A Write to Know: Using Autoehnographic Writing to Explore Marginalization and Sense of Belonging in Community College Students

This dissertation used qualitative, interpretive methods to explore African American and Latino/a community college students’ use of autoethnographic writing to express experiences of marginalization and sense of belonging on their college campus. Using postmodernism and critical race theory as theoretical frameworks, I investigated how students had experienced marginalization and a sense of belonging on their community college campus, as well as the reported epistemological (meaning-making) functions of the autoethnographic writing process. Participants in the study were introduced to the major constructs (marginalization, sense of belonging, and autoethnography), wrote autoethnographic essays about their experiences, and completed phenomenological interviews about the writing process. Participants reported feelings of marginalization based on factors such as their age, perceptions of academic under-preparedness, lack of familiarity with college structures and processes, perceived social identity, linguistic insecurities, and out-of-school experiences. Participants reported a sense of belonging as stemming from personal networks, programs, and mentors, and identified the epistemological functions of the writing process, including elements such as creating new avenues for expression, developing ideas and strengthening recollection, grappling with cognitions and emotions, sharing experiences, creating solutions to problems, and personalizing the constructs of marginalization and belonging.


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