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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Challenger: A McNair Scholars Paper Series

Challenger: A McNair Scholars Paper Series aims to further the access and representation of underrepresented students through the dissemination of research produced by McNair Scholars at UC San Diego. The purpose of this publication is to organize, implement, and maintain a scholarly research journal that represents diverse perspectives across multiple fields of study.

Our publication's name was inspired by Dr. Ronald E. McNair and his contributions as an outstanding scholar and representative of underrepresented communities of color in higher education. Unfortunately, Dr. McNair passed away in the Challenger space shuttle. This publication was founded to further his legacy of excellence and to support students who, like Dr. McNair, have the potential to exceed in future doctoral education.


To view our full volumes, visit https://ucsdchallenger.wordpress.com/volumes/


For more information about the paper series, visit: https://ucsdchallenger.wordpress.com

For questions and/or concerns, please contact us at challenger@ucsd.edu


Challenger Paper Series Interview | Part 1: The Editors

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz3XQCfMpJI


Challenger Paper Series Interview | Part 2: The Authors

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BrmmqJqLZ4

Cover page of Investigating Neuro-cognitive Function in Individuals from Different Racial and Ethnic Backgrounds & its Interactions with Resilience

Investigating Neuro-cognitive Function in Individuals from Different Racial and Ethnic Backgrounds & its Interactions with Resilience

(2021)

Neuro-cognition is our brain’s ability to perform context-appropriate cognitive functions, such as paying attention and maintaining information in working memory, which are associated with specific neural activations. The ability to generate context-appropriate, neuro-cognitively optimal responses to stressful life hardships is a shared aspect of resiliency across all races and ethnicities. We studied how resilience influence neuro-cognitive abilities and if a relationship exists with race and ethnicity. A series of rapid game-like, objective assessments were used to measure internal attention, working memory, distractor processing and emotion processing. We collected demographic characteristics (age, gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status) and measured resilience using the Brief Resilience Scale (BRS). We used generalized linear mixed models to probe the association of demographic factors including race and ethnicity, and resilience with neuro-cognitive performance. Resilience scores alone was not a significant factor contributing to neuro-cognitive performance in these models; however, we found an interaction between multiracial participants and resilience scores for emotional processing consistency. Understanding how race/ethnicity and resilience interact to determine neuro-cognitive abilities can improve the quality of mental healthcare given to diverse Americans, serving to decrease the burden of mental healthcare disparities. 

Cover page of Controlling Two Languages: Cost-Benefit Analysis of Immersion in Second-Language Learning

Controlling Two Languages: Cost-Benefit Analysis of Immersion in Second-Language Learning

(2021)

One of the most efficient methods to learn a second language (L2) is through immersion in a country where that language is spoken. What aspects of language immersion enable adult learners to acquire an L2 more efficiently? An obvious consequence of immersion is more frequent and varied exposure to the L2, but another possibility is that immersion makes it easier to inhibit the first language (L1). If so, learning an L2 would involve cognitive mechanisms that lead to some benefits but also produce some cost to the learner, and if so, it would be of interest to know exactly how and to what extent does immersion negatively impact the learner? In this study, we tested a group of eleven English-speaking college students learning Italian through a study abroad program in Rome, Italy for a period of eight weeks. We predicted that language immersion would reduce fluency in the L1, in order to obtain the benefit of acquiring greater gains in fluency in the L2. To test this, participants completed a language history questionnaire and a verbal fluency task in both English and Italian on the first and last days of the term. On average, participants’ levels of Italian fluency increased and to a greater extent than any losses to their L1, which trended in the direction of an inhibitory effect, but not significantly so. These findings consider the possibility that foreign language acquisition is influenced primarily by frequency effects in the L2, and therefore not entirely due to an inhibitory mechanism on the L1.

Cover page of Setting the Table: An Exploration of Chamoru Fiestas as a Site of Indigenous Survivance in the Wake of White Settler Colonialism

Setting the Table: An Exploration of Chamoru Fiestas as a Site of Indigenous Survivance in the Wake of White Settler Colonialism

(2021)

Within the multi-tones of blue that dress the waters of the Pacific Ocean lies Guåhan, the southernmost and largest island in the Mariånas archipelago. Guåhan and the other fourteen islands that make up this crescent chain are the collective ancestral homelands of the Indigenous Chamorus. Within Western hegemony, stories about Guåhan and Chamorus are inextricably rooted in a deeply colonial past and present. What began as Spanish “discovery” in 1521 turned into three-hundred years of theft of native land and livelihood. What began as Japanese “occupation” in 1941 turned into three years of unjustified violence and death of thousands of Chamorus. What began (and remains) as the facade of American “liberation” during World War II resulted in the division of the Mariåna Islands into the territorial and commonwealth statuses of Guåhan and the Northern Mariåna Islands, respectively—euphemisms for what can be concisely defined as white settler colonialism of Indigenous lands. These colonial histories remain reminiscent in the daily lived experiences of Chamorus, which is most evident when looking at American militarization of Guåhan. For instance, the United States military possesses nearly a third of the island, which includes natural resources and ancestral villages that are inaccessible to the Indigenous community. Chamorus, per capita, are the largest group of recruits enlisted into the American military, but as residents of an overseas colony, they are unable to vote in the presidential election for their commander-in-chief. This is just to name a few, but these facts alone paint a picture of how the status quo of white settler colonialism has been especially understood as a strictly militaristic event. My research does not seek to condemn or disregard this understanding; rather, it works to create a more holistic image of white settler colonialism within the context of Chamoru culture in Guåhan outside the hypervisibility of militarism, which I analyze at the site of the fiesta. By using the fiesta, a revered celebration in Chamoru culture, as the optic, I explore how its constituent parts partake in the ongoing vanishment of Chamoru indigeneity and perpetuates white settler colonial remnants. Most importantly, I look at how contemporary Chamorus have reclaimed the fiesta as a space of survivance.

