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Promoting Inclusion and Identity Safety to Support College Success

The Century Foundation / May 18, 2016

Drawing on empirical evidence, this paper reviews some of the obstacles and barriers to college success for students from low-income and minority backgrounds and describes what institutions and faculty can do to create an environment of identity safety—where all students are valued, included, and can perform to their highest potential. We review this work through a social psychological framework, which examines the student in context—focusing on the ways that cultural stereotypes, social identity, and the cultural and institutional structures of college shape students’ motivation, identity, and academic success. This framework suggests that, to understand and address student outcomes, one must consider college from students’ perspectives and appreciate the processes that unfold over time between the local environment and the student. Only then—with a full understanding of what underrepresented students contend with—can we create settings that effectively support these students’ journeys through college.