College Belonging Keynote

What are colleges getting wrong about fostering a sense of belonging for students? Why should faculty care? Belonging is more than making friends and joining orgs; and first-generation college students experience particular hurdles and challenges. Understanding how belonging happens in the classroom (academic belonging) and how it happens in the campus culture (campus-community belonging) allows faculty to recognize the important role we play in offering belonging to our students rather than expecting them to go and find it for themselves. This talk explores not just how and why belong matters but also practical strategies we can use in our everyday interactions that will make a difference.

Leveraging findings from her research on first-generation and continuing-generation college students at two different 4-year residential universities, following 67 students across their first two years in college, Dr. Nunn shares insights on:

  • The importance of understanding the dynamics of the three realms of belonging that students describe: social belonging, academic belonging, and campus-community belonging.
  • The many strengths that first-gen students bring with them to college. They are resilient, resourceful, independent, and highly motivated to succeed.
  • The obstacles and frustrations that first-gen students in particular face in having their belonging needs met by their academic community (including faculty and classmates) and by their campus-community.
  • The challenges for underrepresented students of color as they navigate campus cultures that desire “nice diversity,” that is, non-confrontational, non-divisive expressions of differing backgrounds, histories, perspectives and personal experiences that do not make majority (White) students uncomfortable.

The talk is infused with practical changes we can make in our everyday interactions with students as well as our campus policies to help first-gen students –and everyone!– thrive in college.