Trio awarded Dean’s Award for Inclusionary Excellence

Piff, Mendez and Garcia

From left: Paul PIff, Michael Méndez and Esmeralda Garcia

Michael Méndez, Paul Piff and Esmeralda Garcia are 2020 winners

This year’s winners of the Dean’s Award for Inclusionary Excellence are Michael A. Méndez, assistant professor of urban planning and public policy, Paul K. Piff, assistant professor of psychological science and Esmeralda Ruby Garcia, graduate student in psychological science.

Each year, the Dean of the School of Social Ecology recognizes a faculty member and graduate student whose research showcases diversity and inclusion. The award comes with $1,000 R&T support for the faculty member and a $1,000 fellowship for the graduate student. For 2020, the selection committee decided to split the faculty award and Méndez and Piff each will receive $500.

Méndez was selected for the award for his recently published book "Climate Change from the Streets: How Conflict and Collaboration Strengthen the Environmental Justice Movement" (Yale University Press, 2020). His book investigates the ways in which policymaking processes and social movements influence sustainability and population health in low-income communities of color in California and the Global South. The multi-sited research informing the book is based on a qualitative ethnographic policy analysis of how diverse framings of environmental change create specific social and political actions, including the unequal consequences to people and communities. It is the first book that analyzes California’s environmental justice movement in the context of climate change and transnational activism.

Piff was selected for his manuscript titled “Shifting Attributions for Poverty Motivates Opposition to Inequality and Enhances Egalitarianism,” published in Nature Human Behavior. Drawing on a total sample of 34,442 individuals, he finds that attributing poverty to situational forces is associated with greater concern about inequality, preference for egalitarian policies and inequality-reducing behavior. One of the studies demonstrates that a 10-minute poverty simulation can increase compassion for the poor and equality-enhancing values up to five months later.

Garcia, who plans to complete her Ph.D. in 2021, was selected for her dissertation proposal "Acculturative Stress and Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis." The award committee was impressed by the tremendous scope of this work — to date, Esmeralda has completed a careful, preliminary literature search and identified more than 2,000 potentially relevant studies. Esmeralda is thoughtful about studying the complex interplay of psychological, social, and structural factors that shape the effect of acculturative processes on health outcomes. Her future research findings will be of particular relevance for U.S. Latinos, who are currently the country’s largest ethnic minority group and for whom U.S. acculturation poses significant health risks.