Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tug of the Past, Lure of the Future

Sociologist Allison Hurst helped launch the Association of Working Class Academics with a membership composed of "faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, staff, and administrators from working- or poverty-class backgrounds."

Among other research, Hurst has published an engaging study of working-class students and describes the many challenges they face in the realm of higher education:
Limited expectations, unfamiliarity with the college application process, transportation troubles (to tests, to campuses, to interviews), the perceived "treachery” of moving away from friends and family, the exorbitant cost of college and the necessity to work and take on unmanageable debt--all of these factors play a role in the decision to go to college. A few working-class students are either fortunate enough to find mentors who will help guide them through this process or are perseverant enough to make a way for themselves. 
It is crucial to understand, while applying to college is rarely easy, it is much more difficult for some, so much so that many working-class undergraduates feel they have “made it” simply by entering college. . . . [T]oo often there is a “myth of classlessness” operating on our campuses, that by the fact that all are here all are similar. This could not be farther from the truth.
Read more from College and the Working Class: What It Takes to Make It (2012).

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

We Were All Freshmen Once

Julie Wollman, president of Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, enrolled in a spring music class with a group of undergraduates. Her experience helped to connect (and reconnect) her with many of the challenges and concerns that new college students bear:
"I’m really nervous about going to the second class, afraid I’ll be the only one who isn’t any good. I’m not taking it for credit or a grade, but the thought actually crosses my mind that I should skip class; after all, I can offer a good excuse. I am shocked to realize that, 36 years after I started my freshman year of college, being in a simple but challenging class well out of my comfort zone, I am again looking for excuses to miss class. So I go, despite my fear. Before class, waiting for the professor to arrive, I chat with my classmates about how hard it is to breathe right and make a sound come out and I feel less alone in my incompetence."
Read the rest of "Becoming a Freshman, Again" at