Addressing homesickness in university freshmen

Thurber, C.A. & Walton, E.A. (2012). Homesickness and Adjustment in University Students. Journal of American College Health, 60 (5), 415-419.

What does the research literature say about homesickness among university freshmen?  Doctors Christopher A. Thurber and Edward A. Walton provide a clear and concise summary in an article published in the Journal of American Health in 2012.

Reviewing the recent literature on the topic, the researchers presented lists of conditions that result from intense homesickness, risk and protective factors for homesickness, and empirically based strategies for both prevention and treatment.  They concluded the article by calling upon practitioners to implement and then test the effectiveness of interventions to address the issue.

Strengths and Critiques

The organization of this paper was excellent.  The paper was easy to follow, the writing was clear and concise, and the sections were both understandable and sensible.  Most importantly, the paper was a helpful contribution to the field of student retention literature because it provided an excellent and user-friendly summary of recent research on homesickness along with sound strategies for intervention.  A university administrator who wants to address homesickness among students but isn’t sure where or how to start could read this article and walk away with both an understanding of the issue and a plan for how to tackle it.

The major thing lacking in this paper is a clear theoretical framework.  The authors did not espouse any particular theory.  Instead, they just wrote about the challenges that many students face when they transition to a university setting and how those challenges can cause homesickness.  The authors also omitted a data collection and analysis section, presumably because they did not conduct an original study other than a literature review.  They did, however, note that a review had already been done on homesickness in children and adolescents, which justified that their review focus on research on young adults at postsecondary institutions.  They also noted that risk and protective factors for homesickness for youth are nearly identical as risk and protective factors for adults.

The authors’ discussion of the topic, woven throughout the paper, was particularly strong.  They noted that a simple dichotomy of students who are homesick and those who are not is not helpful to understand the issue because so many students, if not all, experience some degree of homesickness.  Instead, the authors recommended conceptualizing homesickness as a spectrum with varying intensity and then distinguishing between normal levels of homesickness and more severe levels which are problematic (including consequences such as significant distress that make those levels problematic).  This conceptualization is helpful because there are specific indicators of when homesickness levels have become above the normal intensity, and the acknowledgement that there is a normal experience of homesickness can help administrators and practitioners with implementing one of the authors’ intervention strategies, which is to normalize homesickness among students.


University and college administrators concerned with student retention should definitely address homesickness, given a finding cited in this paper that homesick students are significantly more likely to drop out of school.  I have anecdotal evidence that confirms this finding.  In my place of practice, I have noticed that homesickness is a common reason given by students when asked why they are leaving or thinking about leaving the university.  In my own experience as a university freshman, I vividly remember homesickness being a major personal struggle.  I never contemplated leaving the university, but my homesickness did contribute to several personal and academic problems.

The authors were transparent with the type of further study that might effectively build upon their research: intervention studies.  They noted that existing research on homesickness has only described the subjective experience of the issue such as risk and protective factors.  With their lists of recommended strategies for intervention complete, the authors were hoping that future researchers would actually implement and assess these strategies.  Reading that such studies have yet to be published (at least as of 2012, when this article was published), I am encouraged because I might be able to bring such an innovation to ASU and also make a needed contribution to the research literature.

Before delving into a homesickness intervention, however, I would want to know answers to two questions that were not answered in this article.  The first question is: what is the prevalence of intense homesickness among university students?  The authors cited one study that found that 7 percent of children and adolescents experienced severe levels of homesickness when away from home.  I wonder if the percentage of college students who experience these high intensity levels of homesickness is similar, lower, or higher.  I’m also curious to know if there are any trends related to homesickness in college students.  Is intense homesickness an issue that is affecting higher percentages of college students today than in previous generations?  Or has the percentage either decreased or remained steady?  On one hand, I could imagine the prevalence being lower today compared with previous generations because contemporary students have the benefit of technology such as Skype, FaceTime, cell phones, and text messaging that can help with staying closely connected with distant relatives and friends.  On the other hand, common knowledge that today’s generation of college students tends to be more reliant on their parents than previous generations might suggest that today’s students might feel more homesick when separated from home than their predecessors.

Addressing homesickness has major implications for exploring humanizing education research.  Students are not just numbers attending an institution.  They have feelings and poignant experiences that affect their success outcomes.  Building an institutional understanding of homesickness can help to humanize students and increase empathy for them from administrators by understanding their emotions. It can also help students have compassion for each other and be supportive of each other.  In my experience, I have observed that students who are struggling with an issue will keep that issue to themselves due to embarrassment and thinking that they are the only ones who are having that issue.  An intervention that draws attention to the widespread and common nature of homesickness might have the effect of encouraging students to be more open about their struggles and to be mutually supportive as they encounter and address their struggles together.


Thurber, C.A. & Walton, E.A. (2012). Homesickness and Adjustment in University Students. Journal of American College Health, 60 (5), 415-419.


A Brand Ecosystem for Higher Education

Pinar, M., Trapp, P., Girard, T., & Boyt, T. E. (2011). Utilizing the brand ecosystem framework in designing branding strategies for higher education. International Journal of Educational Management, 25(7), 724–739. doi:10.1108/09513541111172126

“Utilizing The Brand Ecosystem Framework in Designing Branding Strategies for Higher Education” includes a compelling rationale for the importance of branding institutions of higher education and a framework for developing a brand.  Building off of an extensive review of the literature, the authors provide information specific to higher education institutions (such as challenges associated with the narrow view of branding), present a brand ecosystem, and demonstrate the importance of having a fully integrated effort.  The literature review includes numerous general marketing sources as well as those specific to higher education.

In the article, the authors use a coherent well-organized approach that includes examples of branding and its components both from outside of and within higher education.  This approach, particularly the examples of branding in higher education, presents a clear reason for the value of branding to a higher education audience that may be less familiar with the concept.  The main goal of the article is to present a theoretical framework that includes the major factors and interactions of these factors in developing a university brand (Pinar, Trapp, Girard, & Boyt, 2011).  This theoretical framework is the articles primary contribution to the field.  There was no primary data gathered by the authors and the analysis was based on the information gleamed from the literature review.

With the recent economic downturn, reduced higher education funding from states (for state colleges and universities), and the increase in for profit competitors, higher education institutions have looked for alternative ways to maintain or improve the services they provide.  A number of institutions have explored branding.  According to Kotler and Keller (2006), a brand represents customers’ perceptions and feelings about the product (or service) and its performance.  As one of the most important assets of an organization, brands need to be thoughtfully developed and managed.

Some in higher education view branding as only marketing communication such as brochures, logos, and websites.  A brand is much broader than that and includes the experiences of students, alumni, donors, and employers with the institution.  In higher education, a more significant challenge is the “ideological gap” between designing the university experience to meet student expectations and designing the service to meet what the institution believes the students should experience.  Brands that are successful at the university level focus on students and their needs, not on what the university believes students should need (Ng & Forbes, 2008).  For many universities, the focus on students’ needs will only occur when there is a substantial paradigm shift and operational changes throughout the institution.  These changes may be necessary but likely won’t be easy.

The theoretical framework presented by the authors is called a brand ecosystem (Pinar et al., 2011).  In a brand ecosystem, the preferences and expectations of the target market are the driving force.  Also, every internal and external activity in the brand system inter-relate and should contribute to reinforcing the desired brand image and customer experience with the brand, both short-term and long-term.  With the perspective that students are the only reason universities exist, the center of the brand ecosystem is the student experience, as indicated in the graphic below.  The core value created by the university experience is learning through teaching and research.  Other activities that create value for students include student life, sports, and community activities or service (Pinar et al., 2011).  While these ancillary services may not be essential, they impact the delivery of the core academic service and all services interact to create the entire university experience for students (Ng & Forbes, 2008).  The brand ecosystem also includes the experiences of alumni, donors, and employers with the institution.

