Leah Lessard, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow (PI)
UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
Despite ongoing efforts to promote equity in education, achievement disparities remain persistent across different groups of students. Interestingly, underperformance is most common among socially marginalized youth, who often lack the academic support and relational capital important to do well in school. Emphasizing the academic value of social relationships, my research focuses on how peer experiences, in particular, affect educational trajectories during adolescence – a developmentally critical time when the stakes associated with achievement rise and many youths fall off track. Driven by interests in both basic psychological processes as well as translational science, my studies specifically address: (1) Why social marginalization increases academic vulnerability; and (2) How certain peer contexts can promote educational resilience among socially marginalized adolescents (e.g., based on social class, race/ethnicity, body weight). By identifying multiple risk and protective factors at different contextual levels (e.g., friendships, school norms), my research offers potential points of intervention to promote inclusion within schools so that all students have the opportunity to succeed. At UConn, I will be working with Dr. Rebecca Puhl to examine mechanisms of reducing weight stigma in the school setting.
Ph.D., UCLA, 2019
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