Sabrina A. Mendez-Escobar, M.S., Full-time Faculty & Assistant Department Chair, Harry S Truman College
We asked scholars to describe some of the following questions: What drew you to do work on Latinx youth and families, or another topic that is important to you now? Who was an important mentor to you in this work, or was there a particularly influential study in the field or in a related field?
As a developmentalist, I see my academic and professional journey as long and winding with each step preparing me for where I am today. I am currently an instructor in the Education and Human Development and Family Studies at Harry S Truman College where I was recently awarded tenure. I started teaching in higher education part-time at the same time I started practicing mental health counseling in Miami. Working with children and families alerted me to the issues families face in terms of access to services and specialized social supports, and how services need to address the unique needs of those served. Teaching made me realize how much I enjoyed bringing my professional insights into the classroom as a way of contextualizing course content. My initial experiences with college students in a Latinx diverse community paired with my infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH) clinical work with young families influenced me to pursue a doctoral degree in child development.
When I moved to Chicago for my PhD program, I found myself disconnected from my roots in my personal life and noted the feeling was the same as I delved deeper into the child development literature. It became clear to me that context is important to development and the field greatly benefits from having individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences conducting research and teaching college students. My newfound insight informed my research interests and encouraged me to seek mentorship that would allow me to pursue those interests. Within my program, I sought advising and mentorship from faculty with similar experiences who could equip me with the academic tools necessary for research and writing. Outside of my program, I sought the mentorship available through the Latinx Caucus—coincidentally, the research literature I eventually consumed was written by researchers who were part of the Caucus and it was a natural fit. The mentorship I have sought has allowed me to create academic spaces that do not feel as alienating and gave me a break from the othering I was experiencing. It is also through the mentorship I have received that I have connected with researchers who have laid the foundation for my area of research (Drs. Cynthia Garcia-Coll, Deborah Rivas-Drake, and Gabriela Livas Stein) and have helped guide me through many aspects of being a doctoral student (Drs. Lisa Lopez, Linda Halgunseth, Fiorella Carlos Chavez, Chelsea Williams, Tissyana Camacho, and Alan Meca).
We invited scholars to describe a recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes them excited about it.
I am currently working on my dissertation proposal centered around examining the ethnic-racial socialization practices of Dominican mothers with their young children. My research interest is largely influenced by the work of Drs. Diane Hughes, Deborah Rivas-Drake, and Adriana Umaña-Taylor. Collectively, their work has allowed me to understand that positive regard for ethnic-racial identity in the adolescent years has a positive impact on academics and overall wellness, and parental socialization practices centered around ethnicity and race vary among families. As such, I am interested in early parental ethnic-racial socialization (ERS) practices that might set the groundwork during childhood for later identity development, and in understanding how these practices can inform interventions geared toward supporting families. It is important for me to work toward shedding light on the experiences of families within my own Dominican culture while also answering the call for increased focus on establishing context in child developmental research. As such, I have outlined the sociohistoral context of Dominicans living in the US to inform a review of the ERS literature and to be considered when interpreting research findings centered on Dominican families. I am specifically interested in examining which ERS practices Dominican mothers use with their young children and exploring their beliefs and goals related to those ERS practices.
Any upcoming talks, presentations, or publications we should know about?
This upcoming fall semester is proving to be a time of many unknowns. My goal is to propose my dissertation study and I will need to be creative in recruiting during the time of COVID-19 and accessing Dominican mothers given that Chicago does not have an established Dominican community. I am always welcome to suggestions from the Latinx Caucus community, who has had to traverse many creative solutions to get this type of work completed, even when there is no pandemic! We also have a panel accepted for SRCD Special Topic 2020: Construction of the Other, titled, “Inviting everyone to the table: Research with marginalized communities” with myself and Drs. Tissyana Camacho, Gabriela Livas Stein, L. Onnie Rogers, and Fiorella Chavez Carlos.
I strongly affirm that health and wellness precede academia. The challenges ahead will require much attention to the former in order to get any research completed. As such, I am going forward as someone who has had to overcome challenges that have taught me how cultivating relationships and caring for others is a huge part of the process. Pa’lante!