About Me

I’m currently a 2018-2020 Postdoctoral Fellow with the Inequality in America Initiative in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in the Social Science Division. I completed my Ph.D. in Sociology at Northwestern University in 2018. My research is broadly at the intersection of inequality; education; culture; and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). My work documents the processes through which peer networks contribute to the reproduction of educational and social inequality based on pre-college experiences, social class, race/ethnicity, and gender. My research has been supported by fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, and the Mindset Scholars Network.

My recent manuscript entitled “‘I Can Turn It on When I Need to’: Pre-college Integration, Culture, and Peer Academic Engagement among Black and Latino/a Engineering Students,” published as lead article in the January 2019 issue of Sociology of Education, stems from this work. Previous research on students of color at predominantly white universities has long documented that black and Latino/a students experience ethnoracial marginalization on campus in ways that negatively affect their psychosocial and academic well-being. Comparing three groups of students--Integrators, Marginalized Segregators, and Social Adapters--I extend monolithic portrayals of students of color on predominantly white campuses by examining the role of pre-college integration in the diverse psychosocial and academic experiences, as well as peer academic engagement strategies of black and Latino/a engineering undergraduates. The findings uncover new cultural processes that contribute to the reproduction of inequality among students of color.

Building on this work, my current book project, Becoming Study Buddies: Why Inequality Persists in an Era of Collaborative Learning, takes an in-depth look at how the resource context of high schools shapes how students form and maneuver collaborative networks in college. Drawing on a qualitative case study of an engineering school at an elite private university involving in-depth interviews with scores of students and with administrators, as well as ethnographic observations, the book ultimately argues that collaborative learning fails to reduce inequality in college because it cannot undo unequal access to curricula, extracurricular activities, and social environments during high school; in fact, it ironically exacerbates those inequalities.

In a competitive academic environment where students selectively collaborate with a small group of individuals, I find that students tend to collaborate and interact well with peers whom they perceive to be similar to themselves, resulting in segregated or “cliquey” work groups. However, the affluent cultural norms that dominate campus life foster unequal collaborative experiences. Compared to their less privileged peers, privileged students—who come from resource-rich high school contexts where they have acquired the academic and social preparation that make them feel at ease on campus—tend to collaborate more regularly, participate more in mainstream campus structures, which help them secure collaborative networks, and be more active within collaborative groups.

By documenting the collaborative experiences of students, Becoming Study Buddies challenges the assumption that—perhaps unlike the social side of college life, which is more explicitly driven by status and popularity— academic settings are meritocratic spaces that reward talent and hard work alone. Rather, academic settings are inherently social spaces that require a set of cultural competencies developed during high school to effectively maneuver them.