1st Edition

Straddling Class in the Academy 26 Stories of Students, Administrators, and Faculty From Poor and Working-Class Backgrounds and Their Compelling Lessons for Higher Education Policy and Practice

By Sonja Ardoin, becky martinez Copyright 2019
    240 Pages
    by Routledge

    240 Pages
    by Routledge

    Why do we feel uncomfortable talking about class? Why is it taboo? Why do people often address class through coded terminology like trashy, classy, and snobby? How does discriminatory language, or how do conscious or unconscious derogatory attitudes, or the anticipation of such behaviors, impact those from poor and working class backgrounds when they straddle class? Through 26 narratives of individuals from poor and working class backgrounds – ranging from students, to multiple levels of administrators and faculty, both tenured and non-tenured – this book provides a vivid understanding of how people can experience and straddle class in the middle, upper, or even elitist class contexts of the academy.Through the powerful stories of individuals who hold many different identities--and naming a range of ways they identify in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, ability, and religion, among others--this book shows how social class identity and classism impact people's experience in higher education and why we should focus more attention on this dimension of identity. The book opens by setting the foundation by examining definitions of class, discussing its impact on identity, and summarizing the literature on class and what it can tell us about the complexities of class identity, its fluidity, sometimes performative nature, and the sense of dissonance it can provoke.This book brings social class identity to the forefront of our consciousness, conversations, and behaviors and compels those in the academy to recognize classism and reimagine higher education to welcome and support those from poor and working class backgrounds. Its concluding chapter proposes means for both increasing social class consciousness and social class inclusivity in the academy. It is a compelling read for everyone in the academy, not least for those from poor or working class backgrounds who will find validation and recognition and draw strength from its vivid stories.

    Foreword—Jamie Washington Acknowledgements Introduction 1. Social Class in the Academy 2. The Undergraduate Student Perspective—Narratives by Daniel Espiritu, Kevyanna Rawls, and Téa N. Wimer 3. The Graduate Student Perspective—Narratives by Constanza A. Cabello, Dylan R. Dunn, and Carmen Rivera 4. The Early Career Administrator Perspective—Narratives by Armina Khwaja Macmillan, Timothy M. Johnson, and Brenda Lee Anderson Wadley 5. The Mid Career Administrator Perspective—Narratives by Sara C. Furr, Jacinda M. Félix Haro, and Sally G. Parish 6. The Senior Administrator Perspective—Narratives by Mamta Motwani Accapadi, Thomas C. Segar, and Jeremiah Shinn 7. The Nontenured Faculty Perspective—Narratives by Loren Cannon, Raul Fernandez, and Tori Svoboda 8. The Tenured Faculty Perspective—Narratives by Nancy J. Evans, Rudy P. Guevarra Jr., and Larry D. Roper 9. The External Educator Perspective—Narratives by Briza K. Juarez, Edward Pickett III, and Roxanne Villaluz 10. Shared Social Class Experiences and the Intersectionality of Identity 11. Conclusion. Increasing Social Class Consciousness and Inclusivity in Higher Education References Authors and Contributors Index


    Sonja Ardoin, Ph.D. is a learner, educator, facilitator, and author. Proud of her rural hometown of Vidrine, Louisiana, her working-class, Cajun roots, and her first-generation college student to PhD journey, Sonja holds degrees from LSU, Florida State, and NC State. A self-described scholar-practitioner, Sonja served as an administrator for 10 years before shifting to the faculty in 2015 and currently serves as associate professor of higher education and student affairs at Clemson University. Her career path includes experience in academic administration, academic advising, community engagement, fraternity and sorority life, leadership development, student activities, and student conduct. Sonja studies social class identity in higher education; college access and success for rural and first-generation college students; student and women’s leadership; and professional preparation and career pathways in higher education and student affairs. She stays engaged in the broader field through presenting, facilitating, and volunteering with ACPA, AFLV, ASHE, the Center for First-generation Student Success, NASPA, and several journal editorial boards. Learn more about Sonja at https://www.sonjaardoin.com/. dr. becky martinez is a class-straddling Mixed Race Woman of Color who loves engaging in social class and class(ism). She humbly comes from a family of farmers that now finds herself a first-generation white-collar professional and is still working through what that means. In her professional capacity, becky is an organization development consultant and trainer with a focus on social justice, leadership and organizational change with Infinity Martinez Consulting and a faculty member with the Social Justice Training Institute. Her work centers on dismantling systems of oppression through critical reflection and dialogue intertwined with theoretical models and key concepts. She is passionate about systems thinking while working with campuses, government agencies and

    "Straddling Class in the Academy is a must read for students and educators. Ardoin, martinez, and their contributors masterfully challenge the myth that class is invisible by sharing their lived experiences navigating class and classism in and outside of the academy. The intersectional nature of contributors’ narratives and Ardoin and martinez’s analysis highlights the powerful effects of classism and calls for action if we are to create more inclusive and socially just institutions."

