Navigating the Multidimensionality of Whiteness: A Grounded Theory Study on the Experiences of White, First-Generation Graduate Students from Rural Central Appalachia




Watts, Angela M.

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This grounded theory study examines how white first-generation graduate students from rural Central Appalachia navigate their multidimensional identities in graduate school. Participants were recruited through relevant professional organization listservs and snowball sampling. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews to gain insight into how participants feel their graduate school experience was informed by rural Central Appalachian culture and how they conceptualize whiteness and social class. A conceptual model for analysis was developed that centered the experiences of Appalachian people through a multidimensional lens to explore the complex relationships between social class, education, and regional identity. Six overall themes emerged from the data: 1) Appalachian Cultural Influence, 2) Appalachian Dialect, 3) Appalachian Identity Development, 4) Identity Straddling, 5) Hierarchy within Whiteness, and 6) Agents of Change. Recommendations for practitioners and scholars are presented.


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Appalachia, First-generation college students, First-generation graduate students, Multidimensionality, Rural, Whiteness



Educational Leadership and Policy Studies