Geographies of Campus Inequality: Mapping the Diverse Experiences of First-generation Students

Benson & Lee / Oxford University Press / August 2020

In efforts to improve equity, selective college campuses are increasingly focused on recruiting and retaining first-generation students-those whose parents have not graduated from college. In Geographies of Campus Inequality, sociologists Benson and Lee argue that these approaches may fall short if they fail to consider the complex ways first-generation status intersects with race, ethnicity, and gender.

Drawing on interview and survey data from selective campuses, the authors show that first-generation students do not share a universal experience. Rather, first-generation students occupy one of four disparate geographies on campus within which they negotiate academic responsibilities, build relationships, engage in campus life, and develop post-college aspirations. Importantly, the authors demonstrate how geographies are shaped by organizational practices and campus constructions of class, race, and gender. Geographies of Campus Inequality expands the understanding of first-generation students' campus lives and opportunities for mobility by showing there is more than one way to be first-generation.