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Education Collaboratory Team Member Spotlight: Stephanie Owusu

March 15, 2024
by Ezinwa Osuoha

The Education Collaboratory at Yale launched in July 2023. To share more about our work, we are spotlighting all the dedicated team members of our lab, highlighting their work and what brings them to our team's mission to advance the science and practice of SEL.

What is your role at the Education Collaboratory?

As a part of Dr. Christina Cipriano's team, I am an undergraduate research assistant and simultaneously working on my senior thesis. My primary focus involves contributing to Project Flourish, a collaborative initiative between Yale University, Trajectory of Hope, and Urban Assembly, through data analysis. This project centers on examining the practical application of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) assessments in schools, particularly their effectiveness in supporting often marginalized students of color and educators.

What brought you to the field of SEL?

My journey into the realm of SEL and education psychology stems from a series of transformative experiences that redirected my academic focus. Initially entering Yale as a neuroscience major, my trajectory shifted after engaging in profoundly impactful work as a teaching assistant at Eden Autism. This experience ignited my passion for the practical application of neuroscience, particularly in the context of working with children with autism and other developmental disorders. Additionally, a significant turning point occurred during my time teaching abroad in my parents' home country of Ghana. This experience helped me recognize and delve into the complexities of cultural inequity and disparities across diverse educational landscapes.

I am currently working towards my BS in Psychology with an Education Studies Certificate. In my final year at Yale, I was introduced to the field of SEL through Dr. Christina Cipriano's "Contemporary Topics in Social and Emotional Learning" course. This exposure was pivotal, leaving me motivated to explore the intersections of my various passions: autism research, working with children, promoting educational equity, and delving deeper into the world of social-emotional learning.

What line of research do you find the most interesting/intriguing in the field right now?

The current landscape of research in education and psychology, particularly concerning the underdiagnosis of Black children with autism and the overdiagnosis of other behavioral disorders like Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), presents a compelling avenue of inquiry that deeply resonates with me. The striking racial inequities prevalent in the education system manifest as a concerning pattern, where Black children might be disproportionately underdiagnosed for certain conditions while potentially overdiagnosed for others. This reflects systemic biases and structural issues, shedding light on the cultural barriers that inhibit accurate diagnosis and appropriate support for marginalized populations, particularly Black communities.

My research interests gravitate toward understanding these intersecting identities of race, disability, and access to adequate educational resources. There's a pressing need to explore how cultural contexts influence diagnostic processes and the provision of support for individuals from racially diverse backgrounds. I'm particularly drawn to investigating the systemic factors contributing to these disparities and delving into the specific barriers faced by Black populations, who have historically been marginalized and underserved in this realm.

Furthermore, I'm intrigued by the potential role of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in addressing these complex issues. SEL presents itself as a promising avenue for not only fostering emotional intelligence and social skills but also potentially mitigating the challenges arising from the intersection of race, disability, and educational equity. My future research and senior thesis aim to delve deeper into these topics, exploring the efficacy of SEL interventions in supporting marginalized populations, dismantling systemic barriers, and promoting more equitable educational outcomes for all.

What energizes you outside of work?

Outside of work, I am really energized by my work at the Afro-American Cultural Center within Yale. Through this work, I can actively engage in supporting and advocating for the Black community at Yale alongside my work with the Yale African Students Association. Additionally, I have recently become a member of Yale Gospel Choir which has been a really fulfilling experience. Some of my hobbies include traveling, cooking, and roller skating, which all serve as great outlets for relaxation.

Submitted by Ezinwa Osuoha on March 05, 2024