Current Projects

Students’ Experience of Required Courses

Since the early 1990s, a small body of research has emerged demonstrating that college courses focused on race and gender inequality change students in meaningful ways, and that these changes can be lasting. However, much less is known about the processes or mechanisms through which these changes occur (Zirkel & Cantor, 2004). Moreover, the pre- and post-course design commonly employed in this literature means that any assessment of course-related factors is retrospective and based on students’ self-report, which may be confounded with their attitudes toward the course content.  This project, funded by the National Center for Institutional Diversity, aims to understand characteristics of students and courses that contribute to the changes in attitudes observed in diversity-themed courses while avoiding some of the limitations in the extant literature. We are currently collecting data from 1st year students enrolled in courses meeting the Race & Ethncity requirement, including pre- and post- course surveys as well as weekly surveys asking about course content and their cognitive and affective responses to the course.  First year students enrolled in introduction to psychology are the comparison group.  Planned analyses will address questions such as: Which students are most and least likely to change?  What features of the course predict change?  Are there meaningful interactions between student characteristics and features of the course (that is, are some types of students more likely to experience attitudinal/behavioral given certain features of the course)?

Women’s Life Paths Study: 2008 Follow Up

WLPS is a longitudinal study of college educated women who came of age during the late 1060s, a time of social change that profoundly affected the lives of women and racial minorities in the US.  We are currently in the process of collecting the fourth wave of data for this study.  For more information, click here.

Race and Femininity

Feminist theorists argue that the practices and ideologies associated with femininity reflect a gendered power structure in which women are subordinate to men, and in turn, some women attain higher status than others through their successful enactment of a prescriptive set of normative feminine behaviors. These ideals are pervasive, promulgated through social networks and cultural institutions such as mass media, schools, voluntary associations and families.  Consequently, all women engage with this feminine ideal as they construct and perform gender (Mahalik et al., 2005; Pyke & Johnson, 2003). Collins (2004)  referred to this femininity as hegemonic, suggesting beliefs about desirable gender practices help to maintain inequality by persuading subordinated people that ideologies favorable to the ruling group are natural or common sense.  She argued these prescriptive ideals represent “a normative yardstick for all femininities in which Black women are relegated to the bottom of the gender hierarchy” (p. 193).  However, little work has attempted to understand how race is related to the every day ways that individuals perform gender, and how different racialized versions of masculinity and femininity might be unequally valued in our society.  My students and I are currently working on several different projects exploring how women of different races perceive and perform femininity, in areas such as body image, political attitudes and participation in voluntary organizations.  Click here for one example of this research.