New Research on the University of Iowa's Campus Climate

Many Big Ten universities are currently experiencing a sharp increase in the enrollment of undergraduate students from the People’s Republic of China. In 2007, The University of Iowa had 568 students from the PRC – in 2015, their number rose to 2,842. To help aid these students to acclimate better to UIowa campus life, the UIowa administration has funded programs, such as “Friends Without Borders,” but Chinese students still find themselves segregated and stressed. 

Social psychologists can offer much to alleviate the problems of a population of newcomers who must thrive within a new social environment. Researchers at The Center for the Study of Group Processes are studying some of the group-level social issues associated with the arrival of greater numbers of Chinese students. The aim of this research is to make all student interactions easier and bring awareness to any forms of discrimination that may result from placement into a new social situation.

Here are Austin Van Loon and Timothy Kang,
training their post-session interviewing skills.

Professor Bianchi, along with several undergraduate and graduate students, have launched a series of social psychological experiments to examine group interaction among Asian, Asian American and White students and capture this unique moment in our university’s history. 

Alex Ruch, our graduate student researcher, helps Ariel
Perez hone those interview skills.

Their research is motivated by several questions including: (1) Do Asian students coming to The University of Iowa suffer from the “model minority” pressures that many Asian American students face? The model minority stereotype asserts that certain ethnic groups are successful (financially, scholastically, etc.), and are therefore not in need of help against prejudice. What is interesting about this stereotypical perception is that it is often studied at the macro-, or society-wide, level, but is seldom examined at the level of interaction. (2) Are Asian students socially disadvantaged because of their “immigrant” status? Given the political climate currently surrounding the topic of immigration, many newcomers to the United States are systematically discriminated against.

Currently, eight outstanding undergraduate students (two of whom are international students) and one graduate student make up the team of researchers conducting the social psychological experiments designed by Dr. Alison Bianchi, the Director for The Center. To answer these questions, Professor Bianchi's team uses formal theories from the Expectation States theoretical framework to derive testable hypotheses concerning inter-racial/ethnic group interactions.  

Professor Bianchi writes: "By better understanding the processes associated with this form of inter-racial/ethnic group interactions, and by using the most scientifically rigorous, theory-driven research, we hope to capture the social realities of inter-racial/ethnic group encounters. Once we do this, we are in a great position to offer policy solutions to the UIowa administration, as the Expectation States theoretical tradition also provides well-researched methods for eliminating certain forms of detrimental interactions, if they exist." 

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