Tiyobista Maereg is the 2023 Irene E. Harms Graduate Scholarship Awardee. Tiyobista is a fourth-year Developmental Psychology graduate student committed to community-engaged research and translational science with a focus on the well-being of diverse individuals, particularly Black youth. Her mentor is Dr. Dawn Witherspoon.
Tiyobista received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology & Political Science as a McNair Scholar from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a grad student at Penn State, she explored her interest in the experiences of Black youth by joining the Context and Development Lab directed by Dr. Witherspoon. As a member of the lab, Tiyobista worked on projects focusing on how context, particularly neighborhood, is associated with Black adolescent’s ethnic-racial identity, family functioning, and academic outcomes. Her work led to a better understanding of how neighborhood influences the development of Black youth and resulted in her desire to investigate the relationship of neighborhood, ethnic-racial identity, and educational outcomes. Importantly, through Tiyobista experiences working with families in Harrisburg, she has come to value the process of community-engaged research as well as qualitative research. She began to incorporate both of these techniques into her planned research.
As a graduate administrative assistant for Parents And Children Together (PACT), Tiyobista had many opportunities to meet with many members of the organizations who are PACT community partners. These experiences taught her the importance of building and maintaining relationships with community members and organizations and shaped her understanding of the need to keep a community’s best interests in mind during research.
The Irene E. Harms award will provide Tiyobista the opportunity to get training in multiple methodologies, including the ICPSR Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research. This program consists of two 3-week sessions on qualitative and quantitative methodologies in race and ethnicity-related research and measurement, scaling, and dimensional analysis. This unique program is not available at Penn State and will assist her in understanding and using mixed method approaches to studying race and ethnicity in psychological research and equip her with the theoretical background as well as the statistical skills behind creating measurements that best capture phenomena related to Black immigrants’ and Black girls’ identity-making. This additional training will help propel Tiyobista into a career committed to culturally- and contextually- informed research with the goal of bettering the lives of minoritized individuals and families.