Rebecca Covarrubias, Ph.D.

Covarrubias Headshot


Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues


Rebecca Covarrubias, Ph.D.

University of California, Santa Cruz

"Helping Students and Schools Grow Together through Research and Mentorship"

Dr. Rebecca Covarrubias graduated with a Bachelor of Science from The University of Arizona, where she was also a Ronald E. McNair Achievement Scholar. She continued at The University of Arizona to earn a Master’s and Ph.D. in Social Psychology. After graduating, she was hired by the Department of Psychology to teach courses in Orvieto, Italy through the Arizona in Italy Study Abroad Program. Dr. Covarrubias then became a University Diversity Initiative Postdoctoral Fellow for the Center of the Study of Diversity and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Delaware. She joined the Department of Psychology at UCSC in fall 2015. Dr. Covarrubias investigates how delegitimizing learning contexts undermine outcomes for marginalized students, and how to reverse these effects through culturally informed approaches. Just as her research aims to solve social issues, her service goals include applying evidence base to directly improve the experiences of diverse students. In one line of work, she documents how positive academic role models combat limiting representations for youth of color. As a first-generation Latina faculty, she is committed to providing this representation to her community. In another line of her work, she examines how affirming the role of family improves well-being, belonging, and performance for diverse students. Finally, a central line of her work addresses the cultural transition to college for first-generation students, including how to bridge cultural divides between students’ backgrounds and university contexts. As a social justice scholar-practitioner, her aim is to use research as a tool for social change through platforms that serve students directly.

In her work, Dr. Covarrubias connects with low-income Latinx youth at elementary schools to provide a neighborhood-to-college roadmap. She has given talks to incoming college students from foster backgrounds about tips for navigating college and with Latinx community college and middle school students about using research to spark social change. She attends multiple dinners with low-income college students for the Educational Opportunity Program, where she can connect personally about their goals. As a faculty consultant on the Hispanic Serving Institution Sense of Belonging Team, she offers research-based suggestions on how to affirm family on several grant activities (e.g., Regional Family Conference) that impact Latinx students’ belonging. She also facilitates multiple research-based workshops on campus on how to frame student communication to be inclusive of family, including a training for 60+ academic advisors. She delivered this research to a larger audience by developing an online module for all academic advisors and by presenting to the entire Division of Student Success staff(e.g., Residence Life, Disability Resource Center). She uses this research to inform messaging for several university materials, including math placement letters, probation letters, and family advising guides. Dr. Covarrubias has formed and led the UCSC First-Generation Initiative, which creates a sense of community for first-generation faculty, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students and am developing a one day staff and faculty training on best practices for supporting first-generation students. As an AAHHE Faculty Fellow, she mentors several first-generation, Latinx PhD students on navigating academia. She also mentors countless first-generation students in her courses and in her research lab on professional and research development and on navigating the cultural transition.