Two years ago, I found myself leaving home for a study abroad trip in a small, Canadian island, Newfoundland. Going far outside of the comfort of diverse California to a primarily White community helped me to really grasp what it felt like to be self-conscious about the color of my skin. Never in my years had I felt the horrid loneliness of being a minority with no one else to lean on. One of the classes I decided to take that semester was social psychology. My professor there spent a majority of our classes focusing on stigma and discrimination and I could not be more thankful. I began to spend my free time reading all of the articles Dr. Naholny would send us at the end of each class. Instead of satisfying my craving, I was still hungry for more. It wasn’t until he suggested I become a research assistant at my home institution that I found what I had been looking for. After reaching out to researchers with similar research interests as me, I found out about Dr. Wellman’s lab focusing on stigma. After explaining to me the various projects I could involve myself in, I eagerly agreed to become his research assistant.
Dr. Wellman recommended I spend my summer with SPSP’s SPUR program. This may have been one of the greatest decisions of my undergraduate career. I had the privilege of working under Dr. Keith Maddox’s social psychology lab across the country in Medford, Massachusetts. I learned many techniques on how to better organize my data as well as efficient tools to conduct literature searches. Although we have not yet begun to collect data, Dr. Maddox has walked me through the process of conducting viable research up until this point. I am fortunate to have been asked to continue to work on these projects until their completion.
Situational selection is an idea that states that people choose the situations they enter in order to regulate their emotions. In our specific study, we focus on White individuals who avoid interracial interactions in order to prevent anticipated anxiety in the short term. However, avoiding interracial interactions can have long term consequences such as not having a racial dialogue. This particular study is unique in the fact that it allows participants a choice to engage. It has been rewarding to read about all of the previous work that has been done on similar topics. It has been quite the journey to go from not at all understanding the first couple of articles I read to finally understanding the deep concepts presented after reading the 25th! I have been able to experience such a tremendous growth in just the few, short weeks I have been on this project. Not only have I been reading about different scientists’ work, but I have helped in bringing the survey for this study to life.
Dr. Maddox and I will be collecting data from participants using Mechanical Turk in the coming weeks. I have been placed in charge of running participants and assisting with the sorting of the data. I am eager to see what the data has to say about the hypotheses we have formed for this particular study. I’d like to thank Dr. Maddox for the opportunity to take me under his wing these past few months. I’d also like to thank Dr. Wellman for showing me such a program like SPUR existed in the SPSP community. A huge thank you to Jan Kang and SPSP, who made the entire trip possible for me. This summer has been the most educational for me and I thank you for allowing me to participate.