Like other services, the students’ education experience is the sum of all encounters including student-faculty, student-administration/staff, and student-student interactions, any of which has the capability to influence students’ perception of the university brand.  The academic experience, for example, can be viewed as the sum of classroom lectures and discussions, homework, tests, class projects, internships, student research supervised by faculty, conversations between students and faculty, academic advising, etc.  Each encounter can improve or negatively affect the students experience and therefore, the brand ecosystem is a compilation of the interrelated experiences over time that share a common focus and direction (Pinar et al., 2011).  Due to the importance of these encounters, universities should clearly articulate the desired student experience and provide a strong internal branding program and provide faculty and staff with the necessary training and support, particularly for those whose duties require direct contact with students.  Highly qualified faculty, staff and administrators are essential to creating excellent student experiences with the brand ecosystem.  Universities should clarify the roles and behavior needed from all employees to deliver on the promises of value associated with the brand.  A university brand and a student experience have an interdependent relationship.  The brand communicates the type of experience (i.e., promise and expectation) while the experience reinforces and (hopefully) builds the brand.  In turn, the brand facilitates the next experience in a relationship that continues in a dynamic and mutually rewarding way.

My view

The authors write with a well-informed marketing perspective that is firmly grounded in higher education.  Some in higher education continue to believe that branding is not appropriate and incompatible with traditional academic values.  I believe that good branding not only is aligned with academic values but can bring them to the forefront.  It isn’t one or the other.  Without branding, universities face greater risk of declines in enrollment and, more importantly, a missed opportunity to become more student focused.

The article presents the rationale for branding in an effective manner for those in higher education.  In addition, the brand ecosystem provides a high level model for universities willing to take the first step in developing a brand.  The authors suggest future research on implementing measuring and testing the brand ecosystem model and I agree.  Developing the model is helpful; implementing and testing it would provide great insight into the model’s effectiveness and capability to facilitate the adoption of much needed branding initiatives in higher education.

Kotler, P., & Keller, K. L. (2006). Marketing Management (12th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Ng, I., & Forbes, J. (2008). Education as service: the understanding of university experience through the service logic. Journal of Marketing Higher Education, 19(1), 38–64.

Pinar, M., Trapp, P., Girard, T., & Boyt, T. E. (2011). Utilizing the brand ecosystem framework in designing branding strategies for higher education. International Journal of Educational Management, 25(7), 724–739. doi:10.1108/09513541111172126


Finally, Something that Works!

Brooks, M., Jones, C., & Burt, I. (2013). Are African-American male undergraduate retention programs sucessful? An evaluation of an undergraduate African-American male retention program. Journal of African American Studies, 17(2), 206-221.

There are hundreds of articles about minority retention issues in higher education discussing retention programs that fail to retain minority students. However, very few discuss successful retention programs and how they can be effectively implemented in Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). Brooks, Jones, and Burt (2013) do just that in their article Are African-American Male Undergraduate Retention Programs Successful? An Evaluation of an Undergraduate African-American Male Retention Program. Many colleges and universities have solid retention programs, particularly based on Tinto’s (1999) model. Characteristics of solid retention models are that they provide high expectations for students, give sound advice to understanding and retaining curriculum, provide excellent support in academic and social integration, enabling the student to feel valued and encouraged (Tinto, 1999). While Tinto’s (1999) approach is practical, it addresses a broad range of student populations, lacking consideration of marginalized populations whose present different retention issues than what Tinto examined. Brooks et al (2013) attack Tinto’s (1999) integration model, by proposing that retention integration models require Black students to “unlearn their culture in substitution for the established campus climate” (p. 207).  Rather, Brooks et al (2013) assert that matriculation rates increase when students of color are able to maintain their cultural identities.

The goal of Brooks’ et al (2013) article is to present findings on a study that provided a retention intervention program specifically for Black males in a PWI. First, the researchers specified the importance of a college degree for African American males. The Chronicle of Higher Education (2009) showed that in 2007, 46,400 Black male students received a college degree compared to 90,990 Black female students showing the imbalance of earning potential between Black males and females which ultimately impacts the economic ability of Black families. Because Black women generally search for Black men as potential mates, the lack of Black men in college precludes them from dating, or forces them to date men who have less earning potential affecting the family socioeconomic status. Next, the researchers discussed the success of National College Athletic Association (NCAA) models in retaining Black males. In 2009, Black male college athletes graduated at a rate of 49%, while only 38% percent non-athlete Black males completed their degree program (NCAA Research Staff, 2009). An important fact, the level of support student-athletes receive (e.g. support services, orientation programs, tutoring, financial support, mentorship programs, etc.) is crucial as many athletes score low on entrance exams, yet, graduate at higher rates than Black males who do not participate in collegiate sports programs.

Using a mixed method approach, specifically a QUAN-Qual model, Brooks et al (2013) devised a four-prong approached to creating a retention program. A QUAN-qual method is research method in which both qualitative and quantitative methods are used; however, a greater percentage of the research is conducted used a quantitative approach, denoting the use of capital letters when discussing this research approach. First, they invited 136 African-American freshman males, between the ages of 18-21 years old (90 completed the study) to participate in the semester-long study. Second, participants were required to enroll in a for-credit seminar course which met for one hour each week. The course covered topics applicable to Black male college students, with lessons presented on self-esteem, academic and social support, faculty connection, and financial resources. Coping methods for how to recognize and properly deal with racism on campus were integrated into curriculum as well. Next, students were paired with upperclassmen mentors who shared similar majors, interests, and backgrounds as the freshman students. Students were required to meet with their peer-mentor once a month to discuss coursework, social, and personal issues the student may be facing. Finally, the data collection process was implemented through the pre-test at the start of the semester, and a post-test (final exam) which allowed researchers to investigate the students’ integration into college life. A forty-question final examination asked questions centered on such constructs as social integration, self-esteem, academic culture, and mentor/mentee relationships.

What Brooks et al (2013) found was that students gained an understanding of the academic acculturation process over the semester, a sound understanding of academic advising/support, and where to get help for social and academic issues such as counseling and tutoring services. Specifically important to the students was the mentorship aspect of the program. Students shared that having a personal connection with senior students provided positive role-models that helped them shape their identity as a college-educated Black male.

I love this article! Why? Because it discussed what works, rather than what doesn’t work in retention programs; not to mention it is a good example of an mixed-method, action research study. As stated earlier, anyone can learn the deficiencies in college retention programs and why they do not serve minority students, but, very little attention is paid to programs that are actually succeeding in retaining minority students. For the purpose of my research, I want to attack current retention models in PWIs that inefficiently maintain Black students, and, I want to pose a solution that works! Using the well-respected model by Tinto (1999), Brooks et al (2013) put a spin on it that targeted a very specific population that often gets overlooked. The uniqueness of this approach makes it a solid contribution to the field with solid data using both a qualitative and quantitative approach to paint a very clear picture of how such a program could be beneficial for retention efforts. I realize there are limitations to implementing this type of retention program. The university would need to approve this type of course, a coordinator of the sort would need to promote and enroll students in the course, while a faculty-person would have to be recruited to create the curriculum and teach the course. This is very challenging for many PWIs, mainly because the culture of the environment discourages of any type of ethno-subculture assimilation within the institution. That’s a conversation for another day (we can chat about it in the comments, if you wish). Nonetheless, this article is useful for future research to positively show what a minority retention program could be, what it looks like, and how it impacts academic excellence in higher education.


Brooks, M., Jones, C., & Burt, I. (2013). Are African-American male undergraduate retention programs sucessful? An evaluation of an undergraduate African-American male retention program. Journal of African American Studies, 17(2), 206-221.

Chronicle of Higher Education. (2009). Degrees conferred by racial and ethnic group. Almanac of Higher Education.

NCAA Research Staff. (2009). Research related to graduation rates of Division I student athletes 1984-2002.

Tinto, V. (1999). Taking student retention seriously: Rethinking the first year of college. NACADA Journal, 19, 5-9.

Branding at Embry-Riddle

Curtis, T., Abratt, R., & Minor, W. (2009). Corporate brand management in higher education: the case of ERAU. Journal of Product & Brand Management, 18(6), 404–413. doi:10.1108/10610420910989721

“Corporate Brand Management in Higher Education: The Case of ERAU” is a good primer on branding a higher education institution.  The article is easy to read, well organized, and has appropriate headings.  Included in the article is an extensive and clearly presented literature review with an overview of corporate branding as well as how this concept and the concepts of corporate identity and corporate image can be used in higher education.  The rationale for adopting corporate brand management in higher education is comprehensive and straightforward.  Regarding contribution to field, this article is helpful for institutions that don’t have much experience in branding, particularly those that are considering starting a branding initiative.  I don’t believe the information in the article is strong enough to change the mind of skeptics who believe branding is incompatible with academic principles and values.

The theoretical framework for the research is informed by the perspectives provided regarding how corporate branding, corporate identity, and corporate image relate to higher education.  This is helpful because the information presented is applicable to most businesses and institutions including colleges and universities.

A qualitative approach with a single case study method was used for the research.  Data was collected from a variety of sources including secondary sources (e.g., university documents and Web site, archival data) and interviews of top university administrators.  A discussion document focused on brand management was drawn up for the interviews based on the literature review.  Open ended questions for administrators were focused on identifying the purpose of the corporate brand management process and logistics.  This approach is appropriate due to the complexity of the process, multiple and dynamic variables involved, and numerous participants on the initiative.

Corporate Branding in Higher Education

Corporate brands should be true, meaningful to the target audience, and distinct from the competition. Target audiences in higher education might include prospective and current students, parents, faculty and staff, alumni, community stakeholders, and the general public.  A brand can also incorporate “belonging.” This is important in higher education where graduates may identify with the brand of their school throughout their life. University brands may include a variety of quantitative measures to position themselves compared to competitors such as faculty research productivity, student scores on entrance exams, selectivity of admissions, and starting salary of graduates.  Qualitative measures used for positioning may include the perceptions of the university’s target audiences.  Branding is not only the responsibility of the school’s marketing department.  A successful brand requires alignment of all the university’s resources.  The quality of the institution’s faculty and research, the programs offered, the service provided to students, and the physical attributes of the campus and facilities should all express and reinforce the brand.

Corporate Identity and Image for Higher Education

Corporate identity is the portion of the brand that is created by internal stakeholders.  In higher education these identities should position the school appropriately in the marketplace, be accepted by society, and create a consistent image among stakeholders.   Previously, corporate identity used to be limited to visual identifications and logos but has now evolved to include how the school’s employees behave and interact with those outside of the institution.

Corporate image is how those outside the institution (including external stakeholders) view the school.  For comparison, corporate identity is “what the school wants to be” and corporate image is “what the school is perceived to be.”  Corporate image is the result of corporate branding.  Improving image is no easy task because of the diversity of multiple stakeholders and effects of many factors including organizational, situational, personal, business, and regulatory.

The case at Embry-Riddle

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is a well-known institution specializing in aviation and aerospace education with about 34,000 students on two residential campuses, online, and at training facilities around the world.  With the leadership of a new president in 2006, the university embarked on a corporate brand management initiative to facilitate additional expansion of the school outside of the United States market.  A substantial challenge was the lack of unity among university constituencies with regard to the brand, image, and identity that the school should have to maintain or improve its existing competitive advantage while expanding programs and research domestically and internationally.

For corporate brand management, the marketing proposed a new website, some program marketing, and developing corporate brand positioning.  The information provided about the website and program marketing activities was basic.  Developing a new website is commonplace in higher education institutions whether or not they embrace branding and the program marketing example was unsophisticated.  The information about developing the corporate brand position illustrated some of the strategic complexity associated with defining a brand.  Should Embry-Riddle broaden its position to become a premium provider of comprehensive education or should they focus their efforts on building on their existing strengths in the domestic and international markets?  These questions are of critical importance and once the brand position is defined it should drive organizational focus and resources.

The next step in the process was to conduct a brand audit.  The article had worthwhile information about the internal and external groups that were to participate and about a brand positioning process model that was used.  There are three measures in a brand audit: awareness, key attributes, and relationship outcomes.  Awareness was measured among key segments in geographical areas. Key attributes were measured as percentages for geographical segments such as, “Embry-Riddle has a broad selection of programs (to meet a variety of needs)” or “Embry-Riddle helps you get a job or advance your career.”  Relational outcomes were measured as percentages for geographic segments among key prospective student groups.  Examples of questions to measure relational outcomes are: “Would you consider Embry-Riddle if you were planning to obtain an aviation/aerospace or general education?” and “Would you advise a co-worker, family member or a friend to consider Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University if they were planning to obtain an aviation/aerospace education or general education?”

Information in the article about the rest of the corporate brand management process was limited. The results of the brand audit are used to generate a concept, which in turn is used to develop the university brand positioning statement.  In the next phase the positioning statement is tested among key stakeholders.  Based on the feedback the formal university positioning statement is created.  The final phase of the process is to develop the marketing campaign based on the statement and determining metrics to evaluate the brand on a regular (in this case annual) basis.

My view

The authors utilized a comprehensive literature review to provide a strong rationale for why institutions of higher learning should articulate and manage their brand.  I liked their use of “corporate” to modify the terms of branding, identity, and image.  In this way, they communicated that the concepts they are recommending for higher education are the same that have been used successfully in businesses and other organizations.  I had high hopes that the case study would provide information regarding the challenges and opportunities faced by the university and substantive implications for developing and managing a brand.  The research did provide helpful information about branding process used by the university but little about the position developed or the lessons learned about the process, both of which were beyond the scope of the study.  What university positioning did Embry-Riddle develop? How was it implemented? Was it effective?

It would have also been helpful to include information from the contrary viewpoint that sees branding as unsuited for higher education.  Individuals with this viewpoint have strong positions that can derail a well-intended branding effort.  Developing a compelling brand for a university is an important and difficult challenge.  Even with an elegant process, there are going to be bumps along the way.

Using difference-education to make a difference

Stephens, N.M., Hamedani, M.G., & Destin, M. (2014). Closing the Social-Class Achievement Gap: A Difference-Education Intervention Improves First-Generation Students’ Academic Performance and All Students’ College Transition. Psychological Science, 25(4), 943-953.

How can difference-education make a difference in the success outcomes of first-generation university freshmen?  A recently published study, authored by Nicole M. Stephens, MarYam G. Hamedani and Mesmin Destin (2014), sheds light on the matter.

Stephens, Hamedani, and Destin conducted a study to determine if an educational intervention that highlights difference and demonstrates why difference matters would reduce the achievement gap between first-generation students (those whose parents do not have a four-year college education) and continuing-generation students (whom have at least one parent who has obtained a four-year college degree).  Using a convenience sample to recruit first-year students and financial incentives to entice them to participate, the researchers organized two moderated panels of college seniors to share their personal stories of how they have succeeded at that university.  The same group of seniors spoke at each panel and shared the same stories; the only major difference between the panels was that one panel included difference-education in the form of the panelists identifying their social-class backgrounds and then linking their stories to those backgrounds, whereas the other panel did not include such mention of experience-based difference.  The group of freshmen participating in the study (which included first-generation and continuing-generation students) were randomly assigned to observe one panel or the other.

In addition to observing the panel, participating freshmen were asked immediately afterward to complete a brief survey about what they learned and how they would use that learning to advise future incoming students, and they also filmed a brief video testimonial that they were told would be used to educate the following year’s cohort of freshmen (the researchers added this wrinkle to produce the saying-is-believing effect articulated by Yeager and Walton (2011)).  At the end of the year, participants also completed a survey designed to gauge their understanding of difference, how much they utilized available student resources at the college, and the success of their college transition as determined by a range of psychosocial measures such as levels of stress and student engagement.

The results are encouraging.  After eliminating outliers and controlling for other factors such as SAT scores and high school GPA, the researchers found that the achievement gap (measured by year-end college GPA) between first-generation and continuing-generation students who observed the difference-education panel was virtually eliminated!  In contrast, a significant gap emerged between first-generation and continuing-generation students who observed the standard panel that did not contain difference-education.  The researchers also found that, although there was not a significant difference in year-end GPA between the groups of continuing-generation students who participated in the study, the group of first-generation students who observed the difference-education panel had a much higher mean GPA than the group of first-generation students who observed the standard panel.  Similar patterns emerged in relation to utilization of college resources.

This seems like a sound study.  The researchers’ survey design and statistical analysis controlled confounding variables, and results were statistically significant. Moreover, the researchers used multiple methods of obtaining data.

I am intrigued by this research because it relates directly to my area of inquiry.  It also confirms other research articles I’ve read, my own personal observations of students, and conversations I’ve had with colleagues that support the notion that, although interventions such as academic skill development programs and financial literacy education can clearly be beneficial for first-generation students, educators must also be attuned to psychological factors such as self-efficacy and feelings of belonging and hope that can impact student success outcomes.  Students can be exceptionally bright, but if they feel like they don’t belong in college, if they don’t recognize that their struggles and challenges might be related to difference in their backgrounds rather than who they are as individuals, or they don’t seek help, their chances for success are diminished.

