Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stereotypes, Expectations, & Students At Risk: A Conversation with Professor of Psychology Cyndi Kernahan

Dr. Cyndi Kernahan is the Chair of the Psychology Department at UW-River Falls. She is a social psychologist specializing in race and racism. I've worked with Cyndi on a few research projects and have done diversity presentations with her around the state and at various conferences.  In these contexts, I've heard her talk about the phenomenon described by social psychologists as "stereotype threat," or the "fear that the stereotypes about one’s group will be applied to him or her in a given situation (women and girls in advanced math; blacks in academic endeavors; whites and athletic ability)."

While this topic directly connects with the UW System's broad concept of Inclusive Excellence, we can use it to think more inclusively and specifically about a set of students we frequently encounter in the UW Colleges.  As our 13 campuses increasingly address the needs of its "at-risk" students (those at risk of disappearing from our classes, dropping out altogether, or ending up on academic probation or suspension for a variety of reasons), I wondered how this concept of stereotype threat was related to our attempts to help such historically under-represented and underprepared students succeed on campus, so I asked Cyndi for an interview.

--Nancy Chick, 2011 VTLC Director

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