Don't Skip Class: Advances in Research on Social Class and Adolescent Development

Rachel Gordon, PhD, Session Chair
Associate Dean for Research and Administration
Professor of Health Studies
College of Health and Human Sciences
Northern Illinois University
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About: Dr. Rachel Gordon is associate dean for research and administration and professor of health studies (with tenure) in the College of Health and Human Sciences at Northern Illinois University. Prior to joining NIU, Dr. Gordon spent over two decades at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where she was a tenured professor of sociology and served as chair of social science research, as well as chair of the executive committee in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and was associate director for the social sciences at the Institute for Health Research and Policy. She was also a tenured professor, associate director and senior scholar at the University of Illinois System’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs, where she chaired the System-Wide Working Group on Education and Learning. Dr. Gordon additionally spent the 2021-2022 academic year as director of the Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning, Loyd Rockhold Endowed Chair in Child Development, and a professor of sociology (with tenure) at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Drawing on multiple disciplines and methods, Gordon’s research broadly examines contextual, social and policy factors that nurture and constrain children’s development. She has studied early child care and education, parental employment, multigenerational families, neighborhood dynamics, youth peer groups and appearance-related identity cues. Her most recent intellectual pursuits aim to advance understanding regarding the cost, quality, adaptability and ownership of educational products whose creation and use are publicly funded, as well as, the ways in which snap judgments of appearance shape social constructions, identities and experiences.

Margarita Azmitia, Discussant
Professor, Social Sciences Division, Psychology Department 
University of California, Santa Cruz  
[email protected]

Summary of Expertise: How culture, peers, family, and schools provide a context for adolescents and emerging adults’ development. Special emphasis on how close relationships influence the educational pathways and identity intersectionalities of ethnically and socioeconomically diverse populations.

Zena R. Mello, PhD, Presenter
Professor of Psychology
San Francisco State University

[email protected]

About: Zena R. Mello (she/her) is a Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University. She completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Cognition and Development at the University of California, Berkeley; a Ph.D. and an M.S. in Human Development and Family Studies at the Pennsylvania State University; a B.A. in Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz; and an A.A. at Santa Rosa Junior College. Dr. Mello’s research has received substantial federal and state funding, totaling 2 million dollars from organizations such as the National Science Foundation, the Institute for Education Sciences, the American Educational Research Association, and the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program. She was honored with the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Human Development Division of the American Educational Research Association. Dr. Mello is actively involved with the academic community, having served on the Executive Councils of the International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development and the Society for Research on Adolescence. She currently holds the role of Assistant Editor for the Journal of Adolescence and is on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology and the International Journal of Behavioral Development.

Rashmita S. Mistry, PhD, Presenter

Professor of Education
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About: Rashmita S. Mistry, Ph.D., is Professor and Vice Chair of Undergraduate Programs in Education & Social Transformation in the Department of Education at the University of California, Los Angeles. A developmental psychologist, Dr. Mistry's research examines the developmental consequences of family socioeconomic resources and disadvantage; children’s social identity development (i.e., social class, race/ethnicity) and their perceptions, reasoning, and experiences of social inequalities.

Mesmin Destin, PhD, Presenter

Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy
Associate Professor of Psychology
Faculty Director of Student Access and Enrichment
Northwestern University
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About: Mesmin Destin directs a multidisciplinary lab group and investigates social psychological mechanisms underlying socioeconomic disparities in educational outcomes during adolescence and young adulthood. Using laboratory and field experiments, Destin studies factors that influence how young people perceive themselves and pursue their futures. At the university level, Destin examines how social experiences and institutional structures shape the motivation, well-being, and educational trajectories of lower socioeconomic status and first-generation college students.

Thomas Fuller-Rowell, PhD, Presenter
Associate Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies
Director, Health Disparities Research Initiative
College of Human Sciences, Auburn University
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About: Dr. Thomas Fuller-Rowell is an Associate Professor in the College of Human Sciences at Auburn University. He received his B.A. in biochemistry and psychology from the University of Colorado in 2003 with summa cum laude honors, and his PhD in developmental psychology from the Department of Human Development at Cornell University in 2010. He also completed posdoctoral training as a Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2011-2013) and as a research fellow in the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan (2010-2011) before starting his current position at Auburn University.

His research focuses on the impact of social stress, socioeconomic adversity, and broader contextual influences--such as neighborhood environments and social policy--on health and health disparities across the lifespan. His work has been published in leading journals across the disciplines of psychology, epidemiology, and medicine, including Health Psychology, American Journal of Epidemiology, and Psychosomatic Medicine. Dr. Fuller-Rowell has also worked for a civil rights organization in Buffalo, NY to address housing discrimination (2003-2004), and has implemented multi-site action research projects in New York City (2004-2006).