August 2023 Spotlight – Manpreet Dhillon Brar, PhD

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Manpreet Dhillon Brar (; she/hers), as our member in the spotlight. Manpreet is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Child Development at California State University, San Bernardino.

Please tell us about some aspect of your career development

Mentorship is a key aspect of my career and has been important to me since I first began as a researcher as an undergraduate student. I mentor a lot of first-generation college students who also are often caretakers, from low income or working-class backgrounds, and identify as part of an ethnic-racial minoritized group. These are a lot of the identities I also hold and these, along with being a child political refugee from Northern India, have shaped so much of my research and career interests, even choosing now to work at a teaching institution where I am constantly advocating for supporting sense of belonging for individual students with the understanding that just lumping all students into the Asian American category is not enough and we must disaggregate this incredibly diverse demographic to be truly inclusive. Given my personal and scholarly background, I often share with my students that I started with doing “Me-search” and this is often the best way for researchers to begin pursuing diversity efforts because our stories shape so much of how we approach the work we do. I have had a lot of mentors who have supported me through “Me-search” and are the reason why I can now unapologetically do the research and community work I do. One of these mentors is Dr. Rashmita Mistry who continues to motivate me for pursuing social justice research grounded in community, especially as an early career scholar now.

Please describe a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes you excited about it. 

I recently concluded an invigorating pilot year as the Principal Investigator of a CREATE awarded program evaluation, which was focused on addressing student graduation inequities and fostering a sense of belonging within the California State University system. This research project called the CSU Intergroup Dialogue Program was conducted by a multi-campus team of faculty and student researchers in collaboration with a community nonprofit partner.

Our approach was distinct; we capitalized on the power of intergroup dialogue, coalition-building, and action-taking involving faculty, staff, and students across eight campuses to catalyze meaningful change. Particularly striking was the light shed on the often-overlooked diversity within the Asian American student community, whose experiences and outcomes differ significantly among ethnic groups.

This work directly contributes to our understanding of equity issues within the Asian American community, providing a nuanced perspective that challenges monolithic categorizations. Beyond this, our findings offer insights for other under-studied populations, such as Black, Hispanic, Latinx, and Native American college students, by highlighting transformative change through action project to target the pervasive graduation inequities that exist.

The program’s relevance extends to policy and practice, as it promotes the skillset necessary for engaging in equity dialogues, a critical component of combating discrimination and hate. The bridging of students, faculty, and staff across campuses to build coalitions and collectively advocate for institutional change is a compelling model of solidarity and action.

This project was a testament to the power of reflective dialogue and action in dismantling systemic barriers to timely graduation, and more broadly, to educational equity. As we continue to assess and refine our approach, I am excited about the potential to scale and replicate this model in higher education institutions beyond California, with the ultimate goal of creating more inclusive and equitable academic environments.

Do you have any thoughts about your experiences with the Asian Caucus?

With SRCD as an organization, I haven’t always felt supported as an activist-scholar of color with
many unique challenges to achieving the goals of an early career faculty. The Asian Caucus is one
place I do feel more represented and supported in the work I do give the identities I hold. I do wish that the Asian Caucus upheld more activist and policy-driven agendas especially given that Asian Americans tend to be depoliticized or not on the front-line of sociopolitical change that is much needed in our current context. I wish to see more political stances and actions taken by the Asian Caucus that brings members along for meaningful transformational change to the intersectionally diverse children and families we serve. One such space I have seen this in is with #miseducAsian on Twitter.

Any upcoming talks or presentations we should know about?

I just took the CSU Intergroup Dialogue program mentioned above on the road to present a 90-minute interactive discussion at the Difficult Dialogues Conference and a 15-talk at the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) both in June. The reception of this work was incredibly powerful, and I built connections so we can see the intergroup dialogue program for tackling equity gaps extend beyond our California context. 

Related to this work, two of the participants of the program will be co-facilitating an online community dialogue space on their action project around Intersectionality within Invisible Disabilities via UHRI on August 2nd at 6pm PST. More information about this can be found on the events page for the community partner. 

I will also be presenting the findings along with policy and practice implications of an intergroup dialogue approach at my institution on September 7th at noon for the Child Development Club. More details for this online event can be found on the club website closer to the date. 

What is your preferred contact email?

A weblink you prefer to share:
I am fortunate enough to do a lot of my community work through a Los Angeles based nonprofit
focused on social justice and human rights education. Check us out on our website and social

Also, folks can learn more about my collaborative lab and scholarship by visiting our lab website.

Finally, I am finally learning about the strength of keeping a professional network outside of the
academy so let’s connect on Linkedin!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *