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Discussion during APA Conference

In July, the College of Education’s Educational Psychology Department hosted the 5thBiennial American Psychological Association Division 45 Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity, and Race Research Conference. It is the only psychology conference that focuses entirely on culture, ethnicity, and race and the biases present because of these factors.

“In the current climate, it is imperative now more than ever that psychological research is utilized to help communities of color address these current issues related to immigration and the increase of racial tensions,” said Professor Kevin Cokley, who co-coordinated the conference with fellow College of Education Associate Professor Germine Awad.

Interdisciplinary Collaborations Help Address Complex Problems

The pre-conference opened with a panel presentation and discussion, Fostering Effective and Impactful Interdisciplinary Collaborations. College of Education Assistant Professor Sarah Kate Bearman, a clinical child psychologist, presented.

Bearman’s research focuses on effective interventions for underserved children and their families. She explained how her work within a transdisciplinary space—which involves basic science, translational and intervention research, as well as organizational science, interaction with doctors, nurses, care givers, and health communicators—leads to better outcomes.

“The best way to solve complex social and health problems,” said Bearman, “is a participatory team science framework, which is a collaborative effort.”

This interdisciplinary approach helps her create and implement culturally responsive health care interventions for children and families, such as an e-health parenting intervention that can be delivered during routine well-child visits in pediatric primary care clinics. Bearman stressed that team science and community-based participatory research involves continual input from the community. “The research is done with the participants, rather than on them.”

Racial Biases Create Health Disparities

Keynote speaker Lonnie Snowden kicked off the conference. Currently a professor at University of California, Berkeley, he teaches in the Health Policy and Management program in the School of Public Health.

In his address, The Affordable Care Act (ACA), Racial Bias, and Behavioral Healthcare for African Americans, Snowden discussed how policy has impacted ACA expansion, increased access to and quality of behavioral healthcare for minorities, and how biases and stereotypes have negatively impacted Medicaid expansions.

The current combination of biases, both implicit and explicit, and stereotypes surrounding African-Americans and Medicaid recipients has created the concept of the “undeserving poor,” those who supposedly do not deserve healthcare Keynote Speaker Lonnie Snowdencoverage due to their income, race, employment status, or a variety of other factors, said Snowden.

He explained how the concept of the undeserving poor and misconceptions about Medicaid participants has created consequences for public health, healthcare delivery, and employment. This merging of stereotypes has exasperated underlying racial biases in healthcare policies and has led to coverage gaps.

Snowden encouraged psychologists to increase their roles in policy, stating that “what happens in policy creation and implementation can have either a positive or negative impact on people’s lives. The things that we study effect a lot of people, they matter.”

Psychologists of Color and Public Policy

In addition to presentations of findings and networking for practitioners, researchers and students, a plenary panel presented Using Psychology to Impact Public Policy: The Role of Psychologists of Color.

Rice Academy Affiliate Fellow Luz Garcini discussed how her background as a 16-year-old undocumented immigrant impacts her research. She shared with the audience how she frames the issues surrounding undocumented immigrants in terms that can affect public policy, particularly by focusing on the unaddressed health care needs of the population and the subsequent toll those needs take on them and the larger society.

Awad discussed how her research about how Americans of Middle East, North African descent has helped inform policy discussions of categorization of this population within the 2020 Census. All of the panelists stressed that though policy work is difficult and time-consuming, psychologists of color, and those who address issues related to people of color, need to be in the room in order to improve the health and well-being of diverse populations.

This was the first time the conference has been held at the University of Texas at Austin. Previous conferences were held at the University of Michigan, where it was founded by Professor and VP of Diversity Robert Sellers; the University of Oregon; and Stanford. 

Cokley is the Oscar and Anne Mauzy Regents Professor for Educational Research and Development. 

China’s former One Child Policy had profound effects on the parenting of children in the country. As China promoted the policy, extolling the benefits of “high-quality” only children, parents began to devote extraordinary time, attention, and resources to their single child. The children also felt pressure to be the “great” offspring that their parents and country expected them to be.

It was thought that such inordinate attention to and pressure on only children would create generations of “Little Emperors,” children with an exceedingly high self-regard, leading to egocentric character traits considered negative, especially in Chinese society.

Educational Psychology Professor Toni Falbo has spent much of her career studying the effects of China’s One Child Policy on children. Her latest study evaluated research previously published about China’s only children through a new lens that included what has been learned in intervening years.

