Higher Education Diversity Work and its Discontents – In 2014, student activism erupted in a series of critical incidents on university campuses around the world. For example, the #itooamharvard and #RhodesMustFall campaigns began as local campus movements at Harvard and the University of Cape Town respectively, both campaigns subsequently spread transnationally through social media. This activism draws attention to the discrepancy between institutional conceptions of inclusion, evidenced in diversity policies and practices, and student experiences of persistent exclusion.

This project applies Critical Race Theory (CRT) and utilizes a network ethnography methodology – combining social network analysis with qualitive methods – to examine institutional diversity policies and practices in relation to the recent wave of student activism in higher education. To date, I have examined both transnational and local student movements and found that students deployed hashtags – such as #ITooAm, #RhodesFeesMustFall, and #DiversityisNotInclusion – to organize campus-based protests, to construct narratives of institutional inequity, and to amplify these narratives and demands for change beyond institutional spaces. I found that this activism produced knowledge of institutional conditions that official assessments overlooked or were ill-equipped to capture. Moreover, student activist narrative claims shed light on institutional logics, enacted through diversity policy and practice, that reinforce exclusion in higher education. This research gives attention to student voices, contributing a distinct perspective that deepens our understanding of inequities in higher education, thus opening possibilities to reimagine and reform institutions to be emancipatory, equitable, and inclusive. I have presented papers drawn from this project at the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) conference and the American Anthropological Association (AAA) annual meetings, and have several manuscripts from this research in the publication process. I am currently developing a new study that examines student activist mobilization and tactical flexibity during COVID-19

Sociogram depicting activist network

The Oregon Transfer Project – a qualitative study of first-generation Oregon community college (CC) students’ transfer knowledge and advising experience in the context of shifting state legislation. Baseline data was collected in Fall 2018 and preliminary findings are published in the forthcoming edited volume, At the Intersection: Unpacking the Experiences of First-Generation College Students Today (Stylus Publishing, late 2020). Data collection will continue over multiple years to determine the efficacy of changing legislation, inform policy revision, and generate knowledge regarding CC transfer among first generation students. 

Oregon State Legislature, Senate Interim Committee on Education. Expert Perspectives on Community College to University Transfer Systems. September 16, 2019 (Oregon Transfer Project at minute 20:16)

Documenting the Racial Transfer Gap – This research used a nationally representative sample of students drawn from the Beginning Post-secondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:12/14) to quantitatively document transfer gaps. The study examined inequities in early transfer among racial/ethnic groups and explored implications for transfer partnerships. Results are published in Empirical and Practical Implications for Documenting Early Racial Transfer Gaps (New Directions for Community Colleges (NDCC): Transfer Partnerships for More Equitable Outcomes).

Questioning Assumptions about Accessible Bachelor’s Granting InstitutionsThis project identifies and problematizes assumptions about bachelor’s granting accessible institutions (BAIs) including: (a) enough is known about BAIs, (b) elite universities provide a higher quality educational experience when compared to BAIs, and (c) accessible institutions are a monolithic group. In doing so, we draw from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to provide a summary of relevant empirical findings and data specific to bachelor’s granting BAIs. We conclude with implications for institutional leaders and policy makers and call for additional equity-centered research and policy work on BAIs. To be published in the forthcoming edited volume, Unlocking Opportunity through Broadly Accessible Institutions (Routledge Press, 2021).

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