Improving Interracial Contact in STEM: Examining the Effect of Repeated Interracial Contact in VR On Racial Anxiety and Attitudes, Social Networks, and Performance
Effective Years: 2021-2026
The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program is a National Science Foundation-wide activity that offers awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. This CAREER award supports experimental and longitudinal studies that aim to increase diversity and inclusion in higher education STEM culture. The project will use virtual reality to explore interracial interactions and race-related cognitions and emotions. Study findings will inform theory and interventions on inclusion in STEM using virtual reality. This project integrates research and education by involving undergraduate and graduate students in the development of virtual reality simulations and research, as well as high school girls through partnership with the Black Girls Code organization.
Employing quantitative and qualitative methods, this project includes virtual reality simulations, in-person experiments and focus groups to examine the repeated virtual reality interracial contact hypothesis in STEM. Phase I of the project examines the extent to which virtual reality interracial interaction processes in STEM contexts mirror in-person interracial interaction processes. Applying insights from research on deliberative practice and exposure therapy in virtual reality, Phase II of the project will provide STEM students multiple opportunities to interact with virtual reality simulations in common STEM settings, such as laboratories, organization meetings, and study groups. Phase III will examine the long-term impacts of virtual reality interracial interactions on the academic performance of students from underrepresented groups. This research will strengthen and diversify STEM pathways by fostering more inclusive and welcoming environments for students from groups historically marginalized in STEM and training diverse students in programming and research. This award is supported by the EHR Core Research program which supports fundamental STEM education research initiatives.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.