    Rosemary J. Perez, Assistant Professor, School of Education

    Iowa State University

    “Straddling Class in the Academy is an important book, filled with honest and powerful narratives from students, staff and faculty. It expands our understanding of poor and working class backgrounds and informs our next steps in addressing the dynamics of social class in our college classrooms and workspaces. Read this book and discover truths that confirm our own reality about social class on campus, challenge us to think differently, and compel us to take action.”

    Paulette M. Dalpes, Vice President of Student Affairs

    Community College of Aurora

    “Grasping social class identity—not only what it is, but how it also affects one’s life—is essential for higher education professionals. Ardoin and martinez assembled stories of social class identity to illuminate its complexity. This book begins the conversation on pervasive classism within the academy. This needed contribution draws on the power of stories to highlight how social class permeates higher education contexts, professional roles, and lived realities.”

    David J. Nguyen, Assistant Professor of Higher Education & Student Affairs

    Ohio University

    “Ardoin and martinez have compiled a vital resource for all in academia. Together with their co-authors, they provide invaluable first-hand accounts that help readers take ownership of their own class identity while also providing possibility models and pathways for persistence. Perhaps the largest contribution this book makes to higher education is that it provides narratives and tools to build campuses that serve equitably across class. This book is a must-read for all in higher education.”

    Peter Paquette, Dean of Students

    Coastal Carolina University

    "Straddling Class in the Academy belongs in any collection strong in educatior resources, offering firsthand stories designed to help students and teachers better understand their own diverse classrooms. Models of success are accompanied by narratives from students and administrators that discuss some of the basic challenges of poor and working-class attendees, offering discussions which address racism, class bias, and more in the educational process. No administrator or education holding should be without this candid collection of insights."

    Midwest Book Review

    “The takeaways from this book are enriched by the intentionality of the editors as they strived to be inclusive among the pages. Class works in tandem with other socially constructed identities to create a whole sense of self, and the diversity of race, gender, and family dynamics among others was apparent throughout the text.

    Although Ardoin and martinez intentionally highlight the diversity among contributors’ identities and lived experiences, they also work to illuminate ‘shared social class experiences’ between all of the contributors. These shared experiences form the ‘key learnings’ that the editors briefly described and include things like stereotype threat, imposter syndrome, code-switching, and making systemic change, among others.

    As you read the 26 stories in this volume you can feel the passion, and sometimes pain, of how class-based experiences have impacted the lives of so many. It is apparent that Ardoin and martinez care deeply about improving the conversations that are (or are not) happening about class in higher education. As the first book of its kind, there is no doubt that it will make a positive impact across campuses.

    This book would be a meaningful addition to the education and professional development of student affairs students and current practitioners. The contributors’ stories and editors’ analytical contributions provide an important introduction to the social class conversation.”

    Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice

    "What Straddling is at its core is 26 individual stories, each written in an individuals’ own words, recounting their experiences of having been raised in a poor or working-class family/neighborhood and finding, each in their own way, the wherewithal to at least attend a four-year institution and, for most of the contributors, to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and then go on to graduate work. As one might imagine, the struggles, challenges, setbacks, put-downs, confusion and, importantly, triumphs they experience on their journeys in higher education, not only while earning their degrees but sometimes even after earning their degrees and working in higher education as administrators and faculty, are sometimes difficult to grasp and appreciate. That one might not have to scratch very deep beneath the surface of these individuals to see the extent to which their poor or working-class background still affects and influences their lives in the academy is one of the most compelling aspects of the book.

    In order to open up the space for the contributors to tell their stories, Ardoin and martinez introduce the work with a brief primer on social class, social class identity, classism, and the narrative inquiry method used in their work. The authors also use the Introduction to tell us their stories of poor and working-class upbringing and how, after each having earned doctorates and having logged years of work experience beyond those doctoral degrees, they now find themselves “straddling” the class of their upbringing and the newly arrived at middle class in which they find themselves living and working. Right from the beginning, then, the reader is alerted that what follows is going to be a deeply personal accounting and not merely a theoretical exercise.

