Metropolitan Los Angeles (IIMMLA) project that covers more than four generations of persons of Mexican-origin. Based on a total of 100 in-depth interviews and utilizing immigrant incorporation theory, the project examines at what point and under what conditions, Mexican-Americans alter, delay or enhance their educational trajectories. This research will contribute to the growing body of knowledge on multi-generational educational attainment focusing on the intersection of race/ethnicity, class and gender.

Cynthia Feliciano, Ph.D.
UC Irvine/sociology and Chicano/Latino studies

Faculty Seed Grant Fellow, 2007

Title: Gender and Ethnic Disparities in Early School Engagement among Children of Immigrants

Why are female children of immigrants more successful in school than males? Why are boys from some ethnic groups particularly disadvantaged? This research explores these questions by analyzing school engagement—children’s behaviors and interest in elementary school—an important predictor of subsequent achievement. It is hypothesized that gender and ethnic differences in academic engagement can be explained by: (1) differences in family cultural resources, such as parental expectations, parental control and language fluency and (2) differential effects of school context and climate. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative sample of children from kindergarten through fifth grade, the study examines these factors’ influence on children from different ethnic groups, including Mexicans, Filipinos, Indians, and Vietnamese. Understanding early ethnic and gender disparities in academic engagement can illuminate the causes of later disparities in educational attainment, and has important implications for targeting policies towards the most disadvantaged groups.



Roberta Espinoza
UC Berkeley/sociology

Dissertation Fellow, 2006

Dissertation: Educational Pivotal Moments: Overcoming Class and Ethnic Disadvantage in Women’s Access to Higher Education.

Abstract: This study examines the ways in which Latina, African American, and White female doctoral candidates organize their social support networks in graduate school, with an emphasis on the importance of “pivotal moments.” Pivotal moments are times when students first have access to educational social capital via an intensive academic social support network that launches them in a trajectory of educational advancement. Drawing from 50 open-ended interviews and using a social capital theoretical perspective, this study explores the timing of pivotal moments in predicting educational success in higher education. The data indicate that women who experience ‘early’ pivotal moments have broader support networks, more fellowships, grants, and conference presentations while women who experience ‘late’ pivotal moments have small support networks, fewer fellowships, grants, and conference presentations. Thus, pivotal moments have important policy implications for minority women’s access to and success in higher education.

Erendira Rueda
UC Berkeley/sociology

Dissertation Fellow, 2006

Dissertation: Navigating School Transitions: Trajectories of Academic Engagement Among Children from Low-Income Mexican Immigrant Families.

Abstract: Many students experience negative outcomes following school transitions, such as declines in attendance, grades, attitudes toward learning, and classroom engagement. These patterns are particularly prominent among students from working class, urban, linguistic and/or racial/ethnic minority backgrounds. This study explores how children from low-income, Mexican immigrant families navigate the transition from elementary to middle school and highlights the ways in which school culture, racial demographics, institutional practices, and student-teacher relations affect student academic trajectories. A significant body of research suggests that students from different social and cultural backgrounds experience and perceive schooling in vastly different ways and emphasizes the social-cultural orientations that students bring to school are the most important factors affecting student engagement. This study seeks to counter the overemphasis of the influences of race, class, gender, family, and social experiences outside of school in order to bring to light the power schools and educators have to affect students’ schooling experiences and academic engagement.



Elvia Ramirez
UC Riverside/sociology

Dissertation Fellow, 2005

Dissertation: Navigating Through Highly Unequal Terrain: Latinos and Latinas in Graduate Education

About: This study will investigate how University of California policies, as well as inequalities embedded in the graduate schooling process itself, impact the educational trajectories of Latino/a doctoral students. Research suggests that recent policies enacted by the University of California system, including budget cuts, narrowing of admissions criteria, and increases in student fees, threaten the academic presence of Latinos/as and other historically underrepresented students at the undergraduate level.  Less concern and research, however, has focused on how these and other University of California policies also impact Latinos/as at the doctoral level. This dissertation will examine how University of California policies, as well as race, class, and gender inequities embedded in the graduate schooling process, impact Latinos/as’ access to, and experiences in, doctoral degree programs in the University of California system.



Maria Martinez-Cosio, Ph.D.
UC San Diego/sociology

Postdoctoral Fellow, 2003

Title: Parent Volunteers Becoming Parent Advocates in Urban School Reform

Reforms across the country have struggled to involve  parents from communities that are not well represented in post secondary education. This study investigates the impact of parent involvement in a contentious school reform effort heralded as one of the most comprehensive in the nation.  This study investigates how parents from different groups impact their children’s schools and schooling. It examines the varying impact of strategies used by African American, Latino and affluent Anglo groups to increase college going opportunities for their children. With a particular focus on a school reform parent advocacy program for parents who are English language learners, this research analyzes the political successes and failures of the parent groups as they sought to redistribute scarce resources and improve their urban schools.

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