Julie J. Park

People often make judgements based on their instincts and impressions, according to Julie Park, but the information they use isn’t always accurate and is sometimes biased. 

Park, an associate professor in the College of Education at the University of Maryland, tries to challenge the single perspective bias with cold hard data in her book “Race on Campus: Debunking Myths with Data.”

Park will visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on Sept. 10 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Love Library South Auditorium in Room 102 to lead a discussion on the topics her book touches on such as myths about admissions and involvement on campus. Students, faculty and staff are all invited and encouraged to join the discussion. Park’s book will be available for purchase during the event and is also currently available at the University Bookstore. 

In the past, Park worked on several different research studies focused on race on campus. She discovered many misconceptions and myths about the relationship between race and higher education. Park said she realized that a majority of these misconceptions derive from people unable to look beyond their own perspective. 

To counter this issue, Park decided to use the data from her research to debunk the popular myths. 

“We have these great data sets that ask thousands and thousands of people about their behavior,” Park said. “They track different patterns of social interactions so that research can say what is actually going on beyond my immediate perspective.”

Park compiled the research she did to write and publish the book “Race on Campus” in 2018. One of the misconceptions Park talks about in her book is race and how it plays a role in admissions and involvement on campus. The book unites these myths and challenges mistaken beliefs with research from the field of cognitive science and psychology. 

According to Park, even though the book focuses on several scientific research studies, the writing style has a different tone from typical dry academic journals. “Race on Campus” is meant to target the general public by using easily understood language.   

“I decided to write it in a way that was more accessible,” she said. “The book is written in a conversational tone to try to bring some of the research to some people's lives and uses everyday language to help people understand what the research says.”

Park has visited several campuses and high schools around the country to discuss her book. The discussion with Park at UNL is sponsored by the College of Education and Human Sciences and the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Colored People.

According to Catherine Wilson, a chairperson for the Chancellor’s Commission, the organization is excited to engage with Park in a conversation about race on campus and learn ways in which the campus could improve on their involvement. Wilson explained that the last chapter, “How Then Should We Think,” discusses how the campus can move forward with respect to diversity and inclusion on campus.

“It gives us a different lens and helps us, as a commission, understand the issues on our campus,” Wilson said. 

A variety of misconceptions and stereotypes are addressed in the book and Wilson believes having an in-depth discussion on these topics is important for any social environment.  

"The conversation itself is going to be so broad that we can then dive deeper into different issues whether it be in the classroom setting or other small group settings," Wilson said. "It's providing us with the start of a conversation based on empirical research."

Although Park has led several discussions centered around her book, she has noticed every campus has a different perspective or take on the topic, so she is interested in hearing what UNL has to say or ask. 

“I will be curious to hear the questions from the audience or be able to talk to different groups of people,” she said. “It's always interesting to see how these topics play out on specific campuses.”