In Ethnic Identification among Urban Latinos: Language and Flexibility (2011) – I explore how Latinos develop multiple ethnic identifications and switching among them in daily interaction. I show how in people’s daily interactions, as in socio-demographic questionnaires, multiple ethnic identifications are necessary and used to navigate New York City’s complex and diverse ethnic landscape. The diverse ethnic repertoires that I describe in my work constitute ways of seeing and doing multiple ethnicities – what I call ethnic flexibility – which enable people to adapt to multiple cultural spaces and social networks in super-diverse urban environments.
Students of color or under-represented minorities (URM) are significantly less likely to complete higher education in STEM fields than their white counterparts. Much of the research that addresses the low participation and success of URM’s in STEM fields tends to approach the issue from a deficit perspective. The deficit perspective suggests that URM’s do not enter into and/or sustain STEM careers because they lack key opportunities, resources, or abilities. My approach draws on a strength-based educational model and asks: what are skills and orientations that URM’s possess that, if further cultivated, would increase their STEM participation and success? The lived experiences of many URM’s are ones in which the negotiation of ethno-racial and cultural boundaries are commonplace. These experiences foment the development of bi-cultural and multi-cultural identities. I argue that bi- and multi-cultural identities and attendant cross-cultural fluency is a key resource predisposing students to effective cross-cultural communication, resilience, flexibility, creativity and innovation, qualities known to translate into success in STEM fields.
Specializing in egocentric (person) network analysis, my research explores the relationship between a person’s social environment and their ethnic identification (also see here). Besides this, I have looked at network influences on the migration decision and drug use. More recently I have done case studies of leadership networks at two Catholic parishes in Boston, MA, exploring the implications of distributed versus centralized leadership at Catholic parishes for the implementation of evidence-based interventions (EBI) for cancer control.
My interests in ethnicity and diversity, social networks (also here) and social interaction extends to the study of health’s social determinants and health disparities, with a special focus on immigrant health. One of my ongoing interests in this area has been to help in the development of alternative ways to measure ethno-race in health research. In my study of flexible ethnic identification I found that ethnic labels habitually used by some did not correspond with the major ethnic influences evident in their daily interactions. As such, I’m interested in developing measures of ethno-race that are more sensitive to social context.