Intersubjectively in pursuit of inclusive excellence: a critical examination of inclusive policies & practices for students of color

The number of students who are completing their degree from those entering higher education reveals notable disparities (U.S. Department of Education, 2016). While 50-60% of Whites and Asian Americans graduate from four-year universities, less than 15% of Latinx (11%) and African American/Black (10.2%) students graduate with an undergraduate degree (U.S. Census Bureau, 2017). Previous research has focused on multicultural professional development (Gay, 2010; Hurtado & Guillermo-Wann, 2013; Nieto, 2017), the need to focus on student of color from culturally diverse and socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Maramba, 2008; Solorzano, 1997; Yosso, 2005), and culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; William et al. 2016). As such, the purpose of the study is to identify inclusive policies and practices that foster a sense of belonging for students of color and assess how they may negatively or positively affect persistence and graduation rates. This study is framed by Critical Race Theory and Intersubjectivity Theory which together form a meta-theory, and used a mixed methods research approach (student interviews, students online survey, faculty, staff, and administrators online survey), and focused on eight (N=6) student one-to-one interview participants, (N = 120) student online (closed-ended) survey, and (N=131) faculty, staff, and administrator online (open-ended) survey participants. The findings resulted in the emergence of five themes and 20 assertions. The first theme Systemic Barriers and Campus Culture centers on current policies and practices which may be preventing a university campus from being inclusive and cultivate a sense of belonging for student of color. The second theme Mentorship and Coaching centers on utilizing mentors that are cognizant of students of color intersects to allow for a more profound connection. The third theme Culturally Relevant/Responsive Environments focuses not only on the importance of the classroom environment but the need to expand cultural competencies across a university campus among to include faculty, staff, and administrators. The fourth theme Intersubjective Interactions and Sense of Belonging centers on the influence students of color intersubjective interactions with faculty, staff, peers, and administrators formulate their sense of belonging. The fifth theme Transforming Inclusive Policies and Practices address holistically how to transform current systemic barriers to provide a complete cultural shift to best serve students of color. These findings have curricular, policy, and leadership implications. The study’s contribution of a meta-theory – The Theory of Inclusive Student Development may be utilized in future studies.