Jenessa Shapiro, an associate professor with appointments in the psychology department and the UCLA Anderson School of Management, and an expert in stereotype threat, discrimination and prejudices, died Dec. 6 after a long illness. She was 38.
Shapiro was an award-winning scholar of stereotype threat and prejudice in intergroup relations and she had a reputation as a rigorous and creative researcher. She sought to understand prejudice and discrimination from the perspective of those who hold them as well as those targeted by them. It was not easy work, as she often conducted research within hard-to-recruit populations, including women in traditionally male-dominated fields and underserved minority populations.
Her work included theorizing and then testing the notion that stereotype threat is a six-dimensional phenomenon as opposed to a single construct ― a well-established area of research in psychology that moved Shapiro’s work to the forefront. In her studies involving stereotypes in group interactions, Shapiro related them to modern types of discrimination while developing effective anti-stereotype interventions that accounted for the type of threat. Her third area of research looked at discrimination in organizational contexts.
Her colleagues described her as optimistic and gritty, and a very hard worker. Shapiro was admired by fellow faculty members for her ability to dig down to the core of an idea and for how she could identify the essential elements of a research query.
“Jenessa was an outstanding and impactful scholar and a dedicated, award-winning teacher and mentor,” said Al Osborne, interim dean at UCLA Anderson. “But while her work was outstanding, she is remembered equally for the bright smile that revealed her upbeat personality, for her commitment to diversity, for using her work to benefit others and for the extraordinary strength, toughness and character she exhibited thoughout her battle with cancer.”
Shapiro joined the UCLA faculty in 2008 as an assistant professor of psychology. In 2011, she joined UCLA Anderson’s faculty as part of a split appointment. In 2018, she was appointed to serve as the UCLA Anderson Term Chair in Management, an endowed professorship.
Shapiro’s work demonstrated her commitment to diversity. She was a champion for the role of women in the STEM fields, and the graduate students she mentored and worked with came from diverse backgrounds. Shapiro oversaw a research lab that featured a diverse group of undergraduate students. She served as faculty mentor for students participating in the Psychology Research Opportunities Program as well as UCLA’s Summer Programs for Undergraduate Research. Much of her professional and university service related to issues of diversity, including co-chairing UCLA Anderson’s Riordan Programs and the Anderson Task Force for Faculty Gender Climate. Shapiro also organized a conference through the UCLA Center for the Study of Women on stereotype threat.
Her academic honors included UCLA Anderson’s Eric and E Juline Faculty Excellence in Research Award, a SAGE Young Scholars Award, Poets and Quants’ “Best 40 Under 40 Professors,” Anderson’s Neidorf “Decade” Teaching Award and a Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize for best paper on intergroup relations. Her undergraduate alma mater, Rice University, annually awards the Jenessa Shapiro Award for Best Undergraduate Honors Thesis in Psychology. Shapiro was the recipient of more than a dozen research grants. She earned her doctorate in 2008 from Arizona State University.
Shapiro is survived by her husband, Noah Goldstein, professor of management at UCLA Anderson and the holder of the Bing and Alice Liu Yang Endowed Term Chair in Teaching Excellence.