    Straddling Class in the Academy is a highly personal book, and the authors and contributors are to be commended for their courage in stepping forward and detailing their accounts, knowing that they will be read largely by those who work in a world that perhaps all too frequently is dismissive of such personal stories. But the classism that is regularly faced by the poor and working-class members of the academy, whether students, administrators, or faculty, is something that for decades, if not longer, has lingered beneath the surface. Ardoin and martinez do well by bringing these compelling stories to light."

    Teachers College Record

    “In Straddling Class in the Academy, Sonja Ardoin and becky martinez bring 26 individuals together to discuss how social class has impacted their journeys through higher education. They do this because “there is critical learning to be had from those poor or working-class backgrounds, particularly in the academy, because it is founded on and immersed in elitism” (p. 6). Each chapter focuses on a particular group of people, starting with current undergraduate students, moving to faculty and administrators, and ending with individuals who have left higher education. Within each chapter are narratives from three individuals on how they experienced class, because “stories can be used as a platform to inform higher education how it maintains social class inequities” (p. 5). The narratives are powerful, highlighting how class and continued time within the academy shape identities. Additionally, each story provides a concrete example of how higher education often excludes those from poor and working- class backgrounds. At the end of each chapter, Ardoin and martinez briefly provide their analysis of the three narratives and then conclude the book with a thematic analysis of all of the narratives.

    This book provides nuanced and realistic examples of how social class impacts educational journeys. This text would be appropriate for graduate courses in education.”

    Journal of College Student Development

    “Employing narrative inquiry as the methodology, each chapter includes the personal accounts of two to four individuals serving as the chapters’ shared stories, followed by a narrative analysis from Ardoin and martinez. By applying a critical lens, the authors conscientiously explore the accounts of those identifying as poor and working class and the impact this socioeconomic characteristic has had on their time within the postsecondary environment. As a whole, the text provides a thoughtful approach to examine a membership within the postsecondary environment that, as the authors note, is not frequently discussed or advocated for. Including the personal accounts of students, administrators, and faculty members who have experienced the obstacles associated with, and identify as, being a current or previous member of a poor and working-class background, Ardoin and martinez create an incredible setting to share the various life stories that shaped and influenced the journeys to and within the academy for the individuals highlighted throughout the text.

    The authors begin the text with a detailed explanation of the placement on social class within society, as well as within the higher education environment. Presenting a comprehensive description of social class identity, as well as the constructs of classism and social justice, the authors provide current findings and statistics that serve as an empirical foundation for the subsequent personal accounts from individuals sharing their experiences of identifying as poor or working class. The opening of the text also creates a robust groundwork for the concept of class straddling—a theme that will be routinely addressed by the included stories of the undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and administrators included within the book. The authors frame the text through several theoretical models.

    Through the use of these theoretical frameworks, the authors create a distinct lens for the reader to look through as they progress through the chapters and shared stories. By incorporating the noted frameworks, the authors create a unique stance on the topic; through the use of the three models, the authors construct a conceptual understanding that lends to each chapter’s narrative analysis. In Chapter 1, Ardoin and martinez identify.

    Overall, the text engages the reader and provides the opportunity to explore social class challenges and experiences of the many who participate in the postsecondary environment. This book serves as a welcomed contribution, providing vital insight on a topic in need of further investigation."

    The Review of Higher Education

    “Higher education is meant to be the great equalizer- and yet if we do not courageously speak about social class, and understand the lived truths of poor and working class students, we continue to underserve and ignore salient and significant dimensions of our students’ lives. Ardoin and martinez have given us words, a textbook, life stories, and a theoretical frame to further deepen our self-work and institutional work in the area of social class. Just thinking about the ripple effect of their book, which has resulted in institutions and educators doing active reflection, training, and education on social class is awe-inspiring. Their book is, and will continue to be a transformative guide, that compels all of us to ask ‘What is your class story?’”

    Mamta Accapadi, Vice Provost

    University Life at University of Pennsylvania

    "[The book offers] many important implications for practice. First, as institutions engage in diversity, inclusion, and justice work, they should more intentionally include social class in the conversations. Second, institutional leaders should reconsider how their policies, practices, and cultures are classed, work to address the barrier that low Socio Economic Status community members may experience. This is especially important for new practitioners transitioning into the field. Practitioners, across different levels of class, must do self-work necessary to address the classist messaging and behaviors that they have internalized. Lastly, there are ways that everyone in institutions can engage in this work because all are impacted by social class. This is important to reduce the burden of change that is often carried by marginalized people. Recognition that social class needs to be a central consideration, and continued conversations in higher education, will create space for structural, cultural, and policy changes."

    College Student Affairs Journal