Head shot of Professor Toni Falbo

Toni Falbo

Falbo’s research compared how only children saw themselves and how they were seen by others, such as the parents and classmates. The results show that singleton boys had a high regard for themselves, a high level that did not match the assessment others had of them. Meanwhile, singleton girls assessed themselves as others saw them.

Says Falbo, “Gender seems to moderate the self-enhancement attributes of the only children we studied. Whereas the boys described themselves more positively than did their parents and peers, the girls described themselves as positively as their parents and peers.” In fact, says Falbo, the girls’ self-assessment was comparable to the self-assessment of girls with siblings.

“While China’s One Child Policy caused parents to favor boys with some negative consequences regarding their egocentricity, it had a positive impact on girls,” says Falbo. She believes that this is because parents devoted resources and attention to girls in a manner that they would not have prior to the policy. “The One Child Policy opened up opportunities for girls, which created a positive effect for female only children.”

To read more, download “Evaluations of the behavioral attributes of only children in Beijing, China: moderating effects of gender and the one-child policy” and listen to a BBC story about only children that features Falbo’s research.

-Feature photo by Lau keith on Unsplash

Divorce. Addiction. Chronic Illness. Jail. These traumas occur in American life at all societal levels, and they affect the lives of both adults and children every day. When kids are affected by traumatic events, they bring the effects of that trauma with them to school. Depression, anxiety and trauma-induced behavioral challenges impact their ability to learn and their relationships with teachers and peers.

Educational Psychology alumnus Elizabeth Minne, Ph.D. ’06, is helping to provide an outlet for students to deal with some of these issues for Austin Independent School District (AISD) students through on-campus school mental health centers. Vida Clinic, which was founded by Minne, has partnered with AISD to provide on-campus mental health centers with licensed counselors.

Elizabeth Minne

Initially implemented at Crockett High School, mental health services have expanded to 18 middle and high schools, and 22 elementary schools. These schools serve students who live in multilingual neighborhoods, many of which have a higher proportion of crime and a lack of transportation. These factors can lead to issues such as disruptive behavior or chronic absenteeism.

The stress that students experience can lead to disruptive behavior in and out of class that can, in turn, lead to suspensions or expulsions. Meeting with a counselor provides a way for students to work through their issues, without relying on punitive measures that help fuel the school-to-prison pipeline.

Vida Clinic helps fill a void that school counselors typically cannot take on. Most school counselors are required to spend the majority of their time supporting students academically—making sure students are earning their school credits and are on track to graduate. The job of Vida Clinic’s clinical therapists is to support student mental health. When counselors encounter students who are struggling emotionally, they can refer students to the on-site clinic for mental health services. Students do not have to travel and miss minimal class time. This also means that parents or guardians do not have to take time off of work to take children to appointments.

A case study from the 2016-2017 school year at Crockett High School offers support that these services benefit the students who participate. Compared to a control group, students in the treatment group exhibited increased attendance, fewer expulsions, and higher academic performance.

Teachers and parents can be involved in a variety of ways, says Minne. “They can participate in individual therapy services for themselves. They can take part in individual consultation services in order to develop trauma-informed strategies for responding to challenging student behaviors. They can participate in small group workshops to develop skills and knowledge of mental health concepts. Or they can attend campus-wide presentations for initial learning of mental health concepts, such as Trauma-Informed Care.”

The on-campus clinics also help destigmatize mental health. When appropriate, therapists can also work with the student’s parents or teachers, taking a holistic approach to mental health.

Providing teachers with resources to deal with disruptive behavior can also help reduce teacher stress. “Teachers can sometimes take disruptive behavior from students personally, when many times the disruptive behavior has less to do with the teacher and more to do with stress or mental health issues the student is facing,” says Christopher McCarthy, a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education.

McCarthy and his graduate students have collaborated with Minne for several years to help teachers develop coping resources for classroom stress. They also help improve teachers’ occupational health and allow them to better recognize when students might be experiencing mental health concerns.

Says Minne, “We find that when we have mental health professionals on campuses who are able to provide therapeutic support for everyone, both the adults and the students, the climate begins to shift to one that is more open to talking about mental health. It becomes easier for everyone to acknowledge that mental health is something that we all need to pay attention to. As one teacher told me, ‘It takes a village, we are all in this together.’”