This study also has major implications for issues of access and equity in education, which is a major national agenda.  As the authors of the study wrote, the achievement gap between first-generation and continuing-generation students is well documented, and first-generation students are a large percentage of the student population.  Therefore, administrators who are seeking to improve their institutional graduation rates and promote student success should be aware of this study and consider how they might use the findings in their own context.

The researchers identified several areas for future study.  For example, they suggested studies on how similar interventions might affect other areas in which there are educational disparities.  This study has definitely given me ideas for my own research.  I would like to try a similar intervention at ASU.  The key will be finding a way to do it at scale.

Additional Reference

Yeager, D.S., & Walton, G.M. (2011). Social-psychological interventions in education: They’re not magic. Review of Educational Research, 81, 267-301.


“I think I can, I think I can, I….”

Sriram, R. (2014). Rethinking Intelligence: The role of mindset in promoting success for academically high-risk students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, and Practice, 15(4), 515–536.

Consider your responses to the following three statements:  “a) you have a certain amount of intelligence and you really can’t do much to change it; b) your intelligence is something about you that you can’t change very much; and c) you can learn new things, but you can’t really change your basic intelligence (Dweck et al in Sriram, 2014).”  Not exactly, “I think I can…;” rather I think I can’t.”  Those statements are used to measure something called mindset, a construct studied (primarily in children) to determine their view on intelligence and consequently their ability to learn and be successful.  This article is one of the few that looks at mindset in college students.

Being convinced myself that what a person believes to be true is likely to become their reality, I was immediately drawn to Carol Dweck’s mindset research about how one thinks about their own intelligence (Yeager and Dweck, 2012).  People who think intelligence is malleable are said to have a growth mindset; they also tend to be more goal-oriented.  People who think intelligence is unchangeable are said to have a fixed mindset and are less motivated to put forth effort.  Sriram does a thorough and convincing job of providing support for the development of growth mindset in high-risk college students.   A growth mindset is important because, “besides prior academic achievement, the motivation and energy students apply to their education is the best predictor of their learning and development” (Sriram, 2014).

This article is readable, contributes to the literature, and suggests topics for further research and policy.  The author is methodical and thorough in his approach providing context and rationale for his study.  He works at Baylor University.  His study was of Baylor students who were considered academically high-risk for that institution.  Students were randomly assigned to either a control or experimental group.  Both groups participated in four short (15-minute) web based sessions over the course of four weeks as part of a remedial course they were taking.  The control group was instructed in study skills; the experimental group was exposed to the idea that intelligence can be developed.  Based on a comparison of pre- and post-tests (consisting of the three questions at the start of this blog) the experimental group’s view of their intelligence shifted to a more growth mindset.  They also reported exerting more academic effort.   Given the positive results, happily there were more students in the experimental group (n=60) compared to the control (45 students).

Sriram is not stingy on providing methodological and contextual details. He acknowledges that colleges and universities are spending a lot of money on programs to help students succeed.  With the influx of students to higher education, there are greater numbers of students who show up under-prepared.  Baylor, like most colleges and universities, wants to retain their students and help them to graduate.  Again like so many schools, they have created remedial support.  However, a significant amount of research indicates that remedial coursework does not increase students’ rate of graduation so Sriram set out to find something that might supplement remedial programming.  The few studies on college students’ mindset suggested that a growth mindset might increase motivation and effort.

The reader is meticulously guided through the author’s data collection.  He clearly defines terms and uses the same terms often enough to help the reader make connections.  The analysis is detailed.  He addresses internal and external validity and treatment fidelity.  He examines the pre/post test differences.  He tells the kind of analysis he is doing – ANOVA and MANOVA looking at multivariates and univariate and degrees of freedom and conditional effects.  I was, however, left with curiosity about the details of each of the 15 minute on-line intervention sessions.  The author detailed seven distinct parts of the experimental sessions including a quote, a video, reflection questions, and information about the brain and said that the control groups experienced similar activities.  An appendix with the details of each session including quote and url’s to videos would allow for others to duplicate the intervention.  Perhaps he is saving that level of detail, though, until his results also show higher achievement.  Despite the fact that students in the experimental group displayed more of a growth mindset based on post-test results and greater study efforts than the control group, they did not show higher academic achievement based on end of semester gpa.

The author has possible explanations for that and other surprising results.  He suggests that the brevity of his intervention may be to blame for the lack of increased academic achievement and suggests that future studies look at increasing that.  A surprise was that, on closer examination of the conditional effects, students of color and men did not show increased effort; that was limited to females and students of European descent.

This article reads like a story – a story with new and more complex details that reveal themselves at each reading.  After reading (and re-reading) this article, I am considering adding an intervention to enhance students’ growth mindset to workshops I am constructing on motivation with a colleague for our institution’s new early alert program this fall.  The program will focus on students in developmental classes.  Attendance at the four workshops is optional and we were not anticipating that students would necessarily attend all four.

Considering how to make this research humanizing seems to me it must include dialogue.  In this study the intervention is solely web-based, there is no interaction with other students or instructors.  Getting feedback from the students on their attempts to enhance a growth mindset – and before that being transparent with them about the questions the researcher is attempting to answer – would humanize the research.

If students – especially those who come to college under-prepared – could think about intelligence as dynamic rather than static, that could improve self-confidence resulting in increased motivation to engage in more strategic academic behaviors.  Then the mantra, “I think I can…” will take hold propelling the student to greater effort and, hopefully, college success.

Yeager, D. S., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindsets That Promote Resilience: When Students Believe That Personal Characteristics Can Be Developed. Educational Psychologist, 47(4), 302–314. doi:10.1080/00461520.2012.722805

Sriram, R. (2014). Rethinking Intelligence: The role of mindset in promoting success for academically high-risk students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, and Practice, 15(4), 515–536.

Learning Outcomes and Engagement

Strayhorn, T. (2008). How College Students’ Engagement Affects Personal and Social Learning Outcomes. Journal of College and Character, X(2), 1–16.


This article is presents possible interventions to influence student engagement, which then results in student learning. A widely accepted model for identifying change is presented. This model is called I-E-O and was developed by Astin in 1991. In the model, I represents “inputs”, E represents “Environment” and O represents “Outcome”. The model developed by Astin is considered a foundational model in evaluating the impact of planned interventions (or activities) with students. Through the use of data collected in the College Student Experiences Questionnaire (CSEQ, the researcher conducted quantitative analysis to identify potential activities (inputs) that would yield a measurable increase in student learning (outcome). The possible outcomes originated from the Council for the Advanced of Standards in Higher Education. Therefore, the research was attempting to determine appropriate input that would correlate to the desired CAS outcomes.

Literature Review

The literature review focused mainly on the frameworks for analysis, the I-E-O model and the standards identified for CAS. In accordance with the I-E-O model, student learning is the result of inputs and environment. The specific desired learning outcomes were identified from the CAS standards. See the table below in which the researcher categorized the standards based upon desired outcomes. Table 1

According to the researcher, the CAS standards are commonly agreed set of outcomes we hope for students that include categories related to developing effective communication practices, accepting diversity in thought and experience, forming meaningful relationships, and acquiring the ability to think critically.  The researcher also defined student engagement as “’the time and energy that students devote to educationally purposeful activities and the extend to which the institution gets students to participate in activities that lead to student success’ (Kezar & Kinzie, 2006, p. 150)” (Strayhorn, 2008, pg. 6)

Quantitative Research

 The research study is seeking to answer two research questions “(a) Is there a statistically significant relationship between students’ engagement in college experiences and personal/social learning gains and (b) What is the relationship between students’ engagement in college experiences and their self-reports personal/social learning gains, controlling for background differences” (Strayhorn, 2008, pg 2). The researcher is adding to the body of work based upon a possible gap in research in this field.

The CSEQ is administered by Indiana University Bloomington. It is typically used for assessment. It is comprised of 191 items “designed to measure the quality and quantity of students’ involvement in college activities and their use of college facilities” (Strayhorn, 2008, pg 4).   It was administered to 8000 undergraduates attending 4-year institutions.  The researcher used survey data used and identified certain questions thought to correlate to specific learning outcomes from CAS. Component factor analysis was used for the initial round of quantitative analysis. The next step was the incorporation of hierarchical linear regression. In hierarchical linear regression, variables are entered into the data set based up an order determined by the researcher.

