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Ardoin, S., martinez, b. (2019). Straddling class in the academy: 26 stories of students, administrators, and faculty from poor and working-class backgrounds and their compelling lessons for higher education policy and practice. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Review by Katie Pierce, Western Carolina University, piercek@wcu.edu

“Being working class means being misunderstood” (Espiritu, 2019). Fortunately, Sonja Ardoin and becky martinez help to shed light on the ways that individuals with poor or working-class backgrounds experience higher education by utilizing powerful personal narratives in their book, Straddling Class in the Academy. The 26 individuals featured in this book share experiences from a variety of perspectives, including current undergraduate and graduate students, various levels of higher education administrators, tenured and non-tenured faculty, and educators outside of higher education. The stories shared are honest accounts of the challenges, lessons learned, and triumphs of a population that is not always easy to define or identify.

Straddling Class in the Academy focuses not only on the ways that poor and working-class individuals experience higher education, but also on the ways that other identities, such as race, gender, ability, sexuality, and factors such as location overlap and influence the experience as well. First-Generation student was also a common identity amongst those featured in this book. Although the experiences were as unique as the writers and their identities, this collection of narratives also produces some common themes that are important for higher education professionals to understand. Common challenges facing poor and working-class students include dissonance between the home and university cultures and communication styles, marginalization within higher education institutions, lack of resources and guidance, and a lack of awareness and understanding among peers, faculty, and staff.

Advisors are often able to act as a frontline resource for students. They can promote NACADA’s (2017) Core Value of Inclusivity by taking the time to learn about students’ social class and identity and how they are experiencing the university. Learning about their students’ challenges can also help them be influential advocates. Student affairs professionals can help by encouraging conversations around social class and proposing solutions to make the college experience more accessible for poor and working-class students. Ardoin and martinez offer specific ideas about how to begin doing this work within the conclusion of this book.

All higher education personnel would benefit from reading Straddling Class in the Academy. Doing so will help advisors develop in the Conceptual area of advising by furthering knowledge of “how equitable and inclusive environments are created and maintained” (NACADA academic advising core competencies model, 2017). As university administrators and educators continue in their efforts to be support diversity and inclusion, they should become aware of how social class factors into the needs of their students. Rather than expecting these students to conform to a traditionally elitist idea of the academy, we must all work together to recreate our spaces as ones where anyone can envision themselves. Straddling Class in the Academy brings our attention to how we can begin addressing some of the barriers preventing this from being the reality.

References:

Ardoin, S., martinez, b. (2019). Straddling class in the academy: 26 stories of students, administrators, and faculty from poor and working-class backgrounds and their compelling lessons for higher education policy and practice. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx

Espiritu, D. (2019). The undergraduate student perspective. In Ardoin, S., & martinez, b. (2019). Straddling Class in the Academy: 26 Stories of Students, Administrators, and Faculty From Poor and Working-Class Backgrounds and Their Compelling Lessons for Higher Education Policy and Practice (p. 33). Herndon, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

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