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SDAD 559 Autoethnography There are some occasions when, during a contemplative pause during a busy day, I lean

back in my office chair and am in awe of what surrounds me. I look up at my college degree on the wall, at the plethora of higher education books that line the shelves, and realize, “I’m in graduate school! !y pathway and access to university was partially in my control, but was also influenced by forces and privileges that were already in place. "sing #ra$ton, %oopersmith, and &ossler '()*)+ college choice process as a model to tell the story of my access to higher education, I will revisit my first e$posure to the college application process, outline important moments in my choice, and discuss the privilege and stepping stones that made it all possible. ,ivotal !oments in %ollege ,athway- .amily and /0(1 2ducation #efore I was even the age eligible to apply to colleges and universities, I was receiving messages about what it meant to be college educated from multiple sources. The most influential of these was my family. &ossler et. al '()*)+ state that the two key indicators for successful college enrollment are parental education and socioeconomic status. I was born with both. 3lthough I could not see it at the time, being raised in a household where both of my parents held multiple degrees influenced my ultimate decision to attend college. I remember being very young when watching my father walk across the stage to receive his doctoral degree, and was even younger when my mother received hers. !uch of my childhood was spent at !ichigan 4tate "niversity, where my mother worked to increase access and retention for minority students in science and engineering. I sat in her office and listened to phone calls I didn’t understand, sat among her many students during her classes, and watched her lead icebreaker activities during summer programs. !y mother’s knowledge of higher education would not only later come in handy when I was applying to college 5 it would eventually inspire me to work in the same field. 6ust as I was positively influenced by my family, life events also negatively impacted my


SDAD 559 Autoethnography college track. 7ver the years, the combination of my parents’ divorce and being moved to %alifornia at a critical point of my adolescent development led me to be an unmotivated youth. 3nother familial influence came during my early years in high school, when my older brother decided not to attend college after being admitted. ,art of my lack of enthusiasm when it came time for me to apply came from this 5 after all, if he didn’t go to college, why should I8 3nother factor that delayed my thinking about the importance of continuing my education was my overall e$perience throughout /0(1 education. 3cademically, I was uninspired but consistent 5 I did well in the sub9ect areas I had passion for, and poorly in those I disliked. The late discovery that I had a learning disability only seemed to continue my long0held belief that I was not smart, and certainly did not inspire me to be invested in college. In addition to academic struggles, I also remained a target of bullying for most of my primary schooling. The combination of these factors did not leave me with a positive message about what education meant. "ltimately, though, my family’s influence proved to be enough to get me to and through university. ,redisposition, 4earch, and %hoice 5 Timeline of /ey %ollege 3ctivities &aving had a mother that worked in higher education my entire life, I perhaps should have been more interested in applying to colleges than I was. #ut when the time it came to apply, I was a troubled, apathetic si$teen year old who thought very little of her chances of going anywhere aside from the local 9unior college. The only reason I applied to :0year universities was because my mom pushed me to, reasoning that, if I brought my grades up during my senior year, I would have a better chance of admission. 4o, I unenthusiastically submitted my applications to 4onoma 4tate "niversity, 4acramento 4tate "niversity, and %alifornia 4tate "niversity0!onterey #ay. “It couldn’t hurt, was the mentality.


