Fall 2014, Volume 2, Issue 3

Journal of Progressive Policy and Practice

Volume 2, Issue 3 – Special Issue on Intersectionality

Guest Editors:

Donald Mitchell Jr., PhD
Assistant Professor of Higher Education, Grand Valley State University

Don C. Sawyer III, PhD
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Quinnipiac University

Other Issues

Front Matter

Full Issue


PREFATORY: Informing Higher Education Policy and Practice Through Intersectionality

Intersectionality as a framework has garnered much attention in law, sociology, and education research, and conversations surrounding the framework and its utility now span the globe. Intersectionality addresses the junction of identities, and how the intersectional nature of identities, together, shape the lived experiences of individuals (Hancock, 2007) because of interlocking systems of oppression and marginalization often associated with those identities. In this special issue, “Informing Higher Education Policy and Practice Through Intersectionality,” the authors build upon Crenshaw’s (1989) articulation of intersectionality to frame their work, seeking to improve U.S. higher education.

Donald Mitchell Jr., Grand Valley State University

Don C. Sawyer III, Quinnipiac University


“My Head is Spinning:” Doing Authentic Intersectional Work in Identity Centers

In the fast paced industry of higher education, where the efficacy of a college education is regularly questioned, standing still is close to sacrilege for student affairs professionals.  This article, however, advocates just that. Using intersectionality as a theoretical framework, the authors review its purpose and potential for use in identity centers.  Specifically, this article uses a case study methodology to examine the work of three identity-based centers working together to inform Intersections, an intersectional, social justice effort.  The authors conclude by providing suggestions for how to authentically engage in this work with the goal of stimulating different ways of leading, inspiring new relationships, and creating innovative practice in the field of higher education.

Jessica Jennrich, Grand Valley State University

Marlene Kowalski-Braun, Grand Valley State University


Black Women Attending Predominantly White Institutions: Fostering Their Academic Success Using African American Motherwork Strategies

The number of African American women attending predominantly White institutions (PWIs) is continuing to increase; however, understanding of the factors related to their academic success at these institutions is underdeveloped. An area that provides a launching pad for better understanding the lived experiences of these young women is rooted in the relationship between racial factors and adjustment to college. Applying an intersectional analysis demonstrates that gendered racial socialization and racial-gender identity development are instrumental to understanding African American women’s academic success. We propose that a particular set of strategies conceptualized as African American motherwork—found among suburban, middle-class mothers with young daughters attending predominantly White schools—can help student affairs personnel, educators, and researchers better understand the academic success of some African American women attending PWIs of higher education. We offer suggestions for how PWIs can better support the academic success of these young women by understanding and adapting aspects of African American motherwork.

Chasity Bailey-Fakhoury, Grand Valley State University

Maegan Frierson, Grand Valley State University


More than White, Heterosexual Men: Intersectionality as a Framework for Understanding the Identity of Student Veterans

As a Black, female veteran who was medically discharged from military service, I advocate for the use of intersectionality within student veteran literature. Through this framework, the cultural complexities amongst student veterans can be recognized and embraced. Additionally, this framework gives power to those who have been silenced in the current body of literature on student veterans. Understanding how intersections at the microlevel (i.e., individual experience) connect to interlocking systems of privilege and oppression at the macro social-structural level will provide a more accurate depiction of the identities and characteristics of student veterans. In this essay, I provide an overview of intersectionality, discuss the connection between intersectionality and identity studies, and conclude with a discussion of the potential benefits of intersectionality for student veteran programming, research, and policy.

Natesha Smith, Zayed University


Absent Voices: Intersectionality and College Students with Physical Disabilities

College students with disabilities stand at a crossroads when transitioning from high school to college, and yet, are often absent from discussions regarding underserved populations in higher education. This absence is particularly notable in scholarship employing the lens of intersectionality. To address this gap, this qualitative case study employs a strengths-based lens to examine how typically marginalized college students used the strengths of their socially constructed identities as a dynamic force to find keys to academic success.

Tenisha Tevis, University of the Pacific

Jacalyn Griffen, University of the Pacific


A Different Kind of Black, But the Same Issues: Black Males and Counterstories at a Predominantly White Institution

Much has been written about Black men over the years and in different institutional contexts (e.g., community colleges, predominantly White institutions [PWIs], and historically Black colleges and universities). However, very little of this research has emphasized how the intersecting identities of Black men shape their experiences in higher education. To this end, this article draws from intersectionality and counternarratives, both of which has roots in critical race theory, to discuss how race, class, and gender informs the experiences of two Black males enrolled in a PWI. This article concludes with critical implications to help institutional leaders at PWIs be more intentional about creating a more supportive and inclusive campus climate for middle-class Black male students.

Don C. Sawyer III, Quinnipiac University

Robert T. Palmer, State University of New York, Binghamton


Intersectionality and STEM: The Role of Race and Gender in the Academic Pursuits of African American Women in STEM

African American women are disproportionately underrepresented in the domains of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in relation to their share of the United States population. This disparity must be reduced in order for the United States to maintain its global standing in the competitive arenas of technology and innovation. However, current research tends to underexamine how the intersection of race and gender identities impact the experiences of African American women pursuing STEM careers. This dearth of knowledge is addressed in this study, which examines the multifaceted marginalization that African American women typically experience in the process of obtaining their STEM degrees, particularly in the computing sciences. Accordingly, this study utilizes intersectionality theory as a theoretical foundation to explore the role race and gender play in the STEM pursuits of African American women, offering a window into some of the strategies this population employs in accomplishing STEM educational goals and pursuits.

LaVar J. Charleston, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ryan P. Adserias, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Nicole M. Lang, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Jerlando F. L. Jackson, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Other Issues

*Special thanks to the special issue reviewers.