Selcuk R. Sirin
"Growing up is challenging in any culture, but Muslim American youth are currently under a tremendous amount of stress. [My research] explores the psychological well-being of Muslim-American youth in the post 9/11 era."
“Only a few students came to class on September 11th,” says Selcuk Sirin, “but all of them were very upset and wanted to talk about what had happened. I realized I had to do something I’d never done before - disclose the fact that I grew up Muslim.” The disclosure changed the course of Sirin’s work. “I began to explore the psychological well-being of Muslim-American youth in the post 9/11 era."
Sirin’s research focuses on Muslim-American children and adolescents who are trying to discover their Muslim roots at a time when Islamic culture is being contested around the world. “Growing up is challenging in any culture, but Muslim American youth are currently under a tremendous amount of stress.” Sirin can relate to this anxiety because he comes from an underdeveloped part of Turkey. “Very early on I had an appreciation of social differences among groups of people, and the psychological implications of those differences. Consequently, I’ve always wanted to examine how one’s social environment shapes their psychological development and, if I can, help people in the process.”
Sirin is just at the beginning of his research, but he’s already interviewed more than 100 Muslim American boys and girls. He plans to use this initial data as the basis for a 3-year study. The study will inform a book he is currently in the midst of co-writing with Michelle Fine, a professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. The book’s working title is Understanding Muslim American Youth, and it will be published by NYU Press.
“Graduate and undergraduate students are very much involved in my research,” he says. “They collect data, help find research participants, and set up surveys, group sessions and workshops.” Sirin appreciates their perspective because they are close to the age of the young people he’s studying. “This isn’t an area with a lot of scholarship, so everything is new and that’s exciting for my students. And it isn’t just Muslim students who are volunteering – because it’s not a study of Islam or religion. It is a study about a group of young people whose identity is contested. It could be about any group whose identity is challenged - gay and lesbian youth, racial and ethnic minority youth, etc.”
Sirin’s work is on behalf of immigrant and minority children is already attracting the attention of prestigious organizations. He recently received the 2006 Young Scholars Award from the Foundation for Child Development, and the “Review of Research Award” from the American Educational Research Association for a seminal study he published which considers the effect of family socioeconomics on school success.
Sirin is also in the midst of collaborating on projects with NYU colleagues. He’s working with Associate Professor of Applied Psychology Joshua Aronson on a study of students’ achievement gap, and he’s involved in an ongoing research project launched by Former Dean Mary Brabeck that looks at teachers’ professional ethics.
“We wanted to develop measures to assess teachers’ ability to work with students of color. We produced videos based on students’ real life experiences with their teachers, and then used those videos as a measurement tool to see if we could determine the extent of those teachers’ “multicultural competency” – or their ability to effectively teach students from all backgrounds. We found that teachers who took multicultural and/or ethics classes were better prepared to respond to ethical violations than their peers who did not take such courses.”
Sirin, who received a Ph.D. in Applied Developmental & Educational Psychology from Boston College in 2003, has nothing but praise for the Department of Applied Psychology. “It’s one of the very best departments of its kind in the country. We have such an amazing group of highly accomplished scholars – each and every name is recognized in the field. I feel honored to be a part of this faculty.” Sirin further extols the department’s cutting edge research, and the enthusiastic support he receives from all of his colleagues. “It’s such a vibrant place to do my work.”