In this episode, Lara discusses how a student’s social background can influence their college and career choices. She specifically examines the challenges of underrepresentation on racial, ethnic, gender and socioeconomic disparities and how these disparities can impact student success, especially in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Lara advocates for looking beyond diversifying STEM fields to create systemic changes that bring equity and inclusion and using culturally responsive teaching methods and mentorship to create a better society. Lara urges that we bring humanity and kindness toward students and self when doing DEI work.
Dr. Lara Perez-Felkner
Associate Professor, Higher Education Program
Affiliated Faculty, Department of Sociology
Senior Research Associate, FSU Center for Postsecondary Success
Dr. Lara Perez-Felkner (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is an Associate Professor of Higher Education and Sociology at Florida State University. She is also an Affiliate of the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice and Senior Research Associate with FSU’s Center for Postsecondary Success. Additionally, she is involved in multiple equity initiatives at FSU, including the President’s Council for Diversity and Inclusion.
Her research uses developmental and sociological perspectives to examine how young people’s social contexts influence their college and career outcomes. She focuses on the mechanisms that shape entry into and persistence in institutions and fields in which students have traditionally been underrepresented. In particular, she investigates racial-ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic disparities in postsecondary educational attainment and entry to scientific career fields. Her published work appears in journals including Developmental Psychology, International Journal of Educational Development, Journal of Higher Education, Journal of Latinos and Education, and Teachers’ College Record. She edited and authored a recent volume on undergraduate women in STEM and a special issue on women in STEM globally. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, and the Spencer, Gates, and ECMC Foundations. Media coverage of her research has included local ABC News and NPR affiliates, Bustle, The Conversation, Hindustan Times, Salon, Science News for Students, U.S. News and World Report, and USA Today.
Dr. Perez-Felkner has experience working in residence life, student leadership, diversity initiatives, and admissions. She was also a counselor for grade 7-10 scholarship students with Prep for Prep. She’s the first generation in her family to not qualify for food or housing assistance.
Enhance Your Curriculum with Our Discussion Guide
You can incorporate this episode into your class or workshop curriculum with this discussion guide.
- Explore more of Lara’s work here, https://perezfelkner.com/publications/
- Learn about the scope of underrepresentation in STEM,
- In the United States: Pew Research Center’s 2018 Report and 2021 Update
- Around the world: Gender and Science, and Indigenous Knowledge and Science
- Better understand the relationship between racial microaggressions and substance abuse by reading, Marks, L. R., Acuff, S. F., Withers, A. J., MacKillop, J., & Murphy, J. G. (2021). Adverse childhood experiences, racial microaggressions, and alcohol misuse in Black and White emerging adults. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.
- Peruse some recommended interventions:
- Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2011). A Brief Social-Belonging Intervention Improves Academic and Health Outcomes of Minority Students. Science, 331(6023), 1447-1451.
- Miyake, A., Kost-Smith, L. E., Finkelstein, N. D., Pollock, S. J., Cohen, G. L., & Ito, T. A. (2010). Reducing the Gender Achievement Gap in College Science: A Classroom Study of Values Affirmation. Science, 330(6008), 1234-1237.
- Get involved with a STEM organization promoting underrepresented groups: Diversity in STEM: National Organizations