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>  News Releases >   2006 >   September

Former Dartmouth Assistant Professor Named MacArthur Fellow

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 09/19/06 • Sue Knapp • (603) 646-3661

Jennifer Richeson among the 25 people awarded the prestigious fellowship this year

[EDITOR'S NOTE: In addition to Richeson, MacArthur Fellowships were also received by Dartmouth alumni John A. Rich '80 and Anna Schuleit MALS '05.]

Among the 2006 recipients of MacArthur Fellowships is Jennifer Richeson, a former assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth. Richeson, now an associate professor of psychology at Northwestern University, is a social psychologist interested in the cognitive underpinnings of prejudice and racial stereotyping. According to a Northwestern press release, Richeson was enjoying a day off to celebrate her birthday when she learned she had been named a 2006 MacArthur Fellow, an honor that carries a $500,000 "no strings attached" award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Jennifer A. Richeson
Jennifer A. Richeson (Photo by Joe Mehling '69)

"This award is largely in recognition of the research that I conducted at Dartmouth," she said. "I am truly grateful for my time there and the support that I received."

The MacArthur Fellowship is designed to provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue their creative activities in the absence of specific obligations or reporting requirements. There are no limits on age or area of activity. Individuals cannot apply for this award; they must be nominated. According to the MacArthur Foundation, there are three criteria for selection of fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

Richeson's research looks at the experiences of minority and majority groups in their interactions with one another. A key finding of her work is that these interactions often require heightened self-control to combat expressions of prejudice.

"People today generally understand that prejudice is a bad thing, but still don't quite know how to converse or behave with people different from themselves," Richeson said. Intergroup interactions can be awkward, less effective or even avoided "because 'good people' don't want to offend or appear prejudiced."

Richeson is also looking into factors preventing individuals from engaging in interracial interactions, finding evidence that systematic mutual misperceptions create unnecessary psychological barriers. In other investigations, she explores motivational and contextual variables that influence how racial cues are used in categorizing other people.  Bringing new life to the topic of intergroup relations, Richeson takes the lead in highlighting and analyzing major challenges facing all races in America and the continuing role played by prejudice and stereotyping in our lives.

"I'm not sure just yet what I'll do with the money, but I certainly want to use some of it in the service of fostering more positive intergroup interactions," she added.

Jennifer Richeson received an Sc.B. (1994) in psychology from Brown University and a Ph.D. (2000) in social psychology from Harvard University. Since 2005, she has been an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University, where she is also a faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research. Prior to joining the faculty at Northwestern, she was a visiting fellow at the Research Institute for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University (2004-2005) and an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College (2000-2005).

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