A Causal Examination of How Peer Mindset Climate Shapes STEM Major Belongingness and Persistence
Eunjin Seo

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Texas at Austin

Primary Discipline

Educational Psychology
The racial and ethnic inequality in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education impairs the quality of the U.S. workforce and makes our economic system unjust. Interventions targeting STEM students' mindsets, such as utility value and growth mindsets, have shown some promising effects in reducing disparities, but they are unlikely to fully mitigate inequality due to the importance of the classroom climate, such as peers. The way peers think and talk about who is smart and who can succeed in large gateway STEM courses can be a powerful resource or risk factor for minoritized students' persistence in STEM majors. To date, research on the classroom's mindset climate has been correlational, with insufficient causal evidence to make concrete policy recommendations for using peer climate to narrow group disparities in STEM. In this postdoctoral fellowship, Eunjin Seo will create and use two novel datasets to generate causal evidence about the effects of peers' fixed mindset on Black, Latinx, or Indigenous students' belongingness and persistence in STEM majors. This research will reveal the causal role of the peer climate in reproducing inequality and provide the basis for concrete solutions that target modifiable climate factors such as peers' mindsets.
About Eunjin Seo
Eunjin Seo is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin and will serve as an Assistant Professor at Texas State University from the fall of 2023. Eunjin completed her B.A. in education from Seoul National University, South Korea, where she was a proud first-generation college student. She earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin as a Fulbright scholar. Her research focuses on understanding the dynamic interplay between motivation, achievement, and well-being during adolescence and emerging adulthood, aiming to improve adolescents? trajectories on the path to adulthood. Eunjin pays particular attention to how developmental contexts can deplete the psychological resources of students who are structurally disadvantaged and minoritized. Her research employs high-intensity situational data, such as repeated measures, daily diaries, and continuous physiological monitoring, connecting them with longitudinal data on administrative and clinical outcomes. Eunjin?s research often utilizes large, multi-site studies to understand how these micro-psychological processes play out across different environments with different levels of resources, opportunities, or constraints. This approach highlights how developmental contexts shape situational motivation and stress responses, accumulating consequences for long-term achievement and well-being. Eunjin has won several awards for her research, including the Fulbright Research Award, the Paul R. Pintrich Memorial Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the National Study of Learning Mindsets Early Career Fellowship from the Student Experience Research Network, and the Michael B. Salwen Research Award from the Korean American Educational Research Association.

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