The SPSSI Crosby-Spendlove Travel Award is an award given to a graduate student to support travel and cover expenses for the SPSSI summer conference. This competitive award is given to a student presenting research coming from a social justice perspective. In 2018, this award has been given to Tina Reifsteck for her research project “Ethnic-racial centrality moderates the Intellectual Disengagement and College Performance Relation”
Tina’s research addresses stigma-induced identity threat, one of the factors contributing to academic underperformance of African Americans and Latina(o)s. In a university setting, African Americans and Latina(o)s are reminded of the cultural stereotype portraying their groups as unintelligent, which might threaten their identity. This can result in academic performance decrements, which are particularly pronounced for African Americans and Latina(o)s who strongly identify with their ethnic-racial group. Our research was concerned with psychological disengagement, a coping strategy in which stigmatized individuals disidentify with academic performance-based feedback, in part by attributing their groups’ collective underperformance to systemic cultural bias in education. Our data has shown that strongly-identified African Americans and Latina(o)s who adopt psychological disengagement strategies maintained higher GPAs than those not adopting these strategies. Psychological disengagement might help to counter stigma-induced identity threat, and because academic achievement is linked to greater career opportunities and social upward mobility, might attenuate socio-economic cultural inequalities.