Using a mixed-methods approach, this study examines the challenges of achieving inclusivity at a small private college. The results indicate that the dominant organizational habitus roots standards of legitimate and valued culture in “whiteness” and privilege, and acts as a barrier to belonging for many students of color whose cultural capital does not resonate with these standards. Under such an organizational habitus, white students are more likely than students of color to exhibit embodied ease, manifested in omnivorous patterns of participation across domains and a consistently high sense of belonging in most campus spaces. Findings reveal that student belonging and participation in and across domains of activities are patterned primarily by race and secondarily by class, with first generation students of color reporting the greatest marginalization. Additionally, interview data suggests that underrepresented students experience the most marginalization outside of the classroom, and perceive it as a generalized sense of insecurity and repudiation, rather than discrete instances of interpersonal aggression. Results also indicate that the college inadvertently associates “whiteness” with its identity and community by positioning outdoor recreation as central in its marketing, mission, and sponsored student activities.
Attending four-year college has become normalized in the millennial generation but graduating with a diploma is not as an established norm for students from low-income backgrounds. In this thesis I will study the effects of support groups, or lack thereof on current low-income students and alumni who attend or have attended Western College or Eastern College. In particular this study will examine their transition from an underfunded high school into their respective elite private liberal arts institution that are predominately inhabited by a white and affluent population. Using Bourdieu’s (1977) concept of cultural capital and habitus, I will study how the background of low-income students affects their relationships with the student body and faculty, perceptions of college, and their identity. I will highlight how students from low-income backgrounds must take on more responsibility and challenges to feel welcome and have a sense of belonging.