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Doctoral student wins AERA Shark Tank competition

Lauren Leathers

July 6, 2021

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Xiao-Yin Chen, a doctoral student in the College’s department of educational psychology, recently won the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Division C Shark Tank: Graduate Students Pitch Equity and Inclusion Focused Research Designs competition for her research presentation on the experiences of Appalachian students in college preparatory programs.

Photo of Xiao-Yin Chen

In a similar format to the popular Shark Tank television show, Chen and Licia Henneberg, a first-year undergraduate psychology student at the University of Kentucky, presented a five-minute video pitch of their research project—Central Appalachian High Schoolers’ Experiences in College Preparatory Programs—to a panel of judges and a live audience, who voted on the proposals.

In the presentation, Chen and Henneberg, both natives of Appalachia, Kentucky, examined stereotype threat and imposter feelings related to Appalachian students’ sense of belonging in college preparatory programs. These programs—which include AP and dual-level credit programs, summer transition programs, fully residential programs, and more—are designed to provide high school students the opportunity to engage in college-level coursework. According to Chen, Appalachian high school students are often stereotyped as lacking education and resources.

“As an Appalachian native, I hope this project helps to change the narrative about Appalachian students by better understanding and challenging some of the experiences they face in high-achieving contexts,” Chen said.

For winning the competition, Chen and Henneberg received a $1,500 grant from the AERA Division C to support the research project. They will use the grant to recruit and compensate high school student participants for the study and fund a research trip to Appalachia to interview students and faculty members in the program.

“The project came to fruition working with an undergraduate student from a different university,” Chen said. “If the last year has taught us anything, it’s how to expand boundaries and opportunities.”