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ASU family scholar receives early career researcher award

portrait of Rebecca M. B. White
April 24, 2014

Arizona State University assistant professor Rebecca M. B. White has been named a William T. Grant Scholar, one of five early career researchers from throughout the country who will receive $350,000 to execute rigorous five-year research plans that stretch their skills and knowledge into new areas.

White, of the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, will use her grant to examine how ethnically concentrated neighborhoods influence Latino adolescents’ development through the study, “A New Look at Neighborhood Ethnic Concentration: Implications for Mexican-Origin Adolescents’ Cultural Adaptation and Adjustment.” The funds will enable White to expand her expertise in family, developmental and public health sciences to gain knowledge in mixed-methods field work and sociological theory.

“Truly, I am honored to be named a William T. Grant Foundation Scholar. The scholars program, much like ASU and the Sanford School, represents an exciting venue for research and career development. I’m thrilled to conduct research that contributes to a widely shared mission to address the critical social needs of America’s – and Arizona’s – diverse youth,” White said.

White is the third Sanford School faculty member to be named a William T. Grant Scholar. Associate professor Sandra Simpkins is a former scholar, and assistant professor Monica Tsethlikai is a current scholar.

“We all celebrate Rebecca’s accomplishments and the recognition this award brings. Her work is inspirational and fits well in the themes of the Sanford School in which faculty interests and activities are focused on rigorous research and its translation in an effort to make a difference and improve the quality of lives for children, youth and families,” said Richard Fabes, Sanford School director and professor.

White’s research focuses on how neighborhoods influence family processes among Mexican Americans, as well as how they impact adolescent development. She anticipates providing relevant research that informs the development of family and youth programs that capitalize on the strengths of Latino communities to promote positive youth development. She also anticipates that her research can inform United States public health and housing policy related to residential segregation.

“Historically, research on cultural influences on youth development and research on neighborhood influences on youth development have been highly compartmentalized. With this award, which combines research and mentorship, I will work to break down those disciplinary boundaries to better address the social needs of Mexican American youth,” White said.

Her study will include mentorship components that will enable White to expand her methodological tool kit, gain access to additional expertise and remove traditional disciplinary boundaries among neighborhood and cultural researchers.

Simpkins will mentor White on qualitative and mixed methods. Amber Wutich, associate professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, will also contribute expertise on qualitative analysis and field methods. Christopher Browning, professor of sociology at The Ohio State University, will provide guidance on exposure-based field methods and mainstream neighborhood theory.

Four other William T. Grant Scholars were named from Columbia University, the University of Virginia and the University of Texas at Austin. The Scholars Program began in 1982 and has a history of supporting the development of early-career researchers in social, behavioral and health sciences.