b) Rural Students Walking on Eggshells at Large Universities – A Study on the Perceived Cost to Engage in Diversity Conversations

Stephanie Woods, Doctoral Student University of Missouri-Columbia MISSOURI, USA

PROGRAM SUMMARY: Although there is a broad range of research on the resistance of university students to participate in diversity classes, there is little research on how rural students experience diversity at large universities.

I conducted a phenomenological study to analyze rural students’ experience (Merriam and Tisdell, 2016) with diversity conversations at a large Midwestern university. I purposefully sampled five sophomores and conducted 30-45 minute interviews. Four processes were blended throughout the study: collection, constant comparison, coding, and analysis (Strauss & Corbin, 1990).

Students avoided diversity discussions when the perceived cost was high; cost included fear, conflict, and risk of loss of scholarship. Students expressed fear of failure and anxiety, as evidenced by quotes like, “I didn’t say anything…because I was scared”, “I started crying because I got so stressed.”

The findings have implications for faculty training, specifically for promoting intellectual pluralism. Reducing perceived costs could encourage positive diversity experiences

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