Growing up, Onnie Rogers experienced first-hand how powerful stereotypes could be in shaping how children perceived their own abilities. That experience inspired Rogers, who recently joined the University of Washington College of Education as a research assistant professor, to pursue research on identity development among urban youth. Her work examines how cultural norms, expectations and stereotypes influence how youth see themselves, particularly in the context of schooling and education.
Rogers comes to the College of Education after serving as a postdoc fellow at UW's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, and she will continue conducting her research at the Institute. Recently profiled by The Seattle Times, she earned her PhD in developmental psychology from New York University and her bachelor's in psychology and education from UCLA. Rogers recently answered questions about her research, when she does some of her best thinking and more.
What drew you to education?
I went to college with the plan of being an elementary school teacher. While at UCLA, I studied psychology and became very interested in issues of social and educational equity. The broader questions that drive my research are rooted in education, and though I am a developmental psychologist by training, I believe schools and education, more broadly, are key mechanisms for facilitating social change.
Tell us about your research and service agenda.
I study identity development and stereotypes. My research focuses on links between the self and society — how self-perceptions are shaped by others' perceptions, how the self-processes are tied to cultural processes. I ask how who we think we are is shaped by what others think about us. I study this process by conducting in-depth interviews with children and adolescents, examining how they think and talk about race and gender and how they negotiate the stereotypes associated with these social groups. My goal is to understand how to challenge and combat stereotypes so that all youth are free to pursue their interests and cultivate their abilities.
What makes your research meaningful to you and why is it important for teachers, parents and others?
My research is meaningful to me because I know what it feels like to be seen as an "exception" — to feel as though my achievements are more surprising because of my background or the color of my skin. My research is meaningful because I hear the stories of children and adolescents who are discriminated against and feel boxed in by stereotypes about who and what they should be. I believe my research is important for others because we all have a stake in deconstructing stereotypes and cultivating healthy identities among youth. It is important because we each need to know the ways we perpetuate stereotypes and how we can combat them. It is important because youth need spaces where they have the support to cultivate healthy identities.
What attracted you to UW's College of Education?
The College is deeply committed to research that matters and working closely with teachers and educators to learn about and implement quality science. As a research scholar, I spend more of my time 'out of the field' than 'in the field' and it is imperative to me that I am surrounded with colleagues who care deeply about the significance of research for the real world. I wanted to be in a space where application and theory were not occurring in isolation, but both valued and validated as joint processes.
What's something that students and colleagues should know about you?
I am an athlete at heart; I was a competitive athlete through college, so despite the many hours I spend closeted at my computer, some of my best "thinking" comes when I get out for a long run or yoga practice.
I have a 3-year-old daughter who brings light and laughter to every room she enters. She is FULL of energy and charm and wit.
Besides your work, what's something that you're passionate about?
I am passionate about being a mother. The lessons I teach (or fail to teach) my daughter become the issues of society. I take parenting seriously and cherish the challenges and privileges that come with motherhood.
Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications