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Campus based community centers : havens, harbors, and hope for underrepresented and marginalized student success


This study explores the relationship between underrepresented and marginalized student college experience and UC San Diego Campus Community Center organizational practice. Retention differences across ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation groups in the higher education sector, and retention and organizational development literature addressing underrepresented and marginalized populations are explored. Using Tinto's (1975, 1993) Longitudinal Model of Student Departure and Wenger's (2002) Communities of Practice organizational analysis, student ideas of comfort and belonging within a research university are examined. Following an embedded, case study design (Yin, 2003) interviews, including photo-elicitation, observations and document review chronicled a six-month period At University of California San Diego's Lesbian/Gay /Bisexual/Transgender, Women's, and Cross-Cultural Center research sites. The UC San Diego Cross-Cultural, Lesbian/ Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT), and Women Centers emerged out of historical legacies that left unanswered questions concerning program effectiveness and campus impact. The development of a new organizing construct, the Campus Community Centers, proved important to individual student success. Students were able to find places of personal validation and at the same time connect across historical group boundaries. Findings show that participants engaged with the Campus Community Centers felt a keen sense of belonging and validation from interactions with the sites. Emergent data on engagement, physical setting, relationship building, and meaning making proved salient across all participants. Ultimately, understanding how organizational linkages create student success can align organizational mission and structure to empirical research in the field of retention and student success

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