 

Be Loved on a beam

Photo by Elijah Macleod on Unsplash

Valentine’s Day can be challenging for those without a partner to shower them with tokens of affection. The holiday also sets up expectations for those in romantic relationships—expectations that may backfire.

Kristin NeffProfessor Kristen Neff in Educational Psychology., associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education, studies the impact of self-compassion on people’s emotional and psychological health. She says that Valentine’s Day can present a terrific opportunity for people to show themselves self-compassion, which can lead to greater emotional satisfaction and actually improve intimate relationships.

According to Neff, people who are not partnered can “ask themselves what they need and want from a partner. They may come up with answers like love, being heard, being seen for who they are. They can make a list of those things, and they can give those things to themselves.”

She recommends that people also give themselves validation and appreciation verbally.  A person can say to themselves, aloud, “I’m here for you. I care about you,” and meet that need for themselves.

Research also shows that self-touch impacts the body and mind positively. “The warmth of human touch has a positive impact, even if that touch is from your own hand,” says Neff. She recommends placing your hand over your heart while speaking words of kindness to yourself. “Doing so can help ease the sadness a person may feel about not having a partner.”

People often have high expectations of days like Valentine’s Day. Neff recommends letting go of those expectations. “A supportive and open-hearted attitude for the particular situation can be especially helpful,” she says. “And if a person is not in a relationship and wants one, it’s important for the person to accept that desire, have compassion for the struggle, and also remember that relationships can bring both joy and pain.”

In the end, says Neff, “Meeting your own needs and showing yourself compassion, acceptance, and kindness are important activities that also lead a person to be more kind and supportive to their sweetheart too.”

Self-compassion, she says, “is not only good for individuals, it’s also good for relationships too.”

Valentine’s Day is a day for romance—cards and chocolates, flowers and dinner dates. It’s a day to celebrate love and affection.

But are men really that into it? Or are they just going along to keep their partners happy?

Aaron Rochlen researches men and masculinity, with a focus on men’s mental health. He’s a program director and professor in the Department of Educational Psychology in the College of Education. He offers his perspective on how Valentine’s Day is perceived by many men who identify as heterosexual. He also discusses why it may be hard for some men to express their feelings openly.

Is Valentine’s Day an Obligation?

“Speaking in broad generalizations, women in relationships are perceived as embracing the romantic element that Valentine’s Day reinforces,” says Rochlen. “Women may be seeking an emotional connection they don’t always receive, or at least not as much as they’d prefer, from their male partners.”

“My sense is that men have this same emotional capacity, but accessing and expressing emotions may be more difficult to many guys,” says Rochlen.

The pressure to express that emotion may add to a sense of obligation some men feel about making a big deal about Valentine’s Day.

Rochlen says that personally, he’d rather not be on a timeline for expressing closeness and generosity. “When men feel there’s a specific date to express emotions—like Valentine’s Day— hanging over them, it’s tricky. Many guys would rather take out their partners for dinner or be romantic at other points in their relationship, when it comes more naturally or spontaneously, instead of being dictated by a calendar.”

Rochlen says he’s seen that pressure from family, friends, and even significant others can influence a man’s perception of masculinity.

“Men often are reinforced by culture to equate love with sexuality versus relational closeness and affection,” says Rochlen. “Men are socialized in troublesome ways to be sexually dominant and demonstrate power over women.”

There’s Hope

Yet men may feel that they scorned for being too masculine, but ridiculed for not being masculine enough. This Catch-22 can influence how they see Valentine’s Day.

However, Rochlen says he’s noticing a cultural movement that’s redefining masculinity—it’s becoming more acceptable for men to express their vulnerable side, even with each other. “There’s a shift toward men deciding ‘let’s embrace each other—metaphorically and literally.’”

Rochlen’s recent op-ed in Psychology Today, “A Positive and Refined Masculinity,” takes a look at how physical and emotional contact among men is changing. He references the NFL’s 2018 Super Bowl commercial featuring Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. “It shows us a different message of masculinity — one of playfulness, creativity, closeness with other men.” The NFL wouldn’t have considered airing an ad like this even five years ago.

Photo of Aaron Rochlen

Aaron Rochlen

Rochlen says the NFL may be opening up a new playbook on masculinity that a lot of men could follow.

Are we seeing men’s perceptions of Valentine’s Day changing? Maybe.

