Hobart and William Smith Colleges - Studying Black Identity Formation
The HWS Update
Yalemwork Teferra '20 and Assistant Professor of Economics Keoka Grayson meet discuss summer research.

Studying Black Identity Formation

As part of the 2019 Stephen W. Woodworth ’54 Fisher Center Student Summer Fellowship, Yalemwork Teferra ’21 is studying the relationship between black identity formation and the criminalization of black individuals. In conjunction with the mission of the Fisher Center for the Study of Gender and Justice, Teferra’s research goals are to further social justice around the issues of gender, race and class.

Guided by Associate Professor of Economics Keoka Grayson, Teferra is analyzing various models of identity development and other aspects of identity formation for the black individual throughout adolescence. In particular, her research evaluates the significance of school, peer and family influences.

Teferra says she is questioning stereotypes, stereotype threat, criminality of black youth, the media, racialized treatment in schools and street culture. Her hope is to expand the academic and social lens that effects how people perceive mass incarceration and black criminality, “…starting from the way this phenomenon affects how black people see themselves and interact with the world,” she says. In the next phase of her research, she will place her findings in context with other variables, including socioeconomic status, gender and ethnicity.

An international relations major with an Africana studies and economics double minor, Teferra says “Professor Grayson expands and pushes my thinking every time we meet. All of her suggestions and guidance have made me enjoy the research and writing process.”

Teferra adds that the topics require her to use methods and academic research from many disciplines. “It has been challenging and interesting to dive into psychology and sociology to confront my research questions. It has shown me how interdisciplinary the social sciences are as I examine and apply the skills I’ve learned from my major and minors.”

On campus, Teferra is the co-president of Sankofa and the co-president of Model African Union. She is an O’Laughlin Ambassador at the Office of Admissions and a student writer for the Office of Communications. This year, she studied abroad in Ghana during winter break. She will study abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France in 2020.

Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.