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Dissertation Fellows

Arshad Ali

Dissertation: The ‘Other’ at Home: The Construction of the Label ‘Muslim’ as an Emergent Racial Signifier

Abstract: Through this study I ask how this racialization process of Muslim college students in Southern California is occurring. I will engage this research through a mixed methods study employing analysis of two preexisting data sets and the collection of interview and focus group data from Muslim college students on three campuses in Southern California. To explore the questions within my study I utilize a theoretical approach drawing from multiple traditions to construct a more complex picture of Muslim college students. I utilize aspects of socio-cultural learning theory, critical race theories, post-colonialism and critical pedagogies. This project addresses questions including: how do Muslim college students characterize the U.S. culture’s representations of the ‘Muslim’ in the post-9/11 period; how do Muslim college students construct their own racial/racialized identities, and how are these racialized characterizations and identities reflected in the daily lives of Muslim college students?

Gabino Arredondo
UC Berkeley/education

Dissertation: A Social Justice High School: The Construction and Socialization of a College Going Culture

Abstract: With many urban schools that primarily serve diverse students being designated as low performing it becomes paramount to examine how the day-to-day conditions at these schools impact minority students’ preparedness, eligibility, and competitiveness for college admission. The proposed dissertation reports on a three and a half year ethnographic study that follows the establishment and eventual closure of one such small school, Panther High School, in Oakland, CA. The study focuses on the creation, co-construction, and socialization of college going identities among Latina/o and African American students. The dissertation examines these processes primarily by looking at language use, literacy practices, and critical discourses of academic achievement in the lived experiences of these students in their school and neighborhood communities. A close examination of these processes offers insight to researchers, educators, policy makers, and community organizers on the critical conditions and transitions of these underrepresented youth in pursuing a higher education.

Gabriel Baca

Dissertation: Education Organizing, Policy Advocacy and the Accountability Gap: How Activist Organizations Leverage Power for Advancing Equity-Focused Education Policy for English Learners in a Post-Proposition 227 Era

Abstract: Education organizing has increasingly been seen as a significant alternative, given the failure of traditional educational reform strategies, to realize more equitable schooling for students learning English in under-resourced communities. Dozens of organizing groups have entered the field of education reform in the last decade, helping to change the landscape of education politics in powerful ways. In the Southwest, many of these groups hope to remedy the deplorable state of education for English learners, as evidenced by high drop-out rates and poor test scores, and in light of the onerous effects of an accountability system that positions English as the superior and legitimate language to be learned in school. This activism around education has been examined very infrequently either by scholars in education or by scholars of social movements. Moreover, almost nothing is known about how these groups grapple with, make sense of, and ultimately take action around English learner issues. This study begins to fill this gap. Using a blended conceptual framework which draws from studies of equity reform in education, scholarship on education organizing and social movement theory, and using a comparative case study design, this study documents how activist groups use a variety of tools, some grounded in knowledge production and others grounded in political interaction, to advocate for English learners and hold the system accountable for their learning opportunities and outcomes. Specifically, the study examines how four different activist organizations leverage power through social movement activism for equity-focused education policy for English learners. By situating the study within the context of NCLB implementation in California, attention can be given to the complex processes through which education organizing, policy advocacy and restrictive language policies intersect.

Dafney Blanca Dabach
UC Berkeley/education

Dissertation: Teachers as a Context of Reception for Immigrant Language Minority Youth: Adaptations in 'Sheltered' and 'Mainstream' Classrooms

Abstract: This dissertation investigates how secondary teachers of immigrant students who are not fluent in English understand and enacts their practice within a system of specialized instruction called “sheltered instruction” (or SDAIE). In this qualitative study, 20 teachers of immigrant language learners who teach both sheltered and mainstream courses in social studies, math and science are being interviewed in order to determine how their curriculum and instruction vary in each. This design is unique as it follows teachers across different instructional contexts to capture their potential adaptations. Two-four case study teachers will be selected for observations and additional interviews in order to understand how explanatory variables (institutional constraints, teacher disposition, and teacher repertoire) map out in teachers’ classrooms. Understanding the process by which teachers respond and adapt to their immigrant language learners is of critical importance with direct links to the critical conditions necessary for providing college opportunities for underrepresented students.

Lindsay Huber Perez

Dissertation: Suenos Indocumentados: The Educational Experiences of Undocumented Chicana College Students at a Public California Research University

Abstract: Utilizing a LatCrit framework, this study seeks to understand how the critical issues of race, immigration status, gender, and class mediate the educational trajectories of undocumented Chicana students at a four-year public research university. This study also identified the critical conditions they have utilized to navigate higher education. A total of 40 interviews will be conducted with undocumented and U.S. born Chicana students to explore how the college experiences of undocumented and U.S. born students vary. In addition, I will conduct 2 focus groups where these experiences will be further discussed and data collaboration will take place. I provide policy recommendations for institutions of higher education, as well as state and federal legislation that will create greater educational opportunity for this student population.

