The Ethnic and Racial Issues Committee: Increasing Diversity in Developmental Science


This article continues a series highlighting the initiatives of SRCD’s 14 active standing and operational committees, their dedicated members, and how each contributes to a more vibrant Society and to advancing child development research. Each committee has its own charge from SRCD’s Governing Council and generates its own activities. Spotlights on the Interdisciplinary Committeethe Teaching Committeethe Science and Social Policy Committee2019 Biennial Meeting Program Committeethe Student and Early Career Council (SECC)the Equity and Justice Committee, and the International Affairs Committee have been published. We continue with a closer look at the activities conducted by the Ethnic and Racial Issues (ERI) Committee.

Marc H. Bornstein, Past President and Laura L. Namy, Executive Director

About the Committee

Originally founded as the Minority Committee in 1984, the Ethnic and Racial Issues Committee focuses on increasing diversity in developmental science and SRCD through programmatic initiatives and acts as a liaison for internal groups interested in research pertaining to racial-ethnic minorities. The committee aims to impact diversity and inclusion at multiple levels of the pipeline and promotes research with racial-ethnic minority populations.

To carry out its responsibilities, the committee’s activities are focused on the following three areas:

  1. The development of an academic pipeline with the purpose of increasing the number of ethnic minority scholars conducting research in the field of child development (broadly defined). As part of this charge, the committee oversees the Frances Degen Horowitz Millennium Scholars Program, which was developed as a vehicle to encourage and support scholars from under-represented ethnic/racial groups from North America in pursuing graduate work in developmental science.
  2. To examine the current state of research in the field and to promote opportunities that result in increased levels of research focused on the development of ethnic minority children and adolescents. The committee provides guidance and recommendations to the Society concerning the inclusion of such research through the Society’s publications, biennial meetings, and other external outlets.
  3. To serve as a liaison to other groups and organizations concerned with research on ethnic minority children and adolescents (i.e., the Asian Caucus, the Black Caucus, the Latino Caucus, and the International Affairs Committee).

Current Members

Margaret Caughy, College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the
University of Georgia (Co-Chair)
Gabriela Livas Stein, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (Co-Chair) 2017-2021
Barbara Rogoff, University of California, Santa Cruz 2017-2021
Rebecca M. White, University of Arkansas 2017-2021
Mariah Contreras, Tufts University 2019-2023
Linda Halgunseth, University of Connecticut 2019-2023
Lionel Howard, GW Graduate School of Education and Human Development 2019-2023
Wonjung Oh, Texas Tech University 2019-2023
Ciara Smalls Glover, Georgia State University 2019-2023
Rashmita Mistry, UCLA (Governing Council Representative) 2019-2021
Stephanie Rowley, University of Michigan (Governing Council Representative) 2019-2021
Lauren C. Mims, University of Virginia (SECC Representative) 2019-2021

2017-2019 Committee Roster
Note: Committee members and terms changed following SRCD's Biennial Meeting in March 2019.

Dawn P. Witherspoon, Penn State College of the Liberal Arts (Chair) 2011-2019
Margaret Caughy, College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia 2017-2021
Gabriela Livas Stein, University of North Carolina at Greensboro 2017-2021
Enrique W. Neblett Jr., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 2015-2019
Vaishali Raval, Miami University 2015-2019
Barbara Rogoff, University of California, Santa Cruz 2017-2021
Eleanor Seaton, Arizona State University 2013-2019
Brendesha Tynes, University of Southern California 2015-2019
Rebecca M. White, University of Arkansas 2017-2021
Natasha Cabrera, University of Maryland (Governing Council Representative) 2017-2019
Michael Cunningham, Tulane University (Governing Council Representative) 2017-2019
Deyaun Villarreal, University of Texas at Dallas (SECC Representative) 2017-2019
Recent Key Accomplishments

Diverse Majority Society Lecture Series
To coincide with the one-year anniversary of the tragic events associated with the Charlottesville white-nationalist march, during the summer of 2018 the committee led by chair, Dawn Witherspoon, Ph.D., McCourtney Family Early Career Professor in Psychology at Penn State College of the Liberal Arts in collaboration with SRCD Leadership Staff, kicked-off SRCD’s annual lecture series entitled Child Development in a Diverse Majority Society.

  • The first lecture, “The Transformative Power of Diversity in Education is Enormous”: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century hosted by the University of Virginia Curry School of Education, was presented by Joanna Lee Williams, Ph.D., Associate Professor,  University of Virginia and included panel discussions with Natalia Palacios, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Virginia, and Genevieve Siegel-Hawley Ph.D, Associate Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University.
  • The second lecture in the series, Preparing Racial-Ethnic Minority Children for STEM Opportunities: Promoting Identity and Efficacy in Community Afterschool Programs co-sponsored by SRCD and the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Georgia was presented by Emilie Smith, Ph.D., Professor, University of Georgia. Stay tuned for a YouTube recording of the event in the summer, 2019.

SRCD 2019 Biennial Meeting
Over the last year, the committee has also been involved in many important SRCD initiatives which took place at the 2019 Biennial Meeting, including:

  • Conceptualizing and measuring culture, context, race, and ethnicity: A focus on science, ethics, and collaboration in the Spirit of 2044. This pre-conference was hosted in collaboration with the Asian, Black, and Latino Caucuses as well as the Equity and Justice Committee. In 2015, the United States Census projected that by 2044, the U.S. will become a “majority-minority” country with no racial/ethnic group having a numerical majority. This shift is expected to occur for youth under the age of 18 by 2020. This pre-conference focused on measuring and conceptualizing “minority” populations within the context of the greater diversification of the U.S. (e.g., mono-racial/ethnic individuals as well as multiracial/ children and youth) and will result in recommendations for scholars on how to move beyond description and achieve deeper measurement in our research across all methodologies (i.e., quantitative and qualitative).
  • Collaborative Science in the Spirit of 2044: Diversity is Key. This invited salon, also hosted in collaboration with the Caucuses and the Equity and Justice Committee, highlighted successful, diverse, collaborative research teams that have identified processes unique to diverse populations, and executed their research projects with great attention to the ethics of doing the work with underserved and/or underrepresented populations.
  • A Special Poster Session. SRCD continued the tradition of a poster session designed specifically to highlight leading child development research in the areas of ethnic and racial issues, policy, interdisciplinarity and internationality. The committee led the review process for the Diversity Poster Section.
  • Frances Degen Horowitz Millennium Scholars Program. Through this annual program, minority scholars had the opportunity to attend the SRCD Biennial Meeting and special pre-conference activities, as well as to develop a lasting mentoring relationship with their mentors.

Strategic Counsel
Additionally, the committee provides strategic counsel to SRCD leadership, offering specific recommendations for responses to current events such as recent federal policies on family separation.

Looking Ahead
Following the committee’s spirit of collaboration, in conjunction with the Teaching Committee, the ERI Committee will launch the “Hidden Figures in Developmental Science” video series to increase awareness of developmental science as a career path, particularly among students from underrepresented minorities and/or first-generation college students. The project is funded by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

“We’re also excited to launch the ERI website which is a way for SRCD members to engage with our committee,” said Dr. Witherspoon. “The site has information about the committee’s activities, initiatives, resources and the great things that SRCD members whose work is aligned with our mission are doing.”

Dr. Witherspoon’s term as chair of the ERI committee concluded at the 2019 Biennial. SRCD appreciates all her hard work and contributions to both the committee and the Society. Gabriela Livas Stein, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Margaret Caughy, Ph.D., Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Family Health Disparities and Graduate Coordinator at the University of Georgia now serve as the committee's new co-chairs.