"Best friends, bad food, and bullying: How students’ school perceptions relate to sense of school belonging"
In 2019, Renick received the Newkirk Fellowship in Community-Based Research to work with the Orange County Environmental Justice (OCEJ) organization and its People for Environmental Justice (PEJ) program. She is the recipient of a 2021 Public Impact Fellowship to facilitate a youth-participatory action research project in partnership with a local middle school.
Reich is a community psychologist studying contexts that support children’s development. Her research focuses on children’s direct and technologically mediated interactions with family, peers, and educational settings. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Society for Community Research and Action. Reich is director of UCI's Development in Social Context Lab (DISC) and Associate Dean of UCI’s Graduate Program.
A positive school climate and sense of school belonging can influence students' academic outcomes and wellbeing in desirable ways. However, not enough is known about the aspects of school climate that influence students' feelings of belonging and how gender, ethnicity, and grade may relate to those feelings. Via a self‐administered survey, a diverse sample of middle school students (n = 1,226) reported what they perceived as the best parts of their school and the parts most in need of improvement, as well as their sense of belonging. Students' perceptions of their school were aligned with the major areas of school climate: safety, relationships, teaching and learning, and institutional environment. These four areas were found to be predictive of sense of belonging to different degrees, such as listing relationships as needing improvement at the school being associated with lower scores in sense of belonging. Gender and grade were also found to be salient predictors of feelings of belonging, with seventh and eighth graders feeling less belonging than their sixth grade peers and girls having lower sense of belonging than boys. These findings affirm the importance of the school environment in influencing students' feelings of being a part of their school.