Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Affairs announces 2024 Dean's Research Associates

May 1, 2024 - Emily Jodway

The College of Social Science Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Affairs recently announced the postdoctoral candidates appointed to the Dean’s Research Associates Program for 2024. Ahleah Miles (Human Resources and Labor Relations), Aldo Barrita (Psychology), Angie Torres-Beltran (Political Science) and Gabriel Johnson (Social Work) make up the members of the DRAP’s fourth cohort to date. 

“It is an absolute pleasure to be welcoming a fourth cohort of Dean’s Research Associates to the College of Social Science,” said Nwando Achebe, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Faculty Development, and Strategic Implementation. “We very much look forward to having these emerging scholars enrich our community as we provide support to empower their excellence and success for years to come.” 

Established in 2018, the DRAP is a college-wide initiative aimed at promoting an inclusive scholarly environment in which outstanding scholars in the social sciences support the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the academy. Research Associates will have a minimal teaching load, receive mentorship and support, and will participate in a SSC Dean’s Research Associate Development Institute with the goal of possibly transitioning into tenure-system positions at Michigan State University.

Since its inception, the program has established three other cohorts of social scientists and greatly increased the diversity of scholars within the College of Social Science. 

Ahleah Miles will graduate with a doctoral degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from The George Washington University in May of 2024. A social scientist trained in industrial-organizational psychology, she uses quantitative methods to examine the role of technology in the future of work, career decision-making and development, and nontraditional and precarious work. She previously developed and distributed an internal university-wide climate survey as a Senior Survey Research Analyst at George Washington, and is committed to creating inclusive learning environments for students of all backgrounds. 

“When I learned about the Dean's Research Associate Program at MSU, I was intrigued by both the institutional support mechanisms and the opportunity to independently pursue a research program dedicated to understanding the future of work through the lens of access and fairness. As I learned more about the history of the program, it was clear to me that it and MSU as a whole are unlike anything I've been a part of. I am especially excited for the Development Institute and the opportunity to engage with other scholars in the cohort who are invested in increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the academy. I am thrilled to join the School of Human Resources and Labor Relations and to contribute to an institution that shares my values in achieving inclusive excellence through research, teaching, and service to the community,” she said. 

Aldo Barrita (he/his/él) is a Queer Latinx Social Psychologist. He recently defended his dissertation and will graduate in Spring 2024 from the Psychological and Brain Sciences Ph.D. Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), receiving a doctoral degree with an emphasis in Social, Community, and Quantitative Psychology. Born in Mexico and immigrating to the US when he was 16, he received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2017 and his Master’s in Psychology from UNLV in 2019. His research focus includes how different forms of discrimination, primarily microaggressions, psychologically impact individuals from marginalized communities. He is also interested in Latinx and/or LGBTQ+ experiences with microaggressions as well as psychometrics.  

“I applied to the College of Social Science Dean’s Research Associate Program at Michigan State University because of its intentionality in transforming higher education. This program has already set an impressive record of recruiting and supporting exceptional scholars who transitioned to faculty positions at MSU. Undoubtedly, I knew when I applied that this opportunity would be unique, and I am grateful to be one of their chosen Research Associates for this cohort. I believe this program will provide me with additional training and resources that would enhance my career at MSU,” Barrita said. 

Angie Torres-Beltran is currently a PhD Candidate in the Department of Government at Cornell University and a Predoctoral Fellow with the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California, San Diego; Research Fellow in the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School; and a United States Institute of Peace Scholar. She is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and a Research Affiliate with the Gender and Security Sector Lab and the Eliminating Violence Against Women Lab. Torres Beltran’s research examines the political causes and consequences of gender-based violence, with an emphasis on political behavior and institutions in conflict-affected countries. She also studies the role of domestic and international actors on violence and the intersection of gender, public opinion, and civic engagement. 

“I applied to the Dean’s Research Associate Program at Michigan State University because I wanted to join world-class researchers, teachers, and mentors who have demonstrated a steady commitment to promoting diversity in academia. This program is one-of-a-kind and offers early-career scholars the necessary time and resources to succeed as a future faculty member at MSU. I also look forward to learning from those committed to training and supporting scholars from diverse backgrounds. Overall, I am excited to become a part of this scholarly community and look forward to contributing to the advancement of diversity in the academy,” she said. 

Gabriel Johnson is a Robert Woods Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar and doctoral candidate in health behavior health education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. His work focuses on how masculinity is an intersectional and dynamic social construct that captures how structural factors impact and shape the health of Black men and masculine of center individuals (e.g., studs, trans masculine people, etc.). Through application of Critical Race Theory and intersectionality, Johnson’s dissertation explores how Black masculinity as a distinct social construct impacts the mental health and wellbeing of cisgender Black gay and bisexual men living in southeast Michigan. Johnson conducts this work through engaging in practices and methods that center community voices, placing them in control of the research, narrative, and development of interventions. He hopes his research will impact school based settings and community organizations in an effort to improve mental health outcomes for Black men, masculine of center individuals, and the communities who support them. 

“I applied to the Dean’s Research Associate Program (DRAP) at Michigan State University because it provided a unique opportunity to engage in a cohort post PhD and receive the support I desire to be a successful academic and rigorous, ethical, and engaging teacher in the classroom. Also, my mentors told me, as someone who values teaching and research, MSU is a university that would align well with my values. As a first-generation college graduate, DRAP puts the resources forward to ensure that scholars can succeed on their own terms.  With the diverse study body of MSU, DRAP is putting forward the action, not only words, to build a faculty that reflects that diversity. I am excited to develop as a scholar and future faculty here at MSU, while creating engaging syllabi for new and current courses,” Johnson said. 

Read more about the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Affairs here