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Annual SBS conference March 24-25 focuses on social sciences research
Posted: 03/25/2011
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Christelle Garza's research on in-group implicit prejudice against Mexican Americans in the Rio Grande Valley conducted with her mentor Dr. Philip Gasquoine, associate professor of psychology, soon will be published in the Journal of International Arts and Sciences and presented at Harvard University in May.

Garza, a graduate student in experimental psychology, was among nearly 20 students lining the hallways to present their research to judges during the research poster presentations at the Fifth Annual Social and Behavioral Sciences Conference held March 24-25 at The University of Texas-Pan American.

Graduate student Christelle Garza is pictured describing her research findings to Dr. Miguel Diaz-Barriaga, professor of anthropology, who was judging the poster presentations during the Fifth Annual Social and Behavioral Sciences Conference held March 24-25.
Dr. Miguel Diaz-Barriaga, an anthropologist and faculty member who was serving as one of the poster competition judges, listened intently as Garza explained her hypothesis, methodology and findings outlined on her poster.

"We were looking at Mexican Americans who might be prejudiced against their own culture. By implicit prejudice, we mean it's not conscious, 'you don't say it, but you think about it,'" she said.

Garza, said the research included three factors - acculturation to the new country, family values and skin tone - that might contribute to implicit prejudice in her study. She said a lot of previous research shows skin tone negatively affects the implicit prejudice but her research did not show this. However, she said, family values, in regard to respect for and attachment to the parents, did have an effect on implicit prejudice.

"We were expecting a negative correlation. If there is more emphasis on family values, there will be less implicit prejudice and vice versa, which we found," she said.

The conference not only offered the opportunity for faculty and student research presentations but also teaching presentations by faculty and guest lecturers as well as a symposium addressing best practices in online teaching. Participants were able to gain knowledge about a wide range of social science topics including bilingualism, health literacy and health communication, reproductive health and gender equality and sexual aggression and offense in the Rio Grande Valley, among others.

Dr. S. George Vincentnathan (right), chair of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences' Department of Criminal Justice, looks over the research poster on bulleying presented by graduate student Mirela Dapo. The research posters were displayed in the hallway of the Social and Behavioral Science Building during their the college's annual conference.
A graduate student in criminal justice, Mirela Dapo presented her recent research on school bullying during the conference. She said the topic is receiving a lot of attention now in the news because of recent publicized incidents, particularly, online bullying, called cyber bullying, and bullycide, which is a suicide committed by children as a result of being persistent targets of bullying.

"It is becoming a huge problem," said Dapo, who looked at the theory of social dominance, a learned behavior where a person thinks they are better than another often based on age, race, gender or sexual orientation, which leads to bullying.

She said many people who become shooters, like student who shot and killed 32 others on the Virginia Tech campus in April 2007, were reported to have been the victims of bullying themselves. However, some victims of bullying internalize it, she said, which may result in bullycide.

"Out of 4,500 teens who commit suicide each year, it is estimated that 40 percent is related to bullying," said Dapo, who recommends the need for more programs to bring awareness of the problem to not only students but parents.

The posters judged to be the top presentations will be announced at the next executive council meeting of the college. The top two presenters will be awarded gift certificates.

Dr. S. George Vincentnathan, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, said conferences like one in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences are important because they bring students and faculty together on topics in which they do research with a goal to promote critical thinking.

"It is an attempt to stimulate critical thinking ... thinking about problems and about what they should do in the community, what is their role and what is their responsibility," he said.

Learn more about the programs in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at their website.