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To what extent does education amplify, preserve, or reduce social inequality? This has been the central question guiding Professor Roksa’s scholarly inquiry. To address this question, her current research centers on two main areas: a) understanding the role of families and relationships between families and higher education institutions in fostering student success, and b) examining how students’ experiences in college contribute to inequalities in STEM fields.
Professor Roksa has been keenly interested in understanding how educational institutions compensate for (or amplify) inequalities in family resources. After considering the role of cultural capital in K-12 education and transition into college, she is engaged in a series of projects that aim to understand how family support and resources are related to higher education success, particularly for first-generation and low-income students. Moreover, she is interested in how higher education institutions can reduce inequality by engaging productively with parents as well as by minimizing the impact of unequal distribution of family resources.
The second line of inquiry examines success of traditionally disadvantaged groups, including first-generation, low-income and under-represented racial/ethnic minority (URM) students, in STEM fields. In this line of inquiry, Professor Roksa is exploring the role of financial aid in fostering academic success and persistence of low-income students in STEM (with Sara Goldrick-Rab) as well as studying inequalities in research skill development and degree progression among graduate students in life sciences (with David Feldon). She is also working with an interdisciplinary team of scholars to understand how college experiences contribute to disparities in academic outcomes among undergraduates in STEM fields and to develop social-behavioral and structural interventions to reduce inequality.
Professor Roksa’s prior research has also included an exploration of inequalities in learning outcomes. Collaborations with Richard Arum, Charlie Blaich, Ernest Pascarella and other scholars have produced a number of books and articles on student learning and academic achievement.
Alongside her faculty appointment in Sociology and Education, Professor Roksa serves as Senior Advisor for Academic Programs in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. All of these endeavors, from research to administration, aim to make higher education just a little better tomorrow than it is today.