As more men begin to think it’s acceptable to express vulnerability and care, maybe their perception of Valentine’s Day will shift too. Says Rochlen, “And that would really be something to celebrate.”

 

 

Sara Bearman and Erin Rodriguez

Sarah Kate Bearman

Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Psychology

Erin M. Rodriguez

Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Psychology

Children need and deserve mental health care that has been tested and found to be effective. Sarah Kate Bearman is nationally recognized for the study of dissemination and implementation of psychosocial interventions for children and families in schools, clinics, and primary care settings. Erin Rodriguez studies family and sociocultural influences on children’s health. Her work focuses on understanding cultural and developmental processes in children’s coping with stress, with the goal of informing culturally relevant interventions to reduce health disparities.

 

 

 

Graduation Cap and career options

Graphics by freepik.com

College is a time when many people engage in the exploration, self-discovery, and knowledge building that will shape who they are and what they will achieve in their future. During these few years, students are often learning for the first time where their passions lie.

Choosing a major that aligns with their interests early in their college career can have significant positive impacts on students’ engagement in the coursework and career preparedness. It can also decrease the amount of time that students take to earn their degree, which helps lower their student debt and increases their overall earning potential and career trajectory. These are some of the reasons The University of Texas at Austin has made graduating within four years one of its top priorities for undergraduates.

But deciding on a career early within the college journey can be a bit like building a road while walking on it. Students may not have the time or support to translate their interests into a viable career option.

Head shot of and portrait of Dr. Chris McCarthy in the Department of Educational Psychology. My research focuses on three distinct lines of inquiry in stress and coping: (a) wellness and health psychology, (b) identification of psychological resources that can help prevent stress, and (c) extending basic research on stress and coping to educational settings, particularly in understanding the stress that educators and counselors experience.

Christopher McCarthy

One way to help ensure a speedy graduation rate is to have a well-thought out career plan, says Christopher McCarthy, a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology. McCarthy teaches Introduction to Career Planning, a course that helps students map their future and get the most out of their degree. In the class, McCarthy walks students through the process, looking at the lifespan of a career, as opposed to simply focusing on finding a job out of college.

In addition to looking at the potential career’s lifespan, McCarthy emphasizes the importance of social resourcefulness as a way to manage stress throughout a career. “It’s essential that students to learn how to successfully cope with stress early on. Students need to be comfortable asking for feedback, talking about stress, and managing the natural loss/gain of jobs,” says McCarthy.

The class also incorporates social aspects into the process. Students evaluate how attributes such as their personality, values, ethnicity, and gender can help shape their career outcome. This process can help them narrow their options when choosing a major, which can often be overwhelming at larger universities.

McCarthy emphasizes two points to undergraduates who may be unsure about their career path:

  1. Find ways to test out aspects of a career to see what type of work you like to do. This could be anything from finding out if you like working indoors or outdoors, your preferred work-life balance, or if you would like to work for a nonprofit or private company. Even if you’re not doing the type of work you want, you can gauge how you might like the environment you will be working in.
  2. Explore ways to be a part of a professional community. Building connections within your field can be one of the most important steps in your career development. Interacting with people who are passionate about their work and having organic conversations with them can lead to opportunities that you may not have known existed.

Introduction to Career Planning is open to all undergraduates at Texas. Currently, students from several majors and years are enrolled in the course. The course is a hybrid course, consisting of in-person and interactive online assignments.

There are noticeable differences in academics and the employment gap that statistics can show between deaf learners and the general population. Stephanie Cawthon of the Department of Educational Psychology discusses the obstacles and attitudes towards deaf learners that influence their outcomes, and what can be done to combat these. This Ed Talk examines the tyranny of low expectations and the importance of understanding root causes when working to reduce inequities in education.

Stephanie Cawthon investigates issues of equity and access in education from multiple vantage points. Cawthon is a national expert on issues related to standardized assessment and students who are deaf or hard of hearing, particularly in the context of accountability reforms such as No Child Left Behind. She is the Associate Director for Research and Evidence Synthesis at pepnet2, a Technical Assistance and Dissemination project that serves individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Cawthon explores assessment issues such as the effects of accommodations or item modifications on test scores for students with disabilities and English Language Learners.

