Prevention Research Center announces anti-racism research grant recipients

Racism Research grant recipients

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center (PRC) has awarded funding for four graduate student research projects that responded to their call for work focusing on reducing racism or promoting anti-racist practices and culture.

“This was our first campus-wide call for proposals to help fund student research. We were impressed with the number of students working to address racism through their research, as well as with the quality and originality of their proposed projects,” said PRC Director Stephanie Lanza.

“The PRC seeks to address long-standing health inequities through research and implementation of effective programs,” noted PRC Associate Director Greg Fosco. “With these awards, we are investing in a promising group of scholars and addressing systemic racism in a variety of environments. We are excited to see the impact these projects will have.”

The awardees and research projects are as follows:

Keiana Mayfield -- “A Feasibility and Acceptability Pilot of the Raising Antiracist Kids Program”

“After the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent racial unrest, I really wanted to find a way to give back to my community that incorporated my expertise in child and adolescent development, family dynamics and the sociocultural processes affecting Black youth, families and communities,” said Mayfield, doctoral candidate in the human development and family studies program, Penn State.

Her research will focus on evaluating and enhancing Raising Antiracist Kids, an online skills-based parenting program aimed at decreasing systemic racism by promoting antiracist behavior, attitudes, norms and beliefs among parents. Another project goal is the development of scales to measure anti-racist socialization practices and anti-racism parenting self-efficacy, which could inform future research.

“I believe that social change can start at home,” Mayfield said.

Her faculty adviser is Susan McHale, director of the Social Science Research Institute and distinguished professor of human development and professor of demography, Penn State.

Andrea Layton -- “The Link Between Institutional Racism, Mental Health and Academic Efficacy”

“I know how one can feel isolated in a place where everyone around you operates by the status quo,” said Layton, doctoral candidate in the Educational Leadership Program, Penn State College of Education. “The ramifications of racism can affect students’ self-esteem, development and well-being.”

She will conduct an online survey of Black Penn State undergraduates between the ages of 18-25 who have received mental health services while attending Penn State. Based upon her findings, she will propose ways to create a student-centered environment based upon the survey respondents’ descriptions of their college experiences.

“My goals are to bring attention to how racism and racist practices in educational institutions affect students' mental health, and to inform policies that affect marginalized students’ experiences at the secondary and post-secondary school levels,” Layton said.

Her faculty adviser is Deborah Schussler, Penn State associate professor of education.

Paulina Inara Rodis -- “Online Fight, Offline Flight, and Other Antiracist Strategies: Black and Asian Women’s Perceptions of and Responses to Cyberagression”

“Research finds that minority women face tremendous viciousness both in person and online,” said Rodis, doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology, Penn State.

She will interview women who identify as Black or Asian about their experiences with racism and sexism, both in-person and on Twitter. She will also examine tweets to specifically describe what types of aggression they are encounter. Based upon her findings, she will formulate specific tools and strategies to avoid, minimize and combat online aggression.

Her faculty adviser is Diane Felmlee, Penn State professor of sociology.

Sarah Zipf -- "Experiences of Racialization in Online Undergraduate Education"

“Being ‘color-evasive’—pretending that racism no longer exists -- is a form of racism that leads to harmful situations and environments for people of color,” said Zipf, doctoral candidate in higher education, educational policy studies, Penn State.

She is studying color-evasiveness in online education, in hopes of informing policies and practices that will reduce racism experienced by online students. She is surveying online students in one college at Penn State about their perceptions of race and of the online classroom climate. She will also analyze written communications such as syllabi and websites that students may encounter.

Her faculty adviser is Alicia Dowd, professor of education and director and senior scientist for the Center for the Study of Higher Education, Penn State.

The grant recipients will share the outcome of their research projects present at public seminars hosted by the PRC. Registration for email notification of upcoming PRC seminars is available by sending an email to