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Sense of Belonging of Students of Color Participating in Living Learning Communities: A Phenomenological Study
AuthorBradley, Angelica Maria
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While the national graduation rate has increased over the past ten years, Students of Color graduate at a much lower rate than their white counterparts (National Center for Education Statistics, 2021). Scholars boast that high-impact practices promote positive outcomes such as increased retention and graduation rates as well as student learning and sense of belonging, but little research has examined the extent to which high-impact practices benefit specific groups of students (Kuh, 2008; McDaniel & Van Jura, 2020; Tukibayeva & Gonyea, 2014). Students of Color still graduate at a much lower rate than white students despite the rise of high-impact practices, which raises the question, are these high-impact practices working for all students? Living learning communities are one high-impact practice with substantial evidence of increasing college completion and sense of belonging for all students. While there have been separate studies on the impact of living learning communities and the sense of belonging of Students of Color, few scholars have conducted research on how Students of Color participating in living learning communities perceive their experience and sense of belonging. By understanding how Students of Color experience living learning communities and how they perceive their sense of belonging, institutions may be one step closer to increasing their graduate and retention rates. The purpose of this study was to gain insight on the sense of belonging and experiences of Students of Color participating in living learning communities at a large, predominately white research university. This study employed a qualitative phenomenological approach using two sets of interviews with nine participants to collect data on their life history, day-to-day experiences, and reflection on those experiences. Strayhorn’s (2018) model of college students’ sense of belonging served as a theoretical framework throughout the study. Through data analysis, four themes emerged when exploring how Students of Color described their LLC experience and sense of belonging: shared identities & similar values, shared experiences & collective struggles, impactful connections & meaningful relationships, and a home away from home. Practical implications for practitioners and suggestions for future research are provided.