 

Kevin Cokley Changemaker Portrait

Kevin Cokley

Professor, Educational Psychology and African and African Diaspora Studies

Fellow, The University of Texas System Academy of Distinguished Teachers and the American Psychological Association

Director, Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis

Former Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Black Psychology

Oscar and Anne Mauzy Regents Professorship for Educational Research and Development

Kevin Cokley has been honored for his contributions to counseling psychology as well as ethnic minority psychology. He actively shares his knowledge and insights through public writing of op-eds and research-based commentaries.

 

Texas Education Abroad

What starts here changes the world. Explore the ways our students and faculty study around the globe.

Dr. Bartholomew's class in switzerland

Sport Psychology in Switzerland

Students from the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education and other UT departments studied in Lausanne, Switzerland, during the 2017 Maymester. Department Chair John Bartholomew taught a course on Sport Psychology at the University of Lausanne

Lausanne, Switzerland

Dr. Skerret with Scotland government officials

Allison Skerrett Informs Scotland Government

Associate Professor Allison Skerrett was chosen as a global scholar to address educational inequalities in Scotland. Skerrett researches how to better understand the educational needs and gifts of a multicultural student population.

Scotland, United Kingdom

Dr. Jim Hoffman with students in Mozambique

Jim Hoffman Extends Literacy in Africa

Since the late 1990s, James Hoffman has worked in South Africa, Malawi, and Mozambique on literacy projects and teacher education supported by different agencies including private foundations in South Africa, USAID and the Canadian government.  A professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, his work is part of a collaborative effort with faculty at UT San Antonio.

Mozambique, Africa

North Cooc photo

North Cooc Researches Special Needs Teacher Preparation

North Cooc conducts research at the OECD headquarters in Paris on special needs teacher preparedness, and the factors that may predict differences globally.

Paris, France

Faculty in Ecuador with a longhorns banner

Health Outcomes in Ecuador

For more than 10 years, Julie Maslowsky has conducted research in partnership with the Ministry of Health in Quito, Ecuador, to help improve health outcomes for women and babies. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education.

Quito, Ecuador

Video conference with New Zealand University

Distance Learning in New Zealand

Mark O’Reilly, chair of the Department of Special Education, leads a collaboration with researchers at New Zealand’s Victoria Wellington University. He and students in the autism and developmental disabilities research group connect regularly through virtual conferencing.

Wellington, New Zealand

Pearl diver in Japan

Pearl Diving in Japan

Hirofumi Tanaka of the Kinesiology and Health Education Department traveled to Japan to research pearl divers, and the effect that diving has on their physiological attributes such as arterial stiffness.

Tsukuba, Japan

ESL in Guatemala study abroad

ESL in Guatemala

Faculty from the Bilingual/Bicultural Education and Cultural Studies in Education programs bring a group of UT students on study abroad program to Antigua, Guatemala, where students take classes and volunteer at ESL schools.

Antigua, Guatemala

Juarez Girls Rising book cover

Claudia Cervantes-Soon Publishes Book on Juarez Girls

Cervantes-Soon’s Juarez Girls Rising is told through the stories of 10 girls attending school in Ciudad de Juarez, Mexico. The book provides a counternarrative to stories of regional violence, focusing on agency and resistance students can gain from a school community.

Juarez, Mexico

Photo of Toni Falbo and graduate student Sophia Y. Hooper

Psychological Advantages for China’s Only Children

Research from Professor Toni Falbo and graduate student Sophia Y. Hooper shows that China’s only children are more likely to have educated parents and, though they do receive more resources, expectations and pressures placed upon them.

China

Photo of Ricardo Ainslie

Ricardo Ainslie Conducts Low-Income Needs Assessment in Mexico

Professor Ricardo Ainslie and a research team have created a comprehensive assessment of health needs, determinants, and resources in underserved areas of Puebla, Mexico.

Puebla, Mexico

Photo of Soyoung Park

Soyoung Park Looks at Mental Health in South Korea

Special Education Assistant Professor Soyoung Park is working with a research team to use qualitative research in helping shift the public mindset on mental health and suicide in South Korea.

South Korea

Photo of Kevin Cokley and Team Going to Ghana

Kevin Cokley Helps Mitigate Effects of Colorism in Ghana

Professor Kevin Cokley is working with a research team to identify and mitigate the negative effects of colorism in Ghana.

Ghana, West Africa

barbell in gym

Establishing a Fitness Center in Shanghai

Professors Xiaofen Keating and Louis Harrison, Jr. are establishing an American Fitness Center in Shanghai aiming to introduce U.S. fitness culture to the Chinese population.

Shanghai, China