Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Education Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Karen Tice


In the climate of prioritizing retention and pressure to move an increasingly diverse undergraduate population towards degree, it is critical that educational research consider the multiple, overlapping identities of students and how that influences their experiences on campus. The number of low-income students entering four-year institutions is growing each year, including at the University of Kentucky. This study aims to extend our understanding of social class beyond the material and focus on the affective dimensions of class including language, comportment, and leisure activities in an effort to better understand how poor and working-class women contend with the constraints they encounter in the academy. I conducted twelve in-depth interviews with current undergraduate women at the University of Kentucky that self-identify as poor or working-class in order to answer questions regarding navigating the obstacles of college life, the complexities of multiple identities, and the balance between home and college. Utilizing an intersectional theoretical and analytical framework provided the opportunity to focus on the ways in which their overlapping identities as white, poor/working, class, and rural women fostered multiple forms of oppression and simultaneous instances of privilege. Their experiences of possibility are examined from an asset model in order to highlight agency and power in their class belonging and communities. This work culminates in a series of recommendations for educators and administrators to utilize on campuses in order to nurture poor and working-class women’s experiences on campus and dismantle middle-class norms.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)