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Nicole Y

- Research Program Mentor

PhD candidate at University of Southern California (USC)


educational psychology, education policy, multicultural education, motivation, belonging, racial/ethnic identity


Hi there, I'm Nikki, a 1st-generation PhD student at the University of Southern California studying educational psychology. My current work focuses on Black students' racial and ethnic identity and how those constructs relate to school outcomes, such as achievement, motivation, and belonging. Other areas of interest in research for me include survey design, education policy analysis, and learning environments. I have extensive experience with statistics and quantitative methods of research based on surveys and other numerical data, but I have also conducted qualitative, interview-based research. In my spare time, I enjoy activities like baking (croissants are my favorite even though they're fussy), sewing (mainly dresses and costumes), playing with my dog (she's an 11-year-old feisty papillion mix), reading (I'm really into suspense novels), and watching tv (90 Day Fiance is my guilty pleasure show). I also sing, so you may catch me performing in a local theater showcase from time to time. I love doing work that helps people and I love research, so I'm incredibly excited to be working with Polygence!

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Imagine if: Student perspectives on how to make school better

The main research question for this research project is: How would students redesign their school experience to be more interesting and meaningful? To answer this question, the researcher may interview several students from a particular school, asking them what they would change about school to make it a better experience. The researcher would find similarities between all the interviews and use those to develop common themes.

Teaching experience

While at USC, I've volunteered with Upward Bound, a college preparatory program for high school students. As a mentor there, I helped students with homework, provided supplemental instruction, and reviewed college application materials. From 2012 to 2013, I was an adjunct math professor at Grand Canyon University. My classes consisted mostly of freshmen students and I taught college algebra/statistics. During the same time, I volunteered with Junior Achievement of Arizona teaching business and entrepreneurial skills to 4th graders. While in college, I worked as a private tutor to 3 high school students in Palo Alto for a few years. Additionally, I worked at an organization called F4Ed through Stanford in which I taught afterschool classes to a range of K-12 students.


Work experience

National Society of Black Engineers (2015 - 2017)
senior research analyst
National Society of Black Engineers (2013 - 2015)
director of membership
Grand Canyon University (2012 - 2013)
adjunct professor
self-employment (2010 - 2012)
private tutor


Stanford University
BA Bachelor of Arts (2011)
Psychology, Dramatic Arts
Stanford University
MA Master of Arts
University of Southern California (USC)
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Urban Education Policy

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