Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Lea Hubbard, PhD, Chair Fred Galloway, EdD, Member Kira Espiritu, PhD, Member Nydia Sanchez, PhD, Member


Racially Diverse, Low SES, Narrative Inquiry


Across the US, there is growing inequality of class distribution in predominately white and elite colleges and universities. Although gaining access to these institutions is typically the first hurdle, it is not the only challenge racially diverse low socioeconomic status (SES) students face. By investigating the college experiences of racially diverse low SES students enrolled in a predominately white elite institution, this study creates the foundation for an imperative discussion on the relationship between students' identity and attendance at predominately white elite institutions.

Through a Narrative Inquiry research approach and using semi-structured interviews as a data collection tool, two themes emerged from this study. Racially diverse low SES students experienced: 1) ongoing challenges in acclimating to campus culture and 2) a persistent yearning to find an inclusive community; not just a racially diverse one. The themes were identified as the participants of this study recollected their transition and acclimation experiences into the campus community over the course of their first two or three years at the university.

This study shows that racially diverse low SES students at this college received support from campus organizations, but this support was not enough. Although the university gave attention to diversity-focused, they primarily focused on race and ethnicity and gave insufficient attention to other aspects of diversity such as class, gender, and ableism. The participants' narratives indicated they struggled to find a community that would give them a sense of belonging. The participants told stories of systems and policies that negatively impacted how they navigated the campus community and undermined their attempts to gain agency in spaces that continuously excluded them socially and academically. The eleven participants at this predominately white institution were often made to feel a racial and economic disconnect from their peers and faculty members. This study has implications for higher education administrators who seek ways to better support diverse low SES students on predominately white university campuses. It also provides recommendations and suggestions for further research.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies