Spotlight
"My research interests are motivated by my experiences working for afterschool programs and the relationships I built with the students and their families."
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Arena Chang
Ph.D. Student

Irvine, Calif., December 1, 2011

Arena Chang is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Education specializing in Learning, Cognition, and Development. She graduated magna cum laude from University of California, Irvine with a B.A. in Psychology and Social Behavior and a minor in Education. Her research focuses on the role of student motivation and extracurricular activities and how they support positive youth development inside and outside of school. She subscribes to the belief that the ultimate goal of educational psychology research is to develop the whole child—not just the student—into a well-adjusted lifelong learner. 

A number of experiences during her undergraduate career at UCI fostered her interests in educational psychology. She spent two years as a research assistant for Dr. Jodi Quas and Dr. Ilona Yim on an experimental study investigating the influence of emotion on children’s and adults’ memory. In addition, she spent two years working for Jumpstart, providing one-to-one afterschool mentoring for preschoolers from low-income neighborhoods in Santa Ana and Costa Mesa. Arena worked closely with the school sites to design and implement activities targeting social, emotional, and language development. The opportunity to work with an individual child for a school year allowed her to build a relationship with the child’s family and she was able to see that the benefits of attending Jumpstart were also found outside of the afterschool program—in the classroom, in the playground, and in the home.

Upon graduation, she continued to pursue her interest in education and working with children. She provided supplemental education services under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act to students attending failing schools in Mountain View School District. This unique experience gave her the fortunate opportunity to work closely with student sibling pairs and their parents throughout the school year.

Her research interests are motivated by her experiences working for afterschool programs and the relationships she has built with the students and their families. She collaborated with Dr. Joseph Mahoney to examine parental and motivational factors predicting adolescents’ participation in organized sports activities. She will present the findings this April at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

Now into her second year of the doctoral program, Arena is currently involved in three research projects. First, she is working with Dr. AnneMarie Conley to investigate the math motivational beliefs of 8th grade summer school students. Second, she is currently a graduate student researcher for Dr. Michael Martinez’s project, Brain Boost, an afterschool program targeting middle school students’ cognitive abilities and motivational beliefs about the malleability of intelligence. Finally, she is involved in ST Math, a collaborative project among UC Irvine, the MIND Research Institute, and the Orange County Department of Education, designed to study the effects of an interactive math software program based on spatial-temporal concepts of learning. She presented initial findings last August at the 2011 American Psychological Association (APA) annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Arena looks forward to progressing through the graduate program and continuing to take courses that inspire her and shape her research interests. She also hopes to both expand and sharpen her toolkit of research methods by adopting a mixed-methods approach.