Finding a Place to Belong

On college campuses, much like any other place, there is a drive to feel as though one belongs. However, for some this may be harder than others. Specifically, on primarily white campuses, students of color may not feel as though there is a place for them. However, research done on this population suggests that students often find solace in what are known as “counter-spaces.” These students used counter-spaces to help them navigate the institution which they were attending. In addition, they were found to be places in which they could escape. For many, these counter-spaces can become a “home away from home.” They can be a space for students of color to minimize their alienation, feel like they belong, and aid in their adjustment. These spaces can range from culturally specific student centers, certain courses offered on campus, a professor’s office, or even specific extracurriculars (Von Robertson, Bravo, & Chaney, 2014).

These counter-spaces can be a great resource for students of color to navigate their campus and feel like they belong. However, what happens if the student cannot manage to form one of these spaces?  How can someone help these students feel as though they belong? This could be more common in first-year students of color as they may not feel comfortable entering new spaces or do not know where to go. Maybe these students could utilize the social networks that they have recently formed to help them find these spaces. This could be in the form of newly formed friendships that they have made. if they are athlete, they could utilize their teammates or coaches. In addition, maybe the student could reach out to cultural affinity groups or centers on campus. Nevertheless, I do not have the answers, or know if these are the right ways to address this issue. So, for you, the readers, how can a student who is struggling to form these counter-spaces find a space in which they belong?

Robertson, R. V., Bravo, A., & Chaney, C. (2016). Racism and the experiences of Latina/o college students at a PWI (predominantly white institution). Critical Sociology, 42(4-5), 715-735. doi: 10.1177/0896920514532664

This is a special post in a series authored by students in Professor Wolfe’s Spring 2019 Research Lab. We are studying the experiences of students of color at PWIs.

1 thought on “Finding a Place to Belong”

  1. Great post, Mike! I think this is a really thoughtful topic because Students of Color often face more stress when finding a place where they feel welcome. Even though there are many steps to take, I believe that the more people address this issue, the more awareness can be made in order for real action to take place at PWIs.

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