Sarah Grace Barba

2023 McNair Scholar, Sarah Grace Barba

University of New Hampshire
McNair Scholar, 2023
Major: Classics & Anthropology
Mentor: Dr. Robin Sheriff
Research Title: Analyzing First Generation College Students on How They Experience and Manage Their Social Class Identities in the United States

In the United States, social class is comprised of economic, social, and cultural capital but is more commonly known to be based on economic capital (wealth). In higher education, social class is more visible to students of first-generation because they come from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. For first-generation students, education is seen as a ladder to a higher social class. However, research shows that it is challenging for first-generation to achieve this in a dominant middle-class environment in college because of the shock of differences between themselves and their peers, resulting in feelings of not belonging in their campus community. First-generation students are more likely to arrive unprepared for college, are seen to have higher dropout rates, and have a more challenging time adjusting to college life. Scholarly research also illustrates that first-generation students are noted to describe difficulty in higher education due to racial and class-based stereotypes. These challenges brought on by social class differences sometimes result in the development of "hybrid identities." Based on qualitative data, this study will analyze how first-generation students experience and manage their social class identities. Through a series of qualitative interviews, using the snowballing technique, social media, and the TRIO Program to gain a large and diverse sample of participants at UNH, it will be possible to analyze the way first-generation students encounter and maintain their social identities. This study will look at all college levels of first-generation students (freshman, sophomore, etc.), focusing on how social class identities affect their academic life, providing insight for educators to understand how first-generation students' identities are affected in higher education in the United States, particularly in northern New England.

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