November 2016 Spotlight, Yijie Wang, Ph.D.

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Yijie Wang, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Fordham University and, beginning January 2017, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Michigan State University. Dr. Wang is the current student/early-career representative at the Asian Caucus. Her research interests center on the development of adolescents, particularly those from racial and ethnic minority families. Her work investigates how socio-cultural processes (e.g., ethnic/racial socialization, discrimination) in multiple developmental settings (e.g., family, peer, school) influence youth’s psychosocial and psychobiological adjustment. She is particularly interested in diversity in social settings and how such diversity impacts development and well-being.

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Personal Spotlight

We asked scholars to describe one of the following: a) what drew them to do work on Asians, Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? b) who was an important mentor to them in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field? c) any particular advice or tips to someone starting out in the field who is doing work in their area.

The personal story that drives me to study cultural diversity goes back to my adolescence, when my family migrated from a town in mid/western China to an eastern-coast city close to Shanghai. The process of adapting to the new city was very similar with what has been found in the literature of immigration: there was an improvement in our economic conditions and my educational opportunities, but there was also the challenging process of “acculturation.” The local culture and dialect were all foreign to me – even now almost 20 years later I can barely understand the local conversation. During those times, migration was rare in my city. I became aware of my unique background at school right after, yet, in time, learned to appreciate the cultures (and very importantly, food) in both hometowns. These experiences inspired me to work with Dr. Su Yeong Kim on acculturation and Dr. Aprile Benner on school diversity and marginalization in my graduate program at the University of Texas at Austin. Having lived in the U.S. since graduate school, I continue to see how opportunities and challenges go hand in hand with cultural diversity. It is also the goal of my research to understand how these factors influence child and youth development.

My advice for someone starting out in the field also aligns with the beauty of diversity, to work with and learn from different people. There’s an old saying in China, “as three people walk, there must be my teachers.” I’ve benefited enormously by working with both of my Ph.D. advisors and my postdoc mentor, Dr. Tiffany Yip. Learning from their different ways of thinking and working has helped me reflect and evolve along the way.

Research Spotlight

We also asked scholars to describe a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes them excited about it.  Feel free to describe its importance from any one or more of these lenses: a) research contribution; b) our knowledge about Asian or Asian American populations; c) our knowledge about other understudied populations; d) practice or policy relevance.

My recent work investigates how ethnic/racial socialization in peer networks influences minority youth development. The existing literature on ethnic/racial socialization (the process through which adolescents learn about their race/ethnicity and culture) has focused primarily on the family setting, even though other socialization agents such as peers are becoming increasingly influential in adolescence. Little is known about how peers talk about culture and race/ethnicity, whether these cultural messages are similar or different from family socialization, and how they influence adolescents’ identity development and well-being. My research has identified cultural messages and practices in peer groups that are similar to those in the family settings. However, when there is an incongruence between family and peer ethnic/racial socialization, minority youth tend to experience difficulties in navigating such incongruence. These findings highlight the importance of considering cultural contexts across multiple developmental settings in understanding racial/ethnic minority youth’s well-being.

Experiences with Asian Caucus

I’ve been involved in Asian Caucus since graduate school and fortunate to get to know mentors, friends, and colleagues and have lots of opportunities here. More importantly, as a junior scholar who have mostly been preoccupied with publishing and getting a job, the experience of working with wonderful scholars in the caucus has opened my eyes and showed me how we as researchers could push the field forward collaboratively as an organization.

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