Mica Estrada

Estrada, Mica

Assistant Professor, UCSF

B.A. (1989) University of California Berkeley, Psychology
Ph.D. (1997) Harvard University, Social Psychology


Dr. Mica Estrada received her Ph.D. (1997) in Social Psychology from Harvard University and now is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the Institute of Health and Aging at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).  Her research program focuses on social influence, including the study of identity, values, forgiveness, well-being, and integrative education. Currently she is engaged in several longitudinal studies, which involve the implementation and assessment of interventions aimed to increase underrepresented minority student persistence in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics careers (funded by NIH, NSF, and HHMI).   With the NSF Climate Change Education grant, she directs an interdisciplinary team to provide learning opportunities to San Diego leaders about the changing climate. Dr. Estrada’s scholarly work has had two areas of emphasis. First, her work is theory driven. Specifically, she assesses how educational interventions result in greater integration into a community and increased engagement in the normative behaviors of that community. She utilizes the Tripartite Integration Model of Social Influence (TIMSI; Estrada et al., 2011) to inform the design of educational interventions as well as to form the basis of evaluation and research used to assess if and why educational interventions work (or do not work). Second, Dr. Estrada’s work focuses on ethnic populations that are historically underrepresented in higher education, most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and have the potential to provide diverse and creative solutions to the pressing challenges of our day. As a leading scholar on issues of diversity and inclusion, she is currently serving on a National Research Council Committee.

On a personal note, Dr. Estrada grew up in a family that was strongly dedicated to learning and scholarship and also maintained strong cultural traditions associated with her Mexican heritage. She spent her elementary years in Pullman, Washington (though she was born in Orange County, CA) watching the Chicano Studies department grow at Washington State University. Her household was the hub for activities for incoming Chicano students and so she never questioned the idea that Chicanos (i.e. Latinos) should go to college or even attain a Ph.D. In fact, in her world, that was the norm! When she moved to Sacramento to attend high school, she had a rude awakening to the fact that her upbringing was very unusual. Living below the poverty level and attending a school where the majority of students did not go to college taught her never to take education for granted. During those times as a college student and later as a M.A. and Ph.D. student at Harvard, she continued to believe that if she worked hard, it would be okay. But Harvard was an isolating experience since there were few people there with her background and life experiences. By the time she completed her degree, she was married and pregnant with her second child. She happily returned to California and dropped out of academia for 10 years. When she did finally return to her career, she did so slowly and with the intention of doing work that inspired her.

Dr. Estrada continues to love the creativity and freedoms that academia affords her. She does not, however, like to partake in the ego-driven competition that can dominate the academic environment. She believes that academic careers can be wonderful, but each needs to stay in their “own lane” and not give in to the pressures placed from the outside. Careers are important, but most important is to move with kindness, joy and enthusiasm for discovery. 

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