Helping Underrepresented Students Find Prosocial Value in STEM: An Intersectional Approach to Utility-Value Interventions
Stacy Priniski

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Discipline

Recent research suggests that a utility-value intervention in which students write about the usefulness of what they are learning for achieving prosocial goals (e.g., giving back to one’s community) could be particularly motivating for first-generation and underrepresented racial/ethnic minority students. Such an intervention could help to address achievement gaps in STEM, but what is the best way to have students write about prosocial utility? My dissertation involves three studies to investigate the impact of different types of prosocial utility-value writing, using mixed methods. Study 1 is a survey study with introductory biology students to examine the nature of underrepresented students’ prosocial goals, using an intersectional approach considering both race and social class. Study 2 is a laboratory study in which I directly manipulate the type of prosocial utility students write about (utility for helping family, community, or society). Finally, Study 3 is a qualitative study in which I conduct content analyses of essays from an ongoing utility-value intervention study in introductory biology courses. Students are given a general prosocial utility prompt about connecting the material to helping “other people.” I explore which types of prosocial utility students choose to write about and whether particular prosocial themes are predictive of interest, course performance or career plans, again using an intersectional approach. These studies can inform the development of an intervention toolkit for STEM educators to promote equitable outcomes by helping their students see the prosocial value of STEM.
About Stacy Priniski
Stacy Priniski is a PhD candidate in Social Psychology and fellow in the Interdisciplinary Training Program in Education Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focuses on how targeted social-psychological interventions based in motivation theory can be implemented to promote equitable outcomes in higher education, especially for first-generation college students and students of color. Her particular area of expertise is value-based interventions that focus on two types of values: the value that students find in the topics they are studying and students’ own personal values. Stacy studies the ways in which these two types of values shape students’ experiences in college and how interventions can leverage those values to improve educational outcomes. She investigates these processes both in the laboratory and in large-scale, randomized controlled trials in the field. Most recently, Stacy has been working on projects assessing the values and goals of underrepresented students in a variety of educational contexts (two-year colleges, regional universities, and research universities in varied geographical areas of the United States), and developing interventions for underrepresented students in each context. Her work has been recognized by the Motivation Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association through the Paul Pintrich Memorial Award.

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