Rachel Razza

Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Graduate Director

The primary focus of Dr. Razza’s scholarly work is children’s self-regulation, a multifaceted construct that encompasses a variety of skills underlying children’s ability to monitor cognitive strategies and adapt behavior to fit situational demands. Specifically, her work explores associations among different facets of self-regulation, biological and contextual predictors of self-regulation, and implications of various self-regulatory skills for children’s school readiness and later school success. She is particularly interested in specifying these pathways among at-risk children, as these youth at risk for self-regulatory deficits. In addition, her recent work examines mindfulness-based practice as a potential intervention strategy to enhance self-regulation and reduce the negative impact of trauma among children, youth, and adults. She is an Associate Director for the Contemplative Collaborative, a community of over 150 faculty, staff, and students across the University who are invested in contemplative pedagogy, research, and/or practice, and also serves as the Coordinator for the Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies.

Education

Postdoctoral Fellow, Developmental Psychology, National Center for Children and Families, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, N.Y. Mentor: Jeanne Brooks-Gunn (2005-2007)

Ph.D., Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA (2005)

Master of Science, Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA (2001)

Bachelor of Arts, Psychology, State University of New York College (SUNY) at Geneseo, Geneseo, NY (1999)

Specialization

Social and cognitive development in at-risk children and youth; development and benefits of self-regulation; school readiness skills; mindfulness-based intervention; program evaluation

Research Focus

Dr. Razza’s research focuses on:

  • The biological and contextual factors that promote self-regulation among children and youth
  • The benefits of mindfulness-based programs for promoting resilience in schools and communities, particularly those exposed to concentrated poverty and/or high levels of trauma
  • The cognitive, social-emotional, and neural mechanisms of mindfulness-based practice

Research Projects

Mindfulness-Based Programs in Communities

Drs. Razza and Bergen-Cico also collaborate on several local projects that focus on mindfulness within the community. The aims of the Trauma Resiliency in Urban Environments (TRUE) grant are to implement and evaluate a trauma informed mindfulness-based program for pregnant and parenting women affected by community violence and living in areas of concentrated poverty and violence in the city of Syracuse. We are working with local community based organizations (CBO’s) and local government agencies to: a.) work together with CBO’s to assess needs of the community, b.)conduct a pilot program with our target population, and c.) build capacity for ongoing and sustainable trauma informed programming.

Another current project is an interdisciplinary collaboration with faculty in the MindLab (Newhouse) and School of Education that examines mechanisms of change associated with mindfulness training for people with posttraumatic stress. We are particularly interested in triangulating neural networks, biomarkers, cognition, and behaviors to better understand how mindfulness affects individuals experiencing trauma. This innovative project also includes the exploration of virtual reality as a tool to support and monitor mindfulness-based practice among these individuals.

Community-Based Mindfulness Projects

Examining Changes in the Stress Response, Cognition and Neural Networks in Response to Mindfulness Interventions Using Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS)

This research focuses on identifying the mechanisms of change in neural networks and physiological (biometric) measures that occur as a result of participating in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programs. This study aims to identify neural networks associated with traumatic stress and to measure neural responsiveness to change following MBSR. More specifically this research uses functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), heart rate and galvanic skin response (GSR) in conjunction with psychometric measures to triangulate mechanisms of change pertinent to trauma and stress.

Nature Inspired Scenes for Guided Mindfulness Training: Presence, Perceived Restorativeness and Meditation Depth

The research focuses on the development and testing of a virtual reality (VR) meditation interface to support mindfulness meditation practice. The aims of this research are to test whether VR simulation of an outdoor natural space has a restorative effect on attention; and the mediating effects of the sense of presence participants’ feel. This study uses functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), heart rate and galvanic skin response (GSR) to measure the neurophysiological relaxation response.

Statistical Expertise

SPSS, STATA, SEM, Program Fidelity and Efficacy analyses, Experimental design and evaluation

Courses

CFS 331 - Play, Childhood Development & Early Education

CFS 345 - The Developing Infant

CFS 452/652 - Mindfulness in Children & Youth

CFS 458 – The Science of Caring and Sharing

CFS 637 - Theories, Interpretations & Applications in Child Development

CFS 736 - Development of Self-Regulation in Children and Youth

Recent Publications

  • Grimes, D. S., & Razza, R. A. (2018). An assessment framework for contemplative practice in higher education. In D. Grimes, Q. Wang, & H. Lin (Eds.), Empirical Studies of Contemplative Practices. New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers.
  • Costa, MR, Bergen-Cico, D., Herrero, R., Navarro, J,. Razza, R. & Wang, Q. (2018) xR-based systems for mindfulness based training in clinical settings. p. 31-39. In Chen J., G Fragomeni, G. (eds.) Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality: Applications in Health, Cultural Heritage, and Industry. Volume 1. Springer, Switzerland.
  • Razza, R. A., Martin, A., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2016). Links between motor control and classroom behaviors: Moderation by low birth weight. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25(8), 2423-2434.
  • Razza, R. A., & Raymond, K. P. (2015). Executive functions and school readiness: Identifying multiple pathways for school success. In S. Robson & S. F. Quinn (Eds.), The Routledge international handbook of young children’s thinking and understanding (pp. 133-149). New York, N.Y.: Routledge.
  • Pudasainee-Kapri, S., & Razza, R. (2015). Associations among supportive co-parenting, father engagement and attachment: The role of race/ethnicity. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(12), 3793-3804.
  • Bergen-Cico, D., Razza, R. A., & Timmins, A. (2015). Fostering self-regulation through curricula infusion of mindful yoga: A pilot study of efficacy and feasibility. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(11), 3448-3461.
  • Razza, R. A., Martin, A., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2015). Are approaches to learning in kindergarten associated with academic and social competence similarly? Child and Youth Care Forum, 44(6), 757-776.
  • Razza, R. A., Bergen-Cico, D., & Raymond, K. (2015). Enhancing preschoolers’ self-regulation via mindful yoga. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(2), 372-385.
  • Razza, R. A., & Raymond, K. P. (2013). Associations among maternal behavior, delay of gratification, and school success across the early childhood years. Social Development, 22, 180-96. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9507.2012.00665.x
  • Razza, R. A., Martin, A., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2010). Associations among family environment, sustained attention, and school readiness for low-income children. Developmental Psychology, 46(6), 1528-1542.