Perseverance Despite the Perception of Threat and Marginalization: Students’ High Grit in Grad School and Implications for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Higher Education

Anindya Kundu, David M Elcott, Erica G Foldy, Amanda S Winer
Journal for the Study of Postsecondary and Tertiary Education  •  Volume 5  •  2020  •  pp. 125-144

This paper illustrates the relationship between graduate students’ social identities and their ability to persevere in an academically rigorous graduate setting. Through our analysis we show that while many students experience marginalization and threats to their identity, they display no less grit than those who do not experience marginalization and threats to their identity.

There are contentious debates in higher education about the role that universities should play in promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion principles. Existing arguments rarely consider students’ social identity in conjunction with their academic mindsets and ability to succeed in the graduate school environment, but instead make assumptions of who students are and of what they are capable.

Survey methods and quantitative analyses, including regression and ANOVA testing.

While demonstrating that students who experience marginalization and social identity threat display no less grit than their counterparts, we claim that all students would still desire to live and work in a society in which their social identities are respected and honored.

Many students, even those successfully navigating graduate school, still identify as oppressed or marginalized, which is strongly related to certain social identities and to social identity threat. No demographic or oppression-based variable alone correlates negatively or positively with perseverance as tested by the grit scale we used.

We recommend that universities uphold a commitment to diversity and inclusion in order to create welcoming environments for all students to thrive.

We recommend that researchers focus on the intersections of identity, perseverance, and policy to fully address the issues of marginalization and social identity threat at graduate school campuses.

Our paper works to counter the often-negative perception of students who identify as marginalized and who demand more inclusive university environments.

In future studies, it would be beneficial for the field to address other social identities and examine their perceptions of marginalization and inclusion and assess impacts on academic mindset.

grit, social identity threat, marginalization
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