Dr. Jason Okonofua is a professor at University of California-Berkeley. Before assuming this position, he earned his doctorate at Stanford University with the guidance of Dr. Gregory Walton and Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt and currently works with them on a project that investigates psychological barriers to reintegration (return to home and school) for juvenile offenders.
Jason’s research program examines social-psychological processes that contribute to inequality. One context in which he has examined these processes is that of teacher-student relationships and race disparities in disciplinary action. His research emphasizes the on-going interplay between processes that originate among teachers (how stereotyping can influence discipline) and students (how apprehension to bias can incite misbehavior) to examine causes for disproportionate discipline according to race. The intersection of these processes, Jason hypothesizes, undermines teacher-student relationships over time, contributes to disproportionate discipline to racially stigmatized students, and ultimately feeds the “school-to-prison” pipeline. By investigating basic processes that contribute to misinterpreted and misguided disrespect among teachers and students, he aims to develop novel interventions that help racially stigmatized youth succeed in school and reduce their risk of discipline problems.
Jason is also working on a project in collaboration with the Juvenile Justice Center in Alameda County to ease youth offender’s transition back into school. The work is leveraging relevant social psychological theory to test a large-scale intervention to help youth offenders see the promise in school settings to reach their goals and overcome challenges in the process. This project is poised to contribute to lacking literature on the challenges youth offenders face and how social psychology on mindsets can help them to adjust to new challenges they face.
His research has been published in top journals, including Psychological Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; it has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Character Lab, Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education, Diversifying Academia Recruiting Excellence, Stanford University’s Graduate Research Opportunity and the Diversity Dissertation Research Opportunity; and it has been featured on a variety of popular media, including MSNBC, Reuters, Huffington Post, Daily Mail, Pacific Standard, Science Update, Education Week, and the Grio.