Season Mussey
UC San Diego/education

Dissertation: Negotiating Identities: Student Perspectives and Strategies for Striving in and Surviving the Undergraduate STEM Experience

Abstract: Females and minority students are underrepresented in STEM careers and majors. Using a mixed methods design, this study aims to investigate and understand what strategies and behaviors first generation, low income, underrepresented minority (URM) females who graduated from an innovative college preparatory high school use to achieve success within the context of the university science culture and to understand how they perceive their academic and science identity formation within the context of a large public university. The main research questions are: In what ways does completion of a rigorous, personalized high school program with the critical conditions for enhancing college opportunities for minorities influence both the academic and social-cultural college science experiences for first generation, low income, minority students at large public universities? How are students developing their multi-cultural college-going academic identities in the context of university science classes and cultures?

Vanessa Ochoa

Dissertation: A Case Study Portrait of an Effective High School Counseling Program and its Impact on Latina/o Student Academic Preparation and the College Choice Process

Abstract: Research highlights that Latina/o high school student’s experience difficulty in their attempts to enter post-secondary education. In certain instances, Latina/o students attend high schools where they do not receive appropriate counseling to assist in their academic preparation and college choice process. This dissertation project entitled: A Case Study Portrait of an Effective High School Counseling Program and its Impact on Latina/o Student Academic Preparation and the College Choice Process paints a portrait of two Counselors of Color and their tactics and motivation for assuring that Latina/o high school students are well informed in the college-choice process. Moreover, the counselor’s ability to motivate, energize and engage their Latina/o students allows them to promote a strong college-going attitude for their students. Thus, this project provides depth to an issue that is rarely discussed in educational research: Latina/o students, their college choice process and the role of effective high school Counselor of Color.

Rema Reynolds

Dissertation: Holla If You Hear Me; Giving Voice to Those We’ve Missed: A Qualitative Examination of Black Middle Class Parent Engagement in Public Secondary Schools

Abstract: In the United States, persistent educational inequities have resulted in dramatic contrasts in both economic and social opportunities for students of color in the public school system. Researchers find that parent involvement is associated with a greater likelihood of aspiring to attend college and actually enrolling, as well as with higher grades, higher eighth grade mathematics and reading achievement, lower rates of behavioral problems, and lower likelihood of high school dropout and truancy. Merging a Critical Race Theory Framework with The Ecologies of Parent Engagement, I explore notions of agency, authorship, and space as they relate to parent engagement, seek to discover parents’ beliefs about their engagement, and develop a holistic picture of parent-school relationships. How do race and class intersect to influence parent engagement? Counter storytelling through interviews and a focus group as a qualitative methodological tool allows parents’ lived experiences to be the central focus of this study.

Veronica Terriquez

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.

Veronica Velez

Dissertation: Del Coraje a la Esperanza (From Rage to Hope): Transformation, Empowerment, and Collective Agency Among Latina/o Immigrant Parents

Abstract: This qualitative case study seeks to understand how members of ALIANZA, a Latina/o immigrant parent group, come to see themselves as agents of change and organize collectively as a result. Utilizing a LatCrit framework, this study contends that educational research erroneously characterizes Latina/o parents as disinvested in the education of their children. A more critical analysis reveals that these characterizations operate from normalized standards of what it means to be a "good" parent that fail to acknowledge the participation of Latina/o parents as well as the barriers they face within schools. Moreover, a LatCrit analysis reveals that traditional notions of civic engagement render invisible the political efforts of non-citizens, like those in ALIANZA. This study argues that ALIANZA could inform research and practice about how to build school-community partnerships in Latina/o communities, as well as how parent involvement and civic engagement intersect in campaigns for social justice on behalf of Latina/o immigrant parents. To examine notions of consciousness and collective action, this study uses a Freirean pedagogical perspective that broadly guides its main inquiry. Data from this study are collected from semi-structured interviews, focus groups, participant observation, and organizational archives.


PostDoctoral Fellows

Kevin Binning, Ph.D.

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.


Faculty Seed Grant

Robert Fairlie, Ph.D.
UC Santa Cruz/economics

Title: Does Improving Access to Computers Help Community College Students on Financial Aid: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Rural Northern California

Twenty-five percent of young people in the U.S., primarily from poor, minority and immigrant families, do not have home computers. The lack of access to home computers may place them at a disadvantage in educational attainment and the labor market. The proposed study uses a novel field experiment to address the question of whether home computers improve educational outcomes. The effects of home computers will be studied by randomly assigning free computers to financial aid students at a rural community college in Northern California. A computer refurbishing company has donated 150 computers worth $30,000 for the field experiment. The study would represent the first random assignment evaluation of the effects of home computers on educational outcomes and the first study of the effects of home computers on community college students. Findings from this research may have important implications for improving the educational outcomes of financial aid students attending community colleges.

Cynthia Pickett, Ph.D.
UC Davis/psychology

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.

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