June 2022 Spotlight – Suzanna So, Ph.D

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Suzanna So (suzanna.so@csulb.edu) as our member in the spotlight. Dr. So is an Assistant Profesor in Advanced Studies in Education and Counseling in the College of Education at California State University, Long Beach. Her research is focused on understanding how some youth may be more resilient in the face of traumatic stress, such as community violence and intergenerational trauma.

1. Can you write a couple sentences on some aspect of your career development: feel free to pick one or any other related question among these: a) what drew you 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 you 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 your area? 

I was born and raised in Chicago, and even from a young age I was able to see the disparity that was present within different communities throughout the city. Traveling from the north to the south side of the city, you see such stark differences in class, resources, and crime. Yet, even among those living in the same community, some seemed to demonstrate more resilience or resistance to the negative impact of their environmental context. I decided to become a psychologist to provide support for minoritized youth and to get a deeper understanding of their strengths that can prevent or intervene against traumatic stress. My research has focused on understanding factors that lead to variability in community violence exposure and mental health outcomes among African American youth. I will be continuing this line of work to include other underrepresented youth experiencing adversity or intergenerational trauma in order to further understand culturally-specific resiliency factors.

I have had incredible mentors throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies, and even now as a new Assistant Professor. My advice to someone starting out in the field is to find mentors whose goals and values align with yours. Find those who are excited and passionate about their field of work. Given some of the complexities of the field, it is especially important to find a supportive network of colleagues who also understand the challenges of being a person of color in academia.

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

In my recent work, I have focused on examining the reciprocal relationships of community violence exposure, trauma symptoms, and delinquent behaviors over development for children and adolescents. In particular, I have been interested in future orientation as a developmental asset for youth. I conducted secondary data analyses with the Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN) dataset, and I focused on a subset of African American youth. Results indicated that family future orientation significantly moderated the relationship between exposure to community violence and delinquent behaviors. Education and career future orientation significantly moderated the relationship between exposure to community violence and some trauma symptoms. In both cases, future orientation was found to be protective for youth against negative outcomes. This study highlighted the importance of gaining a deeper understanding of youths’ conceptualization of various aspects of the future, as this can greatly impact mental health outcomes.

While I have focused on African American youth thus far, my next project is to learn more about how Asian American and Pacific Islander communities conceptualize intergenerational trauma and resilience.

3. If you have any thoughts about your experiences with the Asian Caucus, that would be great!  These can be just for the Caucus leadership to know, and/or a message to the Caucus community. 

Thanks for the great work that you all do.

4. A weblink you prefer to share?


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