Faculty Research

The Color of Emotion: Teachers' Racialized Interpretations of Children's Emotion and Student Outcomes

Principal Investigator: Professor Pamela Garner

Professor Garner's most recent funded project explores the impact that race can have on how educators discipline and react to undesirable student behavior. Generally, evidence shows that students of different races who exhibit the same unwanted behavior can be disciplined differently. Garner's study looks at teachers' interpretations of students' classroom behavior and emotions with specific attention focused on the race of the student and teacher. Actions from both students and teachers may demonstrate elements of implicit and/or explicit racism.

In phases one and two of the study, preservice and in service teachers will watch videos showing different sets of behavior and complete extensive surveys through which they describe their interpretation of the behaviors. Similar behaviors will be displayed by African American students and European American students in the videos. Teachers will describe their reactions to the behavior, along with info on their own personal background.

Phase three of the project is prescriptive. Garner and her colleagues will explore if it is possible to change teachers' reactions to different behaviors and to help teachers be aware they might be treating students differently based on their race.

Collaborators include Professor Sherrick Hughes from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Professor Amy Halberstadt from North Carolina State University.


Thriving Together: Leveraging Well Being and Civic Engagement as Pathways to Flourishing for First-Generation College Students

Principal Investigator: Associate Professor Julie Owen

In cooperation with Mason’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, Associate Professor Julie Owen received a competitive research grant for 2015-2017 from the Bringing Theory to Practice (BTtoP) Project of the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U). 

Project Abstract: Over 33% of Mason students identify as first generation students. Although dedicated programs exist to serve these students, there is need for more evidence-based analyses of which campus programs and interventions are most effectively promoting student flourishing and success. Two recent initiatives – the establishment of a Center for the Advancement of Well-Being (CWB) and the blossoming of community engagement efforts as coordinated by the center for Social Action & Integrative Learning (SAIL) – have unique potential to make a difference in first generation students’ development of meaningful personal relationships, sense of belonging, resiliency and other dimensions associated with student flourishing and success (Astin, 1993; Padgett, Johnson, & Pascarella, 2012; Tierney, Corwin, & Coylar, 2005).

With grant support from AAC&U and BTP, Owen's team will examine the effects of participation in CWB and SAIL programs on first generation students’ sense of belonging, development of meaningful personal relationships, and resiliency. Simultaneously, we will conduct a series of focus groups with CWB and SAIL program participants and non-participants, first generation and non-first generation students, as a complement to our quantitative data analysis and as a way to gather compelling narratives related to the themes and intersections of civic engagement and well-being.

In year two, the research team will identify and disseminate information (through the development of a website, course module/workshop, program development, brochures, research reports, conference presentations, and other forms of outreach) about pathways to flourishing aimed specifically at first-generation students. The desired long term goal of this effort is to transform our campus culture so that all individuals, regardless of generation status, truly “thrive together” and to ensure that the full university environment is conducive to learning and personal development which is critical to fulfilling our educational mission.

Burnout in Social Justice and Human Rights Activists: Symptoms, Causes, and Implications

Principal Investigators: Associate Professor Paul Gorski and Assistant Professor Cher Chen

Professor Gorski’s research will examine activist burnout among racial justice activists in the United States. The purpose of the summer project is to “examine the ways in which the cultures within one specifically intense movement in the U.S. – the racial justice movement – may perpetuate activist burnout.” The project will have an immediate objective to bolster a body of knowledge that can be used to help racial justice movements and organizations retain activists who are committed to doing their work. The larger objective of the project will be to strengthen racial justice movements more generally by addressing the conditions that hasten activist burnout.

Along with colleague, SIS Assistant Professor Cher Chen, Gorski has begun to build on the small body of research existing in the field. As part of this project, Gorski will interview 45-50 U.S.-based racial justice activists who, based on a scale created by Chen and Gorski, have experienced activist burnout. Gorski also hopes to survey 1,500 U.S.-based racial justice activists with a purpose to “uncover the extent to which racial justice activists have experienced the kinds of conditions that lead to burnout within their movements and organizations.”

The project will be the largest-scale study of activist burnout ever done and the first mixed-methods study of racial justice activist burnout.