Inquiry Magazine Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy

Spring 2016

Discrimination in Adolescence Has Lasting Effect on Body

Discrimination in Adolescence Has Lasting Effect on Body

Everyday feelings of discrimination can alter levels of the body’s primary stress hormone, cortisol, new research suggests. However, in African-Americans the negative effects of perceived discrimination on cortisol are stronger than in whites, according to the study— one of the first to look at the biological response to the cumulative impact of prejudicial treatment.

“We found cumulative experiences matter and that discrimination mattered more for blacks,” says lead author Emma Adam, a developmental psychologist at SESP. “We saw a flattening of cortisol levels for both blacks and whites, but blacks also had an overall drop in levels. The surprise was that this was particularly true for discrimination that happened during adolescence.”

The team of researchers found that the teenage years are a particularly sensitive period to be experiencing discrimination, in terms of the long-term impact on adult hormone levels.

Universities’ Messages about Socioeconomic Diversity Affect Confidence

Universities’ Messages about Socioeconomic Diversity Affect Confidence

When students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds perceive their universities to be “chilly” towards them, their academic confidence and sense of themselves as high achievers suffers, according to a new series of studies.

Students perceived their universities as “warm” versus “chilly” depending on how the institutions treated socioeconomic diversity. When exposed to messages suggesting a commitment to promoting and supporting socioeconomic diversity, low-SES students reported greater academic confidence and expectations and identified more strongly as high achievers than those who received messages that neglected socioeconomic diversity or focused more on higher-income students.

The way that university financial policies are communicated can have important implications for students’ psychological outcomes, according to the study’s authors, SESP assistant professor Mesmin Destin and psychology doctoral student Alexander Browman.

Women in STEM Club Ups Girls’ Science Enrollment

Women in STEM Club Ups Girls’ Science Enrollment

Two years ago Evanston Township High School administrators were concerned about the drop-off in girls enrolling in rigorous science courses. In response, Kristen Perkins, SESP’s Northwestern-ETHS partnership coordinator, started a club called Women in STEM, which is having an impact.

Since 2014, the number of girls in accelerated chemistry/physics courses has increased to 40 percent junior year and 43 percent senior year. Approximately 120 girls attend the weekly meetings, which feature hands-on design challenges, conversation, games and talks with Northwestern women.

Women in STEM aims to “expose girls to all the different possibilities in the STEM fields and create a culture that helps them feel supported,” says Perkins. “For a lot of the girls, having this group and getting to inspire and encourage other girls inspires them too.” The group has deep connections to the Northwestern community since undergraduates help out, graduate students are guest speakers, and club members shadow researchers and attend events at Northwestern. The Northwestern-ETHS Partnership has developed numerous model programs to widen opportunities for high school students through university connections.

FUSE Expands to Finland
Photo by JIM PRISCHING (Middle schoolers at McGaw YMCA in Evanston engage in FUSE activities. The FUSE Studios program is being adopted by schools in Finland.)

FUSE Expands to Finland

Finland is known for being a beacon of excellence in the field of education, so it’s time to take notice when Finland wants to adopt a U.S. program. Recently educators in Finland have begun to incorporate FUSE Studios, an innovative program developed at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy.

FUSE Studios, an interest-driven learning environment that engages young people in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM), was developed by researchers Reed Stevens, Kemi Jona and their team at SESP. Students choose among highinterest challenges in areas such as robotics, architecture, sound mixing, design and app development, where they can “level up” their skills, as in video games.

Two internationally regarded schools in Helsinki, Siltamäki School and Arabia School, will start FUSE programs this year. In addition, Stevens initiated a research collaboration with University of Helsinki professor Kristiina Kumpulainen, who will research FUSE in the schools. These new international FUSE studios add to the 55 studios already operating in the United States.

Gifted Education of Disadvantaged Students Receives $1.2M Grant

Gifted Education of Disadvantaged Students Receives $1.2M Grant

SESP’s Center for Talent Development received a prestigious $1.2 million Javits Gifted and Talented Education Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant will help the Center identify gifted and academically advanced students from economically disadvantaged families.

The grant also will develop an accelerated curriculum for students to earn high school credit while in middle school. Five hundred Ohio students with financial need will participate in the program over three years. The Javits Program focuses on projects that enhance the ability of schools to meet the special education needs of gifted and talented students. The Center for Talent Development received the Javits grant as a partner in the Ohio Curriculum Consortium for Accelerating Middle School.

Principal Retention Report Lauds NorthwesternPrincipal Program
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Public Education Fund

Principal Retention Report Lauds Northwestern Principal Program

Retaining Chicago’s top principals is a continuing challenge, as 40 percent of principals leave their jobs within three years. A new report by the Chicago Public Education Fund cites Northwestern’s Chicago Principals Fellowship as the kind of opportunity that principals want for learning and support.

Northwestern’s Chicago Principal Fellowship program is a rigorous yearlong executive leadership program designed by Northwestern University to bolster and retain top public school principals citywide. Earlier this year 20 Chicago principals were chosen for the second cohort of the Northwestern principal development program, and 41 principals have been served since the program kicked off in 2014 as a three-year collaboration between the School of Education and Social Policy and Kellogg School of Management.