Sanchez, Diana

Assistant Professor
Areas of Interest: 
Racial Minority Health & Identity and How Adherence to Gender Norms Affects Psychological Health and Intimate Relationships.
My Story: 
I have always been pro-women’s rights and ready to change the status quo to make it a more welcoming place for women and minorities. In high school, I was known as a feminist and as a person you wouldn’t tell certain jokes around because I took the experience of disadvantaged groups seriously. I challenged people’s views especially when it came to stereotyping and discrimination. I think this is due to the fact that I am part of an interracial family—a Puerto Rican father and Slovakian mother—and my mother was very politically active. She taught her children that the status quo disadvantaged certain groups, for no good reason. My parents’ experiences, like the discrimination my father experienced at work, inspired me to pursue topics in social justice.

Both of my parents had to go back to school to earn degrees in the US. They passed along the message that education would open doors to a better life. Luckily, I fell in love with being in school. One of my college professors, Tracie Stewart, got me involved in social science research. She is a great mentor and creative thinker. With her help I started researching the psychology of women from a social-psychological perspective. I wanted to further examine how psychology can change the status of women in society. I sought out a joint Women’s Studies and Social-Psychology program. At that time there were only two in the country. I was accepted to both but chose the University of Michigan because of the strength of their program. Although nowadays it is unusual not to do a post-doctoral program, I was able to get an academic position at Rutgers. There is a strong infrastructure here that supports research, lab space and start up funds. The strong social-psychology program at Rutgers, in particular Professor Laurie Rudman’s work on the psychology of women, drew me to Rutgers. As a New Jersey native, I have been impressed with the faculty at Rutgers for a long time. My sister had a positive college experience at Rutgers and I was able to take summer classes at Rutgers during high school. I am happy to return as a professor and teach to Rutgers’ diverse student body. I am proud of the graduates I have trained. I love helping students figure out what career path they want to take and offering support to help them achieve their goal. Yet I am addicted to not only teaching but learning. I am fortunate to be in academia, where bright people ask important questions about social justice and use research as a platform for activism. Academia has become another home to me, just like New Jersey and my family are homes to me.

Recently, my family has grown, and balancing work with taking care of my daughter has been difficult. Sometimes I feel as though I am not spending enough time at work or with her, a sentiment that is shared by many academics with children. It is also difficult to balance the number of publications with the quality of research. When the tenure clock is ticking there is a lot of pressure to produce a high number of publications. This can overshadow new, groundbreaking research that may take more time to complete. I’m looking forward to doing more quality and hopefully groundbreaking work at my own pace so that I can feel more confident as a mom and a scholar.

My experience of being multi-racial and having my foot in both worlds has allowed me to approach questions of race from a difference perspective. I am one of the few Puerto Rican scholars in social psychology. I believe this helps me contribute to the field because I may ask questions that others may not even think to ask. Currently, I conduct a lot of research on multi-racial populations and how people navigate multiple identities and the complexities between one’s ancestry and one’s lived race. My research on minority populations has affected where I want to do research. Rutgers, unlike many universities across the country, is truly a diverse environment. I love the way race, ethnicity, and culture is experienced here. You can walk down the street and see interracial couples and multi-racial kids and no one thinks it’s remarkable, because here it’s the norm. I am proud of the research I have done, and will continue to ask questions about race, gender, and social justice that others may be reluctant to ask.


Transcribed from an interview and edited by Lauren Miller