Limitations of this research include a lack of detail about how participants in the survey were selected. Also, only 4-year institutions were selected. Community college students might have been included if they had transferred. However, that information was not provided. The initial review of the data can be replicated, since it is available. However, the researcher used assumptions to first, correlate what he perceived to be relevant data points along with the CAS standards and then second, to organize their analysis based upon a possible impact.

 Implications and Future Research

 Based upon the analysis, the researcher concluded that peers and active learning were found most impactful on student engagement. Therefore, programs should consider programs that bring students together and support learning such as peer study groups, peer mentors, social outreach. Since faculty provide the opportunities for active learning, this was further discussed in terms of possible research opportunities that faculty could provide to students. Strayhorn (2004) specifically suggests “programs should be (re-) designed for faculty and students to collaborate on research projects, co-teaching experiences, and service learning activities…” (pg. 11). Future research opportunities might be beneficial in showing how peer and faculty engagement opportunities do correlate to successful student outcomes. Strayhorn (2004) further clarifies this by stating “future research might attempt to measure the impact of engagement on other learning outcomes such as those identified by CAS including effective communication, appreciating diversity, and leadership development…” (pg. 12).

Another possible extension of this research is to incorporate the I-E-O model along with student development theories. Student development theories are theories advisors can use to understand how a student is maturing and growing (Williams, 2007). I mention this to suggest that a student’s phase of development could potentially be an influential factor in how the student responds to inputs and environments.   This is a possible extension of this research and relates to my research field since I am beginning to explore outcomes related to advising interventions. This could include qualitative research alongside the quantitative research analysis. An example would be to conduct interviews to get a sense of whether the inputs suggested by this research lead to different levels of outcomes based upon the phase of the students’ development.


Williams, S. (2007). From Theory to Practice: The Application of Theories of Development to Academic Advising Philosophy and Practice. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site:


Who is responsible for my graduation?

Christian, T. Y. (Appalachian S. U., & Sprinkle, J. (Appalachian S. U. (2013). College Student Perceptions and Ideals of Advising: An Exploratory Analysis. College Student Journal, 47(2), 271–292. Retrieved from

“Advising is viewed as a teaching function based on a negotiated agreement between the student and the teacher in which varying degrees of learning by both parties to the transaction are the product” (Crookston 1972)

This article sought to assess advisor performance as a function of students’ expectations of the advising experience and the student’s own sense of responsibility. The researchers developed a questionnaire intended to identify the appropriate type of advising based upon the students’ needs, perceptions, and level of Locus of Control. The researchers deployed a questionnaire and evaluated the responses. Multiple hypotheses were presented and evaluated. The article concluded with recommendations for future study.

Literature Review
The researchers described two execution styles for advising, prescriptive and developmental (or collaborative). The developmental approach is a collaborative relationship in which the responsibilities of advisor and student are clear. If one has an internal locus of control one will “take responsibility for their actions, achievements, and consequences”. Those with an external locus will not take that internal responsibility, instead focusing on external factors influencing success. The researchers suggest a correlation exists between locus of control and preferred advising approach. “Viewed through this lens, college students with an internal locus of control are likely to prefer collaborative ad- vising while those with an external locus will prefer prescriptive advising as it places the burden of responsibility firmly on the advisor.” The researchers further suggested a correlation that as we age, our internal locus of control becomes more developed and we instead have a preference for collaborative advising.

Minimal literature was provided. Student development theory, as introduced by Crookston, 1972, is presented, but not fully explained. For example, student development theory uses alternative terms (not just responsibility) to describe this process of internalizing responsibility and it is often viewed a continuum. While Crookston (1972) does support the integration of a sense of self-responsibility and ownership, the advising relationship is much more complex. “Historically, the primary focus of both the academic advisor and the vocational counselor has been concerned with helping the student choose a major or an occupation as a central decision around which to begin organizing his life. The emergence of the student development philosophy in recent years necessitates a critical reexamination of this traditional helping function as well as the assumptions which undergird it” (Crookston, 1972). Essentially one factor of developmental advising was considered. However, the responses by the students could have been much more a function of the other factors introduced by Crookston (1972).

The rationale for assessment in advising is lacking in the literature review. Only one factor, time to graduation, is presented. Current research suggests drivers for assessment also include student retention, academic performance, and advising performance management (Teasley and Buchanan, 2013).

The researchers developed and deployed a questionnaire. The purpose of the questionnaire was to investigate which type of advising was being utilized (prescriptive or developmental) and capture the students’ ideals of advising. The analysis was intended to discuss the relationship, if any, which exists between those two factors. The researchers developed several hypotheses: students are currently receiving developmental advising and that as they age it becomes more prescriptive, gender and ethnicity do not influence student perception of advising interactions, GPA correlates to a tendency towards prescriptive advising, students will use their ideals of advising as a foundation for their own assessment.

A 50-question questionnaire was administered to students in multiple courses within the same department. 125 completed questionnaire were provided to the researchers. Class time was provided to complete the questionnaire but it was not mandatory.

There were two sub-scales considered with the analysis, student perceptions and student ideals. Factor analysis was used to evaluate the data obtained. The researchers explained how they employed the factor analysis. Used factors that had a load higher than their preferred level. Any questions with loads lower than those minimums were removed. After analyzing the results, each hypothesis was discussed in terms of the findings.

Limitations. The researchers proposed two limitations; a relatively small sample size was used and all students were from the same academic department. However, other limitations could be considered that no differential was made between faculty advisors or professional advisors. An extension of that limitation is advisor training and development. Finally, multiple factors, as described by Crookston (1927) influence the advising relationship, not just a student’s locus of control.

The source of the questions was not included. The article by Teasley & Buchanan (2013) included that detail and also highlighted the refinements made to the survey with each round of analysis. This research presented conclusions and a tool that has been tested much less than the tool introduced by Teasley & Buchanan. Duplication of these findings or enhancement of the assessment questionnaire is much more challenging based upon this research.

The questionnaire was only administered to 125 students across three courses within the same department.  Researchers included conclusions based upon the hypotheses. A larger sample size and additional classes could further support the application of the findings.  The researchers identified these factors as a limitation themselves.

Future research opportunities. An advising syllabus has become a key piece of advising execution (Trabant, 2006). An advising syllabus is a tool in which advisors convey their responsibilities and highlight the students’ individual responsibilities. I appreciated the concept of what the researchers were trying to capture in terms of the students’ perceptions of their own level of responsibility. The syllabus is intended to convey responsibility and establish a foundation for the advising relationship. A new idea to consider is how an advising team establishes the syllabus and what is intended by it. From there, is it appropriate to also consider assessing correlation between what is written in the syllabus and what is executed by the advisor?

It was interesting to include a psychological perspective in the assessment of advising. Typical advising literature considers assessment based upon generally accepted advising development theories (Williams, 2011). This could be an expansion of that consideration. McClellan, 2011 suggested the use of widely accepted business assessment models. These different approaches add a new lens by which to evaluate student expectations and development, along with advisor performance.


Crookston, B. B. (1972). A Developmental View of Academic Advising as Teaching. Journal of College Student Personnel. US: ACPA Executive Office.

McClellan, J. L. (2011). Beyond Student Learning Outcomes: Developing Comprehensive, Strategic Assessment Plans for Advising Programmes. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 33(6), 641–652. doi:10.1080/1360080X.2011.621190

Teasley, M. L., & Buchanan, E. M. (2013). Capturing the Student Perspective: A New Instrument for Measuring Advising Satisfaction. NACADA Journal, 33(2), 4–15. doi:10.12930/NACADA-12-132

Trabant, T.D. (2006). Advising Syllabus 101. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site:

Williams, S. (2007).From Theory to Practice: The Application of Theories of Development to Academic Advising Philosophy and Practice. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site:


Indigenous Students Identify Six Factors That Impact Degree Completion


Guillory, R.M., & Wolverton, M. (2008). It’s about family: Native American student persistence in higher education. The Journal of Higher Education, 79(1), 58-87

I went to school in Winslow, Arizona during elementary level and completed junior high and high school in what was then called South Central Los Angeles. My high school education was as substandard as it gets! So much so that I played catch up when I started at the University of Southern California straight out of high school. It wasn’t until my second semester junior year that I figured out how college worked, what resources were available to me, and what I needed to graduate. Much of this transition occurred because I became a student worker in the Liberal Arts and Sciences department and had complete access to academic advisors in my degree program. I also sought work with the local urban Indian social services center where I could work and interact with other Indigenous people and obtain much needed financial and social support. I concur with the Indigenous voices in Guillory and Wolverton’s (2008) research, there are persistence factors that are unique to Indigenous students that ultimately lead to degree completion.