Cover page of Amor y Apoyo: Lecciones de Latinx Families in Nourishing Resilience to First and Second-Generation College Students

Amor y Apoyo: Lecciones de Latinx Families in Nourishing Resilience to First and Second-Generation College Students

(2020)

The present qualitative study aims to understand how Latino/Hispanic herea er referred to as Latinx, parent involvement is different or similar among first- and second-generation college students in how they experience higher education and how parental education impacts the use of student support services. Hence, supporting Latinx student retention by developing university and parental relationships. Second-generation college students and Latinx parents were unable to be included in the study because of their scarcity or hesitation of participating. Therefore, participants included a convenience sample of six first-generation undergraduate students from a 4-year institution. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to obtain their stories of parental involvement and student involvement. Results suggest that (1) first-generation college students experience a hands-off involvement from parents, however, they enjoyed the freedom this brought, (2) Latinx parents might have a misunderstanding of college student identity, and (3) students expressed a desire to have their parents learn about and understand mental health. Implications of findings include universities creating more resources to support Latinx students’ mental health, as well as earlier school outreach for Latinx parent involvement to better inform them about the college lifestyle.

Cover page of Predictors of Therapists Use of Homework in Community Mental Health: Session and Therapist Characteristics

Predictors of Therapists Use of Homework in Community Mental Health: Session and Therapist Characteristics

(2020)

Assigning and reviewing homework as a strategy to help clients gain therapeutic skills is a common technique used across a variety of evidence-based practices (EBPs) and has been shown to improve therapy outcomes for children and youth. However, in studies characterizing routine psychotherapy delivered in community mental health settings, homework is rarely used in sessions. While some therapist and client level predictors of EBP strategy use have been identified in routine psychotherapy (e.g. client stressors, therapists’ attitudes towards EBPs) it is unknown what is associated with community mental health therapists using homework in the increasingly common context of system-driven implementation of multiple EBPs. To identify predictors of therapists’ use of homework, 680 videos of sessions with 274 clients were collected from 103 therapists (of which 55% were Hispanic) providing children’s mental health services through the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH). The current study uses a multilevel logistic regression analysis model to identify which factors are associated with therapist use of homework in therapy sessions when there is system-driven implementation support for the use of multiple EBPs in community mental health settings. After controlling for the EBP delivered in session and the number of EBPs therapists were trained in, having a caregiver present in the therapy session, older child age, and being an unlicensed therapist were associated with a higher likelihood of therapists assigning and reviewing homework during a specific session. Therapist race/ethnicity, perceptions of the EBP being delivered, their report of emotional exhaustion, and direct hours with clients, as well as emergent unexpected stressful client life events within a session were not significantly associated with therapists’ delivery of homework. These findings underscore the need to provide explicit attention during therapist training on the use of homework with younger clients when caregivers are absent from sessions and the need to facilitate the use of homework among licensed therapists.

Cover page of The Criminalization of Black Girls in K-12 U.S Schools: A Public Health Issue

The Criminalization of Black Girls in K-12 U.S Schools: A Public Health Issue

(2020)

This research examines the criminalization of Black girls in K-12 schools in the United States and presents possible solutions to the issue. A series of interviews conducted with Black girls and women who attended elementary, middle, and high school throughout the United States were used to develop the following research. The interviews were semi-structured with a set of questions surrounding the interviewees’ relationships with school professionals, their experience with in-school discipline, and their sense of belonging within the school setting. Interviewees o en expanded on the set questions with in-depth anecdotes of their personal experiences and what they witnessed in school. The interview responses were used to understand what experiences Black girls are having in school in relation to discipline; in addition, Black Critical Theory was used to further analyze and explain the recurring anti-Black treatment targeted towards Black girls. Interviews repeatedly revealed that Black girls are having ongoing encounters with violence, intolerance, lack of support within school, and exclusionary discipline. Additionally, this research found that Black girls are experiencing adultification as early as kindergarten and have developed personal and shared trauma as a result of their school experiences. Furthermore, this study unveiled a strong need for school professionals and involved organizations to acknowledge the unique experiences of differing cultural and identity groups while constructing classroom environments and discipline policies.