Diversity and Student Success (DSS), a signature initiative for graduate and professional students housed in The Graduate School, held its spring research showcase in late April, which featured three doctoral student experts in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Margarett McBride, Marketa Burnett ’17, and Janae Shaheed, all members of the department’s Strengths, Assets, Resilience (StAR) Lab, presented their research findings on Black people and families on topics ranging from discrimination, parenting stress, and identity at the event, Beyond These Walls.
McBride, an alumna of the University of Michigan, spoke about parenting stress, particularly among Black fathers.
“It takes a village to support a Black father,” McBride said. “The more Black fathers are stressed, the more negative their feelings toward parenting.” Her research explores social and parenting support systems, which can bolster Black fathers’ experiences and affect their child’s overall health and development. McBride aims to fill a gap in research examining the effects of Black fathers’ stress and how it affects families. McBride is funded by the National Science Foundation and by the Ford Foundation.
Burnett ’17 has researched how gendered racial stereotypes affect attitudes toward STEM among Black families. She examined how Black fathers talk to both sons and daughters about STEM fields, which Burnett explained is part of ethnic racial socialization. When Black fathers discuss science, technology, engineering, and math with their children, Burnett found that the conversations can foster racial pride and also help prepare for biases that children might experience, such as discrimination.
“When parents are engaging in these messages, it actually buffers against some of the effects of these behaviors,” Burnett said.
Burnett also said that classrooms have traditionally catered more to white and male students, and that positive conversations around STEM within Black families can contribute to closing an achievement gap, among other positive effects.
“We’re seeing there are opportunities for parents to have more conversations with their children about being Black and in STEM,” Burnett said.
Janae Shaheed, a 2017 alumna of Wake Forest University, spoke about her research examining issues of identity and social inequalities among Black people who identify as LGBTQ. Her research also explores how social support and opportunities for activism among Black LGBTQ adolescents as they enter adulthood can facilitate resilience and positive development.
“Activism can be used as a coping response to discrimination,” Shaheed said. “There’s so much change happening within their social worlds. They’re leaving high school and going into the workforce or going to college.” Shaheed explained that community supports also change as adolescents begin adulthood.
The annual event, held online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, drew nearly 40 participants. Kathy Wood, the DSS director, said the signature event is a unique opportunity to showcase the scholarship of Carolina’s students while cultivating conversation with the broader campus community.
“We have the privilege of working with and getting to know our students while building community and promoting success,” Wood said. “We wanted a window into their passion, what brought them to Carolina, and what will certainly carry them beyond these walls: their research.”
The StAR Lab uses developmental and community psychological theoretical frameworks to better understand variation in the experience of Black children and families.
The Graduate School, founded in 1903, supports more than 160 degree-offering programs in a variety of disciplines. Suzanne Barbour, PhD, is dean of The Graduate School and is also a professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. Diversity and Student Success includes several initiates to support graduate and professional students, including resources for first-generation, international, LGBTQIA+, military-affiliated, and racially/ethnic diverse students. Shauna M. Cooper, PhD, is an associate professor and is the director of the StAR lab.