This qualitative study used focus groups and interviews of 30 Native American university students and the collective institutional voices of state representatives, university presidents, and faculty at three institutions on the persistence factors and barriers to retention and degree attainment for Native American students. Both groups, students and institutional voices, were asked the same questions. The findings indicate contrary ideas between the two groups on persistence and barrier factors. Students identified family, giving back to tribal community and on-campus social support as their most important persistence factors. Institutional voices listed adequate financial support and academic programs as persistence factors for Indigenous students. Barriers were incongruent as well, clearly a disconnect between the groups which has negative impact on Indigenous student degree completion.

Theoretical Framework and Lens for Analysis

After discussing the theories other researchers have used to explain Indigenous learner college retention and degree attainment (Tinto’s Theory of Student Departure, Pascarella’s General Model for Assessing Change, Astin’s Theory of Involvement and the Model of Institutional Adaptation to Student Diversity), mostly, mainstream theories applied to Indigenous learners, the authors explain their rationale for using a qualitative multiple case study-like approach to center Indigenous learners’ voices. The author’s quote Tierney (1990) “what we need now are sensitive studies that move beyond statistical surveys…Rather than research about American Indians for policy makers… we need studies by and for Native Americans about their relationship to the world of higher education” (as stated in Guillory & Wolverton, 2008, p. 61).

The authors used focus group interviews that lasted 90 to 100 minutes to capture the student voices. Students were selected by referral from the university Native student centers. The students also completed questionnaires to obtain background information. The students represented 20 Indigenous nations and were mostly juniors, seniors and graduate students. They all hailed from tribal communities or border towns. Nine students identified as first generation, while 12 students had at least one parent who held an AA, bachelor’s or master’s level degree. From the focus group interviews, students were asked to name and explain the most important factors that had helped them persist in the university thus far as well as barriers that Indigenous students must overcome to be successful at the university. The institutional voices among three rural universities were asked the same questions.

The authors used a within-case and cross-case analysis to examine the similarities and differences among the three universities. The results were examined to determine processes and outcomes that were thematic among all three universities. The authors used the Family Education Model (FEM) as a framework to analyze the results. The FEM is a model developed for use among Indigenous social work students that promotes action and intervention to improve Indigenous learner retention and degree attainment.

Strengths and critiques

This study has implications for all colleges and universities that educate Indigenous learners. These findings reinforce what Roppolo and Crow caution us against, using essentialist notions to create Indian education as opposed to assessing Indigenous learners to better meet their educational needs, as evidenced by the incongruences between students and institutional administration and staff. The article is a major contribution to the field of Indigenous student persistence in higher education as it centers the Indigenous student voice in higher education and offers solutions to improve retention and persistence. The qualitative approach allows a richness that cannot be seen from raw data like graduation and stop out rates. The authors suggest conducting more studies with Indigenous students at different colleges and universities, as there is little research that centers the voices of Indigenous university students especially among urban Indigenous students.

Related research and conversations

The findings in this research are consistent with the case study in the Campbell (2007) article I posted last week where a partnership between Pima Community College and the Tohono O’odham Nation addressed the need for students to maintain family and community ties, receive extra tutoring to meet college level work demands and complete financial student and family support.

As an educator at a community college an assessment of Indigenous learners’ needs seems like the first step in my practice. Researchers suggest using the student voices to plan interventions that honor the importance of family and community along with financial support to make institutional changes. Though my college is considered to be located in an urban environment, the Indigenous communities surrounding us have been impacted by the close proximity to the city. I am interested to learn if urban Indigenous students yield the same concerns as students in the rural universities.


Campbell, A. (2007). Retaining American Indian/Alaska Native students in higher education: A case study of one partnership between the Tohono O’odham Nation and Pima Community College, Tucson, AZ. Journal of American Indian Education, 46(2), 19-42.

Guillory, R.M., & Wolverton, M. (2008). It’s about family: Native American student persistence in higher education. The Journal of Higher Education, 79(1), 58-87.

Tierney, W. G. (1990, May). American Indians and higher education: A research agenda for the 90s. Paper presented at the Opening of the Montana Pipeline: American Indian HIgher Education in the Nineties Conference, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT.

Who are you anyway?

Identity is personal and collective and influences one’s life at all levels.  Wenger (2000) suggests that our identity is shaped by participation in social learning systems – from families to work to school – and that it needs to have a strong foundation balanced with an ability to expand. Participating in social learning systems includes a sense of engagement with others, an ability to reflect on the system and consider alternatives, and a sense of purpose or alignment.  By knowing who we are, we are better able to imagine, investigate, respond, plan, and question.

College can be its own social learning system.  It certainly is a time for identity development. (Chickering and Reisser 1993).  Our readings this week seem aimed to drive home the point that all perspectives (especially of the underrepresented) have value.  My goal as an educator in the community college system is to empower the students with whom I work to know themselves – to establish identity – and to learn how to create personally meaningful goals and opportunities.  To do this effectively, I need to be aware of myself as well.

Who am I?  I consider myself as one who serves others and who works toward social justice.  The Jesuit university I attended helped me to develop that identity which was solidified in a year of volunteer service after college graduation with an organization called the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.  The Jesuit Volunteer Corps gives young adults an opportunity to work toward social justice while living a simple lifestyle in community with others who serve – all with an openness to exploring spirituality.

Who are the students I serve?  They are people of all ages with diverse experiences.  Some desire to make someone proud or to pave the way for a younger sibling, most have hopes and dreams of participating in our consumer culture and/or of making a difference in their future work.  Arthur Chickering’s work on the identity development of college students, suggests that college is a time to develop competence, interdependence, integrity, purpose (Chickering and Reisser, 1993).  In order to successfully navigate the college system and one’s own development, some know-how is needed.  Unfortunately, students from poorer backgrounds are often denied that know-how.  They may, however, have other forms of capital such as aspirational, social, or familial (Yosso in Liou et al 2009).  Our job as educators is to increase our student’s capital to cross boundaries and achieve success so each can align with her/his unique goals.  I believe it’s my moral imperative as a person whose conscience was formed with exposure to social justice.

Consider higher education institutions as communities of practice.  Not all communities are equal, though.  Communities with a balance of engagement, mutual relationships, and a repertoire of artifacts (e.g. language, rituals, etc.)  are more competent than others.  Without access to the artifacts or relationships of mutuality students will have a harder time succeeding.  If students can’t rely on their teachers to engage with them and share the resources necessary to succeed, then we all suffer the consequences of having a divided society of have’s and have-not’s.

Looking inward to better understand the self allows for more authentic engagement.  Sharing that understanding allows for more equal access.  As I model and encourage students to do the same we will all have access to a greater repertoire of resources and artifacts and improve self-efficacy as we move closer to our goals.  Who are you?

Chickering, A.W. & Reisser, L (1993). Education and Identity (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Liou, D., Antrop-Gonzalez, R. & Cooper, R. (2009).  Unveiling the Promise of Community Cultural Wealth to Sustaining Latina/o Students’ College-Going Information Networks. Educational Studies, (45), 534-555.

Wenger, E (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization, 7(2), 225-246.

Subtle Behaviors, Large Impact


Solorzaro, D., Ceja, M., & Yosso, T. (2000). Critical race theory, microaggressions, and campus racial climate: The experiences of African American college students. Journal of Negro Education, 69(1/2), 60-73. Retrieved from

In my quest to begin compiling information on micro-inequities in higher education, I thought it would be great to find some historical literature on the topic. While there is a great deal of information pertaining to the corporate sector, there is menial information on micro-inequities as it relates to higher education and student retention.  Colleges and universities, nationwide, seemed to be continuously in the hunt to “fix” access and retention issues for minority students. From my personal and professional experience, the fix isn’t necessarily the access, but, rather the campus environment (campus climate) that makes retention such a challenging issue.

