November 2019 Spotlight, Yishan Shen, Ph.D.

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Yishan Shen ( as our member in spotlight. Dr. Shen is currently an Assistant Professor of Family and Child Development in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences at Texas State University. Her research focuses on exploring how culture and contexts influence emotional, behavioral, and academic adjustment of immigrant and minority adolescents. More specifically, her work examines the implications of linguistic minority and immigrant adolescents’ unique developmental processes, such as language brokering and acculturation.

1) What drew you to do work on Asians, Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? who was an important mentor to you in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field?

I grew up in a Korean ethnic minority family in a small Koreatown in Northeast China. The ethnic enclave, while providing children and youth with important resources, such as dual language education in both Korean and Chinese, harbored concentrated poverty and many concomitant problems, such as low educational attainment. For example, HALF of my middle school classmates dropped out and did not make it to high school. I chose to come to the U.S. for my graduate study, where the research on these issues was the most developed, and I have since been pursuing a career in research and teaching with the ultimate goal of promoting underrepresented and disadvantaged students’ educational success and psychosocial well-being.

Dr. Su Yeong Kim and Dr. Aprile Benner at the University of Texas at Austin were the most important mentors to me during graduate school. Under the mentorship of Dr. Su Yeong Kim, I started exploring the roles of culture-infused or group-specific family processes (e.g., parenting, language brokering) on youth’s well-being. Additionally, under the mentorship of Dr. Aprile Benner, I started exploring the roles of contextual influences (e.g., low family socioeconomic status, discrimination) on adolescents’ development. My current research interests are a combination of these two lines and center on exploring how culturally universal and group-specific processes conjointly influence the academic and psychosocial development of immigrant and minority youth.

2) A short paragraph describing a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes you excited about it. 

In collaboration with Dr. Yoonsun Choi at the University of Chicago, I am currently working on a new project in which I will study ethnic Korean adolescents in Northeast China. The same questions that have already been asked to ethnic Korean adolescents in the U.S. Midwest and Seoul, South Korea will be asked to their counterparts in China. The goal is to study the adjustment of ethnic Korean youth across different societal contexts in relation to culturally-universal factors (e.g., socioeconomic status), culturally-specific factors (e.g., culture-infused parenting), and context-driven factors (e.g., racial or ethnic discrimination). I am very excited about this project, because to our knowledge, this will be the first study to directly compare the adaptation of ethnic Korean youth across migration contexts. This study can contribute to our knowledge about how racial or ethnic minority status (versus majority status) impacts the developmental processes and in turn psychosocial and academic outcomes of youth of a single Asian ethnic group across societal contexts.

3) A preferred weblink

ARC Lab: Adolescent Research on Context

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