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Teresa LaFromboise

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Teresa LaFromboise,
Professor

Suicide prevention for Native American adolescents

Teaching Native culture at a Michigan high school in the 1970s, Teresa LaFromboise noticed that many of her American Indian students from the nearby Saginaw Chippewa reservation were dropping out of school. “There was a lot of racism in the town, and these students were seen as the have-nots,” she says. “The school climate was especially hard for them.” LaFromboise, now a professor of education at GSE and director of Native American Studies at Stanford, is perhaps best known for her extensive research on suicide prevention among American Indian adolescents. Nearly 30 years ago she created a groundbreaking high school curriculum aimed at drastically reducing this population’s high rates of suicide, a course still taught in Native communities across the country. Recently the focus of her research has been on “bicultural competence,” the ability to operate effectively in more than one culture simultaneously. “The old thinking was that people who were biculturally adept were like chameleons, giving up their identity,” she says. “But in fact, data show that people who do well operating biculturally are also strong in terms of their racial ethnic identity and have better psychological adjustment. They’re integrating cultures, not straddling them, and they’re not giving anything up.” 

July 6, 2018
Photo by Ilana M. Horwitz, PhD ’19

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