This article, by Solorzano, Ceja, and Yosso uses critical race theory as a framework to discussing microaggressions and campus climate as it relates to African American college students.  The authors studied a group of thirty-four African American students at three Research 1, predominantly white institutions to discover the types of racial discrimination experienced, and how students responded to those experiences. None surprising, they conclude that the effects of covert, subtle microaggressions can be more harmful to the student than the blatant racism that is so often discussed.

This article was simply fantastic in that it clearly defined the difference between race, racism, and microaggressions. For the sake of the article, race is defended as the socially constructed “colorized” category created to show differences between ethnicities which is further used to show superiority of one race, namely White’s, over other races. The author’s use Audre Lorde’s definition of racism as the basis of the study: “the belief in the inherent superiority of one race of the all others and thereby the right to dominance” (p. 61). While this is a solid definition of racism, I prefer Manning Marable’s view on racism as a “system of ignorance, exploitation, and power to oppress African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Pacific Americans, American Indians and other people on the basis of ethnicity, culture, mannerisms, and color”. Manning’s’ definition is appealing because it puts a multi-ethnic face on the issue of racism, which is usually centered on the relationship between Black and White (Solorzaro, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000).

As mentioned earlier, the study was conducted through a series of focus-groups with thirty-four African American college students at three predominately white institutions (two public institutions, and one private institution). I was most intrigued by the fact that the researchers selected participants based on pre-determined criteria, although that specific criteria was not made available. With permission, the conversations were tape recorded, transcribed, and coded for data analysis. Using a qualitative approach with both open and closed-ended questions allows for liberal answers from participants which shows the intersectionality of several themes about race, gender, class, age, and disability.

The article was organized so that the connections between campus climate, academic microaggressions, and social microaggressions impact both the academic and social counter spaces. The information on microaggressions in the classroom is really impactful, as it serves as a segway into why Black students choose certain majors, why they are noticeable absent from STEM degrees, and why Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) still serve a purpose in higher education. Participants in this study reported that they are often the only student of color within the classroom, which leads to feelings of being ignored, and isolated. What I found particularly interesting was the intersection between the faculty perception and the student’s perception of themselves. One student who scored well on a math examination, was called into the professor’s office to be questioned about how he achieved the score, and was asked to re-take the examination a second time.

Additionally, the authors made a solid connection to the effects of microaggressions to counter spaces, which can be likened to the idea of “high stakes information networks as a source of community cultural wealth” (p. 542). as stated by Liou, Antrop-Gonzalez, and Cooper (2009) in their article on Community Cultural Wealth. Counter spaces include social networks, and organizations that minority students depend on for academic, moral, and spiritual support (i.e. Black student organizations, fraternities and sororities, church groups). This is important to my research because this shows not only the effects of the behavior, but, the alternative ways in which students cope with these small, yet, damaging form of racism.

One critique I have on this article, is that there could have been more statistical information provided in the method and findings section. The interviews were informative and gave life to the study, yet, it would have been better to understand the number of students who share the same feelings discovered in the interviews, and solid proof of their findings could be better understood through hard numbers. Also, the interview questions should have been in included in the article so that the nature and angle of the questions, and thus, the answers would be better analyzed by readers to see if there could be follow-up questions, or further areas of examination that were not included in the interview questions. The literature review was noticeably absent from the article, so I am not quite sure what other theories or previous studies have been conducted on the topic. However, the study’s conclusion was reasonable and coherent based on the examples and survey answers given by the participants.

While the study of microaggressions (microinequities) is not new, how we apply them to the educational environment greatly enhances the view from minority students and how they perform in in their respective programs. Personally, I have experienced microaggressions in my everyday life. They have been more apparent since I began working in higher education in a mid-level position, where there are few people of color in mid and senior-level positions. I see the relevance of this research as a practice-based issue in higher education as many practitioners are trained to apply student development theory to the educational process, but are not required to undergo any microaggression training to aid practitioners and faculty in identifying, and repudiate this form of bias.


Liou, D. D., Antrop-Gonzalez, R., & Cooper, R. (2009). Unveiling the promise of community cultural wealth to sustaining latina/o students’ college going information networks. American Educational Studies Association, 534-555.

Solorzaro, D., Ceja, M., & Yosso, T. (2000). Critical race theory, microaggressions, and campus racial climate: The experiences of African American college students. Journal of Negro Education, 69(1/2), 60-73.

Joining a new community

We’ve all had the experience of walking into a new environment and wondering how best to fit in and succeed. We are experiencing it now as we start this program. In “Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems” (Wegner, 2000), the author presents the complexity around learning and outlines the scope and purpose of learning communities. It presents definitions and explanations of how communities are formed and knowledge is built. It discusses the complexity around learning and how learning is not just about displaying competence.

As I read the article, it put an experience of my own into context. Two years ago I was laid off from a job. I had worked in that school for 12 years. I had been actively involved in creating many of the tools, processes, and resources we used in student support. I was extremely active with a professional network and had a reputation of success throughout our industry. Then, I moved to a completely different School within ASU. I realized an entirely different community existed within undergraduate advising. Although I had worked at ASU for 12 years, it was as-if I came into a brand new organization. Our communities of practice shared some basic technology resources and facilities, but other than that, were extremely different. It was shocking.   It required that I modify my own definition of my success based upon new criterion. As the article stated “we define ourselves by what we are not as well as by what we are, by the communities we do not belong to as well as by the ones we do”. And, my community was entirely different. As I read the article, I pinpointed much of what I had experienced: the boundaries of moving within communities, the jargon, the internal tools and resources, etc. On the other hand, I’ve also been able to bring a new perspective to my new community. It was a growth experience, but I have definitely broadened my own ‘knowledge’ and can now exist within these two communities.

As I prepare for conducting my own research in a community, I recognized a broader application for understanding communities of practice. It took some time to learn what I did about the new community, but I learned it. In the article about “Participatory Action Research and City Youth”, the authors established the rationale for engaging in Participatory Action Research (PAR). After reading the article by Wenger (2000) I found significant value in considering PAR in relation to communities of practice.

In regards to PAR, the authors discussed the rules, norms, leaders, and boundaries of the youth action research and I found such great guidance for outlining my own approach to my research area. (Bautista & Morrell, n.d.) I’m interested in measuring the effectiveness of advising practices as well as advisor performance. While their case study discussed the engagement of youth, the application to my research that I identified was the need to ensure advisors and students (my communities of interest) are actively engaged. This article even made the clear point that these communities should be engaged in the creation/identification of the problem itself.

With the influence of these two articles, I reflected on various questions. How can I contribute to the action research of my own advising community? What are the parameters (boundaries) by which I can answer questions about my own proficiency? Isn’t that understanding really critical before I start questioning others’ proficiency? And, shouldn’t I be sure to involve them when I start asking?

“Identity is crucial to social learning systems for three reasons. First our identities combing competence and experience into a way of knowing…Second, our ability to deal productively with boundaries depends on our ability to engage and suspend our identities…third, our identities are the living vessels in which communities and boundaries become realized as an experience of the world” (Wenger, 2000, pg. 239)


Bautista, M., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D. & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights From the Council of Youth Research. Teachers College Record, 115(100303), 1­23.

Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems. Organization, 7(2), 225–246.





Community Cultural Wealth and High Stakes Information

“I do all kinds of work with people in the community. I work with the Private Industry Council and help people get jobs. I also work with the Historical Society. These jobs keep me busy and focused on school and help me meet lots of interesting people.”

-from “Unveiling the Promise of Community Cultural Wealth to Sustaining Latina/o Students’ College-Going Information Networks” by Liou, Antrop-Gonzalez, and Cooper.

The word “community” means different things to different people. For me, my community is multi-faceted. My blood family, my in-laws, my spiritual influences, and now, my doctoral program cohort, are all part of my community through shared passion, interests, and goals. I see my community as more than people; they are a network of resources for me to draw from for knowledge and support. The article, Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights From the Council of Youth Research discussed the collaboration of students, teachers, researchers and other community entities engaging in action-research to identify and solve systemic issues in education (Bautista, Bertrand, Morrell, Scorza, & Matthews, 2013). Wegner (2000) discussed how organizations should design themselves to act as social learning entities to foster a “sense of belong” thus enriching the community of practice holistically. The authors of Keeping up the Good Fight used Flores v. Arizona as a basis for presenting a framework, and approach to having a purposeful discussion on English learning programs and the ways in which the community offers rationalities in support of such programs (Thomas, Aletheiani, Carlson, & Ewbank, 2014). Communities, whether social, familial, educational, and practice-based should be the network in which educational capital and success is cultivated.

In my effort to formulate research focused on micro-inequities and their impact on student retention in higher education environments, I found Liou, Antrop-Gonzalez, and Cooper’s (2009) article on community cultural wealth to be a strong connection to not only my research interests, but to the theme of how community systems impact student learning and their aspirations to attend college.  In short, the article discusses the ways that college-orientated information is shared between teacher-educators and students who have college aspirations, primarily those who come from Latina/o communities. This is a different argument entirely from the large amount of research centered upon access to higher learning for minorities. Rather, this argument seeks to expose the ways in which minority students are not provided with necessary information, also known as “high stakes” information, to be successful in obtaining a college degree (p. 542). An example of this finding can be seen when a guidance counselor holds a belief that all students shouldn’t go to college because there would be no car mechanics, landscapers, or housekeepers in society, further suggesting that these positions are of value to those who’ve obtained a higher-economic status as validation for the argument (Liou, Antrop-Gonzalez, & Cooper, 2009).

The findings of the article discovered that the Latina/o students analyzed within the study found alternative ways to seek high stakes information to fulfill their collegial dreams through social, familial, navigational, and linguistic information networks (e.g. building relationships with fellow church members and pastoral staff for guidance and encouragement to keep aspirations intact). This is in comparison to White students who are given a wealth of information such as ACT/SAT supplies, information on Advanced Placement (AP) courses, Dual Enrollment courses, and pre-professional materials (health professions and legal professions) because there is a general belief that they should reasonably be able to attend, and succeed in college.

The negation in delivering high stakes information is, in fact, a micro-inequity because the teacher-educator makes an assumption that students of color, especially those with undereducated parents, shouldn’t be expected to attend college, and thus, denies the student high-stakes information to prepare and succeed in a collegial environment. This act is largely different than overt discrimination, because it is a very small message that is sent to the student throughout their schooling that suggests they have no place in higher education. Unfortunately, some students will succumb to this aggression choosing menial employment positions which perpetuates poverty within their community, while others will use this experience to fuel their aspirations leaning on those information networks mentioned previously.

Information networks are crucial parts of cultural capital, especially for minority students (Yosso, 2005). Where a White student will contact a tutor or guidance counselor for information or advice, minority students may choose to talk to a family member or church parishioner for support. Various experiences and identities contribute the overall cultural wealth and capital of the community. As teacher-educators, it is of the utmost importance that we continue to build and draw upon the identities of our own and those of our students to maintain cultural relevance within our practice.


Bautista, M. A., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D., & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory action research and city youth: Methodological insights from the Council of Youth Research. Teachers College Record, 115(100303), 1-23.

Liou, D. D., Antrop-Gonzalez, R., & Cooper, R. (2009). Unveiling the promise of community cultural wealth to sustaining latina/o students’ college going information networks. American Educational Studies Association, 534-555.

Thomas, M. H., Aletheiani, D. R., Carlson, D. L., & Ewbank, A. D. (2014). Keeping up the good fight: The said and unsaid in Flors v. Arizona. Policy Futures in Education, 12(2), 242-261.

Wegner, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization Articles, 7(2), 225-246.

Yosso, T. J. (n.d.). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69-91. doi:10.1080/1361332052000341006

The uncomfortable adoption of marketing practices in higher education

Eaton, S. E., & Goddard, J. T. (2007). How marketing practices affect education – A comparative case study of Canada, the United States and Australia. In 76th Annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences (pp. 1–16). Alberta, Canada.

The proliferation of for-profit offerings and reductions in government funding have resulted in increased competition in educational markets.  To respond, many public educational institutions have been forced to adopt commercial business practices.  This is a review of a paper by Eaton and Goddard that examines marketing in education entitled, “How marketing practices affect education – A comparative case study of Canada, the United States and Australia.”

In the paper the authors wrote about the effect of marketing on various educational institutions in Canada, the United States, and Australia.  The authors provided information in the introduction about how the forces of globalization, advanced technology, and educational funding have required educators to reconsider the relationship between business and education.  The authors did not examine the morality of this trend, nor did they explore political or religious motives.  Instead they investigated how this shift has affected public education in the three countries.  Each of the countries is large and has a predominantly English-speaking population with an educational system that serves a diverse population.  Also, each of the countries has incorporated more marketing practices into their educational systems in recent decades with different acceptance and success.  Unlike most industries, many of those responsible for promoting educational programs have little or no background in business.  This has resulted in what can be a reluctant group of educational marketers; by most business standards not a formula for success.

The section about historical and geographical contexts addresses the relationships businesses have had with educational institutions through sport-related activities.  These relationships began as early as the 1920s and typically developed separate from core educational functions.  Among educators, there is less acceptance of business relationships within the core educational functions.  The authors raised a key question regarding how educational administrators have shifted their philosophies and operations to accommodate this linkage to business.

There are three case studies in the article.  The first study, in Australia, documents a shift to a business approach that began in the mid-1980s, a time when universities received 85% of their funding from public sources and didn’t charge tuition.  To accommodate the loss of public funding, universities began to charge full tuition for foreign students and aggressively marketed internationally.

The Canada case study deals with a shift to market-based professional development programs that not only covered their costs but became revenue generators for the institution.  For some Canadian schools the vocabulary of marketing created problems.  What educators would call the “right kind of students” became known as the target market. The school crests and colors were considered the school branding.  Many educators were uncomfortable with these terms and concepts.

In the United States case study a number of universities gave out electronic devices to attract students.  The authors suggested that universities were partnering with businesses under the guise of benefiting students and to position themselves as being on the cutting edge of technology.  In actuality, neither students nor faculty saw the link between the electronic devices and their education.

The paper is a literature review that provided worthwhile information about this topic that is becoming increasingly important.  More than twenty references were cited, the majority of which were within five years of the original publication date.  In terms of organization the paper was coherent and had a logical flow.  However, as a synthesis of existing research, the paper does not make a substantial contribution to the field.

The case studies in particular had limited value.  Specifically, the Australian and United States studies only provided high-level information about narrowly focused aspects of marketing.  The Australian case study focused on marketing to foreign students but provided little else on the impact of marketing.  For example, did the schools change their programs to cater to foreign students?  Did the increase in foreign students enrich the educational experience?  How did the universities attract foreign students who were paying full tuition?

The United States case study dealt only with giving away electronic devices to attract students.  Was this an effective strategy?  Did enrollment increase?  What were the challenges and opportunities associated with marketing and business practices being integrated into educational institutions?

The case study for Canada was the most worthwhile because the authors provided information about scholar and practitioner views of marketing and education.  Hesel stated, “What marketers call a brand or market position is nothing more than a compelling identity that expresses the special qualities of that product in ways that motivate the interest and inspire the dreams of important constituencies” (Hesel, 2004).  The views of Robert Moore expand the frame of reference to a community sphere in which the institution that a student attends becomes part of his or her identity (Moore, 2004).

The paper is informed by critical theory, which is often motivated by a desire to emancipate the oppressed.  This motivation is complementary to intersectionality research, which has a central purpose analyzing social inequity, power and politics (Garcia & Ortiz, 2013).  It was not evident in the paper how the authors used critical theory.  In addition, there were no significant findings presented.

Since this article was written in 2007, there’s an opportunity to revisit the three markets represented and evaluate the impact of additional years of marketing.  Broadening the research would provide additional insight.  In recent years many more universities have implemented customer relationship management systems.  These systems capture and report on student specific and aggregated data to evaluate the cost effectiveness of marketing and recruiting activities by program.


Garcia, S. B., & Ortiz, A. A. (2013). Intersectionality as a Framework for Special Ed Research. Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 13(2), 32–47.

Hesel, R. (2004). Know thyself: 5 Strategies for Marketing a College. Chronicle of Higher Education, 50(34), B9-10.

Moore, R. M. (2004). The Rising Tide: “Branding” in the Academic Marketplace. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 36(3), 56-61.