Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 2 - 48

Using Inclusion Assistants Within
a Residential Curriculum to Improve
the Experiences and Success of Students
with Underrepresented Identities
EXAMINING THE ROLE OF INCLUSION ASSISTANTS as part of a

redesigned residential life curriculum at a Predominantly White Institution (PWI)
in the Midwest served as the impetus for this qualitative case study. The inclusion
assistants program was designed to increase the support provided to students with
underrepresented identities (e.g., students of color, gay or queer students) in the
residence halls. Inclusion assistants worked alongside traditional resident assistants
and positively supported students with underrepresented identities, as well as
students in the majority. This study also identifies challenges that the inclusion
assistants faced and accompanying recommendations to improve the inclusion
assistant program and other similar programs.

S

tudents from underrepresented groups
continue to face barriers to achieving
success in college. Though administrators and researchers have paid specific attention to diversifying the student body, efforts
to support students with underrepresented
identities continue to lag (Milem et al., 2005;
Quaye et al., 2020). Fueling the lack of intentionality is the idea that diversifying the
student body is sufficient. Chang et al. (2005)
argued that educators often assume that students will naturally learn from one another
when placed in diverse environments; this
kind of " magical thinking " (p. 10) is prominent in the assessment of residence halls,
when educators assume that considerable
time spent living in community enhances
learning. However, without campus envi-

ronments that " engage underrepresented
students both academically and socially " and
" provide more opportunities for all students
to interact freely, wisely, and responsibly with
one another in formal and informal settings "
(Chang et al., 2005, p. 15), student engagement and learning will be limited. Similarly,
there is some evidence that first-year residential students experience negative effects with
several diversity-related outcomes, including
intercultural effectiveness, relativistic appreciation, experiences with diverse others,
and comfort with differences (Padgett et al.,
2012). As Blimling (2015) has pointed out,
residence hall staff need to work more intentionally with students-particularly those
with underrepresented identities-in order
to foster belonging and community.

Volume 47, No. 2 * 2021

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Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 2

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