Culture, Identity and Achievement Lab


The Culture, Identity, and Achievement Lab (CIA) investigates the impact of underrepresented identities (e.g., social class, ethnicity, gender) on experiences and performance in academic contexts. Our research aims to understand and improve experiences and performance for individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Ongoing Research Projects

First-Generation Faculty Role Models

With Giselle Laiduc and Rebecca Covarrubias, I investigate the effects of exposure to first-generation faculty on help-seeking behaviors and feelings of belonging for first-generation college students. Research has underscored the importance of faculty relationships to first-generation (FG) students’ retention and success in the university. Yet, despite widespread advice to attend faculty’s office hours, many students still do not do it. Guided by prior work showing the benefits of self-relevant role models for negatively stereotyped students, we investigate how highlighting the FG status of faculty role models increases FG students’ belonging and help-seeking intentions.

In a 2021 paper, we explore whether highlighting first-generation faculty increases first-generation students’ help-seeking intentions and belonging. Compared to continuing-generation students, first-generation students demonstrate higher relatability, intention to visit office hours, and higher belonging when viewing first-generation versus continuing-generation faculty webpages. These effects occur only when first-generation identity is explicit (Laiduc, Herrmann, & Covarrubias, 2021). 

Social Class Biculturalism in First-Generation College Students

First-generation college students receive lower grades and have a higher dropout rate than students who have at least one parent with a bachelor's degree. These negative outcomes may be due to difficulties in acculturation as much as differences in resources and preparation. The bicultural identity integration (BII) framework proposes that individuals can either perceive their cultural identities as compatible or oppositional.

My colleague Michael Varnum (ASU) and I build and extend on this research, proposing that first-generation college students also undergo adjustment to a new culture; namely, the predominantly middle and upper-class culture of American universities. These students may face similar challenges negotiating different cultural identities. In our research, we have found that first-generation college students who are high in social class bicultural identity integration (e.g., view their cultural identities as harmonious) have increased academic performance, well-being, and life satisfaction, as a result of decreased acculturative stress (Herrmann & Varnum, 2018a; Herrmann & Varnum, 2018b).

Research with Michael Varnum, Brenda Straka, and Sarah Gaither demonstrates that exposure to college graduates in students’ home neighborhoods before college is positively related to higher social class bicultural identity integration, that the effect of identity integration on academic performance is mediated by academic self-efficacy, and that the effects of identity integration on acculturative stress, life satisfaction, and overall health outcomes observed at a large, public university replicated at selective, private universities (Herrmann, 2017; Herrmann, Varnum, Straka, & Gaither, 2021).

Culturally-Matched Interdependent Affirmations

For many Americans, the classroom is a gateway to learning, but for others it is a site that represents a long history of exclusion and discrimination. Self-affirmation interventions, which involve reflecting on personally important values, have been shown to improve performance for students in contexts in which their identities are devalued. In standard self-affirmation procedures, also known as values affirmation, students are presented with a list of values and write about a value that is important to them. By reflecting on important values to the self, students can gain a sense of legitimacy and restore one’s sense of self-worth in a context that poses a threat to one’s identity.

With Rebecca Covarrubias (UCSC) and Stephanie Fryberg (Michigan), I investigate whether culture-matching interdependent affirmations are more beneficial than traditional self-affirmations in reducing the effects of stereotype threat for students from interdependent cultural contexts (i.e., Latino students). We found that Latino middle school and college students who completed a family affirmation demonstrated higher performance on an evaluative task relative to Latino students exposed to a self-affirmation or no affirmation control condition. There were no such differences for European American students (Covarrubias, Herrmann, & Fryberg, 2016).

Conference Presentations

Herrmann, S. D. & Covarrubias, R. (2022). Building inclusive educational strategies for minoritized students and ourselves post-pandemic. Presented at the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues Conference, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Mulder, A., Herrmann, S. D., Wolfe, S., Pagonis, D., Burneyy, B., Russell-Stamp, M., Gautney, J., Trentelman, C., Chan, J., & Speicher, S. (2022). Expanding teaching for sustainability: Find your Sustainable Development Goal! Presented at the 2022 Weber State University Teaching and Learning Forum Faculty Symposium, Ogden, UT.

Herrmann, S. D., Laiduc, G., & Covarrubias, R. (2019, Jun.). Role model intervention improves first-generation college student belonging and performance. Presented at the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues Conference, San Diego, CA.

Covarrubias, R. & Herrmann, S. D. (2019, Jun.). Affirming the interdependent self: Developing culturally-relevant self-affirmations for Latinx students. Presented at the SPSSI-EASP Small Group Meeting, Sussex, UK. 

Herrmann, S. D. & Varnum, M. E. W. (2019, Feb.). Predictors, mediators, and moderators of the effect of social class bicultural identity integration on academic performance. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Portland, OR.

Herrmann, S. D. (2018). Using psychology to understand and reduce the social class achievement gap. Presented at the Society for the Teaching of Psychology’s Annual Conference on the Teaching of Psychology, Phoenix, AZ.

Covarrubias R., Herrmann, S. D., Laiduc, G., Valle, I., & Lockett, T. (2018, Sept.). Reflecting first-generation student voices in our teaching and interactions. Presented at the inaugural First Generation Southwest Symposium, Flagstaff, AZ.

Herrmann, S. D. (2018). A role model intervention improves women’s STEM performance and persistence. Presented at the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues Conference, Pittsburgh, PA.

Herrmann, S. D. (2018). Using psychology to understand and reduce the social class achievement gap. Presented at Rocky Mountain Psychological Association’s convention, Denver, CO.

Herrmann, S. D. & Varnum, M. E. W. (2017). Crossing classes: Identity integration and performance for first-generation college students. Presented at the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues Conference, Albuquerque, NM. 


Laiduc, G. A.,*  Herrmann, S. D., & Covarrubias, R. (2021). Relatable role models: An intervention highlighting first-generation faculty benefits first-generation students. Journal of First-Generation Student Success, 1(3), 159-186.

Herrmann, S. D., Varnum, M. E. W., Straka, B. C., & Gaither, S. E. (2021). Social class identity integration and success for first-generation college students: Antecedents, mechanisms, and generalizability. Self and Identity, 21(5), 553-587.

Çetinkaya, E., Herrmann, S. D., & Kisbu-Sakarya, Y. (2020). Adapting the values affirmation intervention to a multi-threat framework. Social Psychology of Education, 23, 1587-1607.

Herrmann, S. D. & Varnum, M. E. W. (2018). Integrated social class identities are linked to academic success, well-being, and workplace satisfaction. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 49(4), 635-663.

Herrmann, S. D. & Varnum, M. E. W. (2018). Utilizing social class bicultural identity integration to improve outcomes for first-generation college students. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 4(2), 165-175.

Herrmann, S. D., Adelman, R. M., Bodford, J. B., Graudejus, O., Okun, M. A., & Kwan, V. S. Y. (2016). The effects of a female role model on academic performance and persistence of students enrolled in STEM courses. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 38(5), 258-268.