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Amber Stark

SIOP Student Honored with NSF Fellowship

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has granted SIOP Student member Elisabeth Silver a Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) award, one of only two awardees this year in I-O psychology. Read about the other recipient, SIOP Student Jonas Sutphin, here.

Silver’s proposed research will focus on how, why, and under what conditions people with privileged social identities perpetuate or resist social inequalities. To do this, she will investigate county-level relationships between threats to White people’s social status and the prevalence of formal claims of “anti-White” employment discrimination. Silver explains that these claims are problematic because they perpetuate the idea that increasing racial equity results in losses for White people and can stand in the way of racial justice efforts.

To conduct her study, she geolocated millions of formal employment discrimination claims and combined this dataset with multiple publicly available data sources. In doing so, she reported the first real-world evidence that formal claims of anti-White discrimination are more prevalent in communities with high endorsement of conservative, status-legitimizing beliefs and with potential threats to White people’s social status, such as high levels of racial diversity and White unemployment.

“I am so proud of Elisabeth for winning the NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship! Given that Elisabeth has 16 publications as a third-year graduate student and has already received a number of accolades at Rice University (best master’s thesis, best graduate essay), I am not surprised. However, the NSF GRFP is so competitive and few people in I-O psychology win it, so this is a real accomplishment,” said Dr. Mikki Hebl, SIOP Fellow and Silver’s advisor.

Silver hopes to use her skills to provide novel insights into long-standing issues in workplace diversity and discrimination. She hopes to conduct research that improves employees’ experiences by reducing discrimination, backlash to diversity initiatives, and other toxic workplace behaviors, both furthering her career and the field of I-O psychology.

“Of course, I am very excited about the fellowship’s support, which will be instrumental in developing my research program and launching a productive career in I-O psychology,” Silver said. “In addition to the direct benefits of the fellowship, I am most excited about the opportunity to pay forward the mentorship that allowed me to create a competitive application for the NSF GRFP. In creating my application package, many previous NSF Fellows generously volunteered their time and shared their application materials with me. Their support was crucial for developing a strong proposal, and I look forward to doing the same for future applicants.”

Silver feels that as the United States becomes increasingly racially diverse and efforts for racial justice are made, understanding the contexts in which White people engage in behavior intended to protect their social status—such as claiming “reverse discrimination”—will only become more important. By examining the contextual factors associated with White people’s status-legitimizing behavior, she hopes to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion and bring awareness to how the social contexts in which people work might impact workplace behavior that slows racial progress.

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