SESP Students Lauren Dennis, Sharon Kao Win Undergraduate Research Grants

SESP Students Lauren Dennis, Sharon Kao Win Undergraduate Research Grants

SESP seniors Lauren Dennis and Sharon Kao were awarded Undergraduate Research Grants by the Northwestern University Office of the Provost during fall quarter. Both students are majoring in human development and psychological services and have research topics related to psychological development.

Lauren Dennis

Lauren Dennis
For her research, Dennis is exploring the topic “Transracial Adoption and Identity Development, as Told by Mothers of Young African-American Girls.” Her faculty sponsor is SESP instructor Lilah Shapiro.

According to Dennis, her research topic is virtually unexamined because it is a recent phenomenon. “The number of families adopting children from races other than their own is rapidly growing, and I think that it is important to gain an understanding of the implications of transracial adoption on both the blended families and as a reflection of society at large,” she says.

Her research draws on her studies at SESP as a human development and psychological services major. “Much of my time in SESP has been spent gaining and understanding the world around me — why people do what they do, and in what ways I can make a positive contribution to the world,” she notes. “By studying family systems, adoption, and race through transracial adoption specifically I am gaining knowledge about one particular human experience — the experience of young African-American girls who have been adopted into white families and in what ways their experiences are unique.”

Sharon Kao

Sharon Kao
Kao’s research topic is “Reducing Mental Illness Stigma through Perspective Taking in the Asian Population.” Her faculty sponsor is Joan Chiao of the Department of Psychology.

Kao maintains that her research on stigma against mental illness represents an extremely important topic. Despite the fact that about 25 percent of Americans have mental illnesses, she notes, “there has not been much research done on reducing prejudice against mental illness, unlike the ample research done in reducing racial bias.”

“Furthermore, there is more stigma associated in the Asian culture because mental illness is often associated with shame and more deficiency. This could discourage people from seeking treatment and thus is a social problem,” Kao says. She hopes that her research indicates a way to successfully reduce the prejudice.

The Undergraduate Research Grants program offers academic year grants of up to $1,000 and summer grants of $3,000 in support of independent undergraduate projects. For more information visit the Undergraduate Research Grants website.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 7/20/17