Essay sample

Autoethnographic Account of an Aspect of Your Higher Education Experience That Pertains to Some Aspect of Your Marginalization And/Or Privilege as a Student.

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Within the field of composition, personal writing—an umbrella term that includes any writing which draws on first-hand experience, including genres such as autoethnography, autobiography, and mystory—maintains a precarious position at best. Tracing attitudes toward the personal and how they have evolved within the pedagogy and scholarship of composition can establish a working definition for the term and lay out the current stakes for personal writing in our departments and classrooms and its potential for interdisciplinary expansion.

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Several studies have demonstrated that first-generation college students' success is dependent on the role offaculty members' credibility, service learning courses, personalized education, and intervention strategies.The relationship students have with their instructor can build self-esteem and a sense that the instructor cares about their wellbeing and success in school. When parental and peer support is lacking, personalized education has the capability of aiding student success by "meeting the needs of a diverse student population". Smaller class sizes, flexibility, and collaborative learning experiences are also strategies instructors report using to aid in their students' success. Other researchers argue that instructor nonverbal immediacy, enthusiasm, and homophily affect the attrition rates of college students. Not surprising, first-generation college students report that their interactions with faculty outside the classroom are "integral to their success in the course and beliefs about their success at achieving other academic goals". Peer support (as alluded to earlier) and relationship building in and outside the classroom are also important contributors to student success. Studies have shown that team building and collaborative classroom exercises enable students to talk about personal experiences which make them feel more comfortable regarding their at-risk status.

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As an approach to evaluate intricate systems, intersectionality analyzes the way in which systems of inequality are not only created, but how they are sustained through various means (Grzanka, 2014). First discussed in black feminist literature, intersectionality is an approach used to give voice to those who are historically marginalized and silenced (Crenshaw, 1989; Crenshaw, 1991; Grzanka, 2014). Crenshaw (1991), in one of her foundational texts, argues that the intersection of gender and race is rarely studied. Instead, it is often gender or race, and that this approach only ends up hurting women of color in the end. Crenshaw (1989) coined the term “intersectionality” to reduce erasure of black women’s experiences, especially within the feminist community, as well as in the court system. In using this theory and method of analysis the questions around the phenomena are approached in such a way that there is a focus on the “structural analysis and critique insomuch as it is primarily concerned with how social inequalities are formed and maintained; accordingly, identities and the politics thereof are the products of historically entrenched, institutional systems of domination and violence” (Grzanka, 2014, p

XV). In simpler terms, intersectionality is about understanding how systems of oppression came to be as such, and how they continue to be maintained. Additionally, and most importantly, it is an approach that is not summative in addressing issues.

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To sum it up, the process of preparing this writing story has revealed to me once again the value of experience and reflection. Several anxiety-producing questions arose during the preparation of ones's autoethnography, questions about how to represent myself, how I was able to see given my proximity to the “field,” how various kinds of data are valued, how others would respond to my story, and how to work ethically within autoethnography.

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Charters, E. (2003). The use of think-aloud methods in qualitative research: An introduction to think-aloud methods. Brock Education, 12(2), 68-82.

Smith, M. A. (2016). Making my grade: Privilege and student-faculty interaction at a twentyfirst-century U.S. research university. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 45(5).

Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic interview. Long grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.

Wilbur, G., & Scott, R. (2013). Inside out, outside in: Power and culture in a learning
community. Multicultural Perspectives, 15(3). 158-164. doi:

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