SDAD 559 Autoethnography 3s I progressed through my senior year, I ;uickly grew tired of the group of bad influences I had been hanging out with, and did in fact bring my grades 'slightly+ up. <uring a college preparation parent0teacher night at my high school, I remember attending some of the sessions thinking it was pointless. 3lthough not e$plicitly, my mom and her partner at the time painted community colleges as the last option, and one that was highly undesirable. 4o, in my mind, the only way I would be somebody was if I was admitted to a :0year institution. I was starting to be invested in my future. I recall very clearly a conversation I had with the two of them about the unlikelihood that I would be admitted, given that my grades and 43T=3%T scores were within the lower half of the re;uirements. That conversation led to a breakdown, tears, and my first sense of longing to go somewhere 5 anywhere 5 than where I was at that moment. I finally cared, but 9ust a little to late. !y interest and e$citement finally ignited when I visited my first college campus in !onterey #ay. I may go so far as to say that my love for college environments in general was born the moment I stepped foot on the campus. I was less enthusiastic about visiting 4onoma 4tate, where I would eventually attend, because the chances of my admission were lower. !y mom’s partner at the time knew one of the higher level administrators there, and he welcomed us to lunch and spoke with me about my interests. 3 few months or so later, I had my first realization of the power of “who you know when I was admitted. "ltimately, I chose 44" because it was closer in pro$imity to my family, was ranked more positively among the %alifornia 4tate "niversities, and, well, it was a “pretty campus. 3nd, of course, it was where my mom most clearly vocalized that she wanted me to go. Invisible and >isible .orces- ,rivilege and 7pportunity 3s stated previously, there were forces that shaped my college access 9ourney that were


SDAD 559 Autoethnography in action before I was even born. #ecause of the social status I was born into, I was set up to be more prepared to attend college than many of my friends and peers. !y mom’s side of the family consists of a group of highly educated aunts and uncles 5 several with law, medical, and doctoral degrees. !y ability to access college comes from the struggles my grandparents, aunts and uncles went through to attain education at a time when 3frican 3mericans were seen as inferior. This is a battle I have never had to fight. #eing the third generation in my family to attend college meant huge amounts of cultural capital that those who are first generation do not have. .or instance, my parents could understand the application process and were a source of support when I was coping with transition issues during my first year. 3dditionally, having parents that each held advanced degrees not only meant that they could help me when it came time to apply to college, but their education also contributed to the middle class background I was raised in. &aving generally stable financial resources meant that my family could help me finance applications, campus visits, and parts of my undergraduate education. I used my privileges to access education in ways I was not aware of. I have come to realize that many thousands of people who have the desire and aptitude to learn and obtain college degrees do not have the opportunity to, yet I, who barely cared when I applied, was able to attend without much effort. 3lthough I ;uickly came to care about my college degree and academic success once enrolled, I was able to do so in large part because of my privilege as a third0generation, middle0class, "nited 4tates citizen. These privileges cleared from my path many of the obstacles others face daily in reaching postsecondary education. The @ole of 4tudent 3ffairs in %ollege 3ccess #ecause college student personnel work in a field that focuses on higher education and


SDAD 559 Autoethnography helping students to graduate, we often lose sight of a crucial part of student development- access and opportunity to college. 7ur work with students would be impossible without those working as teachers and administrators in primary schooling. It should reason that part of the role of student affairs administrators in addressing issues of access and retention is working in partnership with high schools, middle schools, and community colleges located in disadvantaged neighborhoods. 3ccording to /uh '1AAA+, universities must also be more clear about what students will gain from college, and about the steps being made to improve teaching and learning 'BA+. !y passion for access and social 9ustice issues within higher education partially came out of some difficult e$periences during my undergraduate e$perience. 3s a ;ueer student of color, I struggled to find students, faculty, and staff to support me through my development. 4onoma 4tate "niversity is an e$ample of a university displayed care only about the quantity of diverse students 5 they needed to reach certain numbers in order to remain accredited. This message was conveyed to me through the general lack of resources for underrepresented students, and the de0 funding of the !ulticultural %enter in 1A((. Cith regard to the importance of recruiting and retaining diverse groups of students, university officials must remember that it is not only about the ;uantity, but also the ;uality of e$periences we are creating for them. In order to diversify our colleges and universities so that students can learn and grow with individuals who are different, we must first acknowledge that ine;uities e$ist and e$amine our part in their e$istence.


SDAD 559 Autoethnography @eferences #ra$ton, 6., %oopersmith, E., F &ossler, <. '()*)+. "nderstanding student college choice. Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, 1:*01*(. Gew Hork- 3gathon ,ress. /uh, E. '1AAA+. "nderstanding campus environments. The Handbook of Student Affairs Ad inistration, !rd ed" 4an .rancisco, %3- 6ossey0#assI D)0JJ.