First Advisor

Ben Anderson-Nathe

Date of Publication

Summer 7-26-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work and Social Research


Social Work




First-generation college students -- Social networks, First-generation college students -- Social conditions, First-generation college students -- Psychology, Professional socialization, Graduate students -- Social networks, Graduate students -- Social conditions, Graduate students -- Psychology



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 332 pages)


Much scholarship on first-generation students has focused on their academic and social integration in college (Collier & Morgan, 2008; Lowery-Hart & Pacheco, 2011; Stuber, 2011). Little is known about the experiences of first-generation students in schools of social work. In this research I've expanded the focus beyond students' experiences of academic integration to explore how first-generation students in a school of social work describe their relational worlds and the implications for professional socialization.

Informed by Standpoint Feminism and Postmodern/Post structural Feminism, I conducted focus groups with 19 students in two undergraduate programs and one graduate program in a school of social work and analyzed these conversations using Voice-centered Relational Data Analysis (Brown & Gilligan, 1992). This research highlighted how students bridge the cultures of home and school through 1) Experiences of support from home cultures while 2) pursuing school largely on their own and experiencing 3) the potential for distance from cultures of home, as they 4) work to stay integrated in home cultures while simultaneously 5) working to become integrated in school. I've also written about students' experiences of becoming caught "in-between" the cultures of home and school (Anzaldúa, 1987/2012), a less common but nevertheless important experience for educators to attend to.

Here I've argued for broadening the focus beyond academic integration (Tinto, 1975, 1993) and underscored the relational nature of first-generation status, as well as drawing attention to potential for relational injury embedded in our narratives about educational attainment and class mobility. Implications for social work education, practice, and research are discussed.


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