Higher education yields individual and collective benefits, to include higher earnings, increased civic engagement, and national economic growth. While social and democratic benefits are included in the expansive lists of positive outcomes, economic benefits, both for the individual as well as for society, remain at the forefront of national conversations about higher education’s importance. However, gaps in postsecondary degree attainment and, therefore, related benefits between various demographic groups persist. This dissertation explores how the privileging of neoliberal constructions of success impacts minoritized students’ lives and subjectivities. Specifically, I examined how neoliberal discourses of successful college students work through one institution’s cultural center to shape the subjectivities of minoritized students. Using a qualitative case study design, and textual, observational, and interview data collected from one institution, I conducted a discourse analysis to understand how one institution constructed successful students. Second, I conducted a narrative analysis to understand how minoritized students negotiated these constructions of success. I show how neoliberal constructions of success produce norms to which minoritized students measure themselves and how these norms support institutional assertions of a multicultural, inclusive campus community while maintaining existing hierarchies of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. The cultural center and diversity programming, then, become in service of the institution, which eschews attention to social justice and minoritized students’ own goals and constructions of success for themselves and their communities.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2017. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Rebecca Ropers-Huilman. 1 computer file (PDF); 2viii, 202 pages.
Diversity sieves: Cultural centers as sites of